There are two new cheese making kits we’ll be selling (mozzarella & ricotta and Goat’s cheese) but once you’ve mastered the simple skills of cheese making, then there are plenty more simple recipes you can try out. Here is our simple recipe for how to make feta cheese at home.
Before you make your own feta, it is worth finding out exactly what good feta is – otherwise you won’t know when you’ve made it. A good feta is sharp, sour and soft whilst being slightly crumbly – but most importantly is is salty, which is why it tasted so good with salad, it’s the built in dressing and flavour enhancing. The pre-packed stuff is an entirely difference beast to the fresh feta that you’ll find swimming around in murky water. A middle eastern deli is most likely to have the real thing.
What type of milk to use for feta?
Traditionally feta is made from goat’s or sheep’s milk or occasionally goat’s milk, but when you make your own you can use cow’s milk. The taste with cow’s milk s not as sharp, but it is still distinctly “feta”. If you are a stickler for the rules, then you may feel the need to call your homemade feta “salty white cheese” – but perhaps a bit of a white lie is preferable to that title?
Homemade Feta Cheese Recipe
5000ml of full fat milk
½ tsp of cheese starter
15% Brine solution
Which starter to use? As you read the recipe you’ll see that the milk is heated to 37 degrees celcius. Which puts is at the crossover between thermophilic and mesophilic starters – so it is best to use a mixture of the two. Many cultures you buy will in fact be a mixture of different bacteria, so read the back of the packet and see. If you are using just one then go for a thermophilic cheese starter. In our molecular gastronomy starter kits we use a mixed starter culture to cover the randomness of inaccurate thermometers and careless cheese makers.
Gently heat the milk to 37 degrees, either use a bain-marie or be VERY careful and stir constantly, keeping an eye on the temperature. As soon as it reaches the temperature, switch off the heat and scatter the starter culture and a pinch of lipase over the surface, stir it in. Hold the temperature at 37 degrees for half an hour, if you’re using a bain-marie then this will be easy, if you aer not, then wrap a few towels around the pot and put a lid on it.
After 30 minutes (add some calcium chloride if you’re using pasteurized milk to replace the calcium affected by the pasteurization process) add the rennet dispersed in a tablespoon of water. Stir gently for no longer than one minute. You want to avoid breaking any curds that form. Cover and leave at temperature until it sets (times vary depending upon composition of the milk). Don’t disturb during this time, tiptoe around the room and avoid any loud noises – the milk likes peace and quite while it does its thing and magically settles out into curds and whey.
Using a long knife, cut the curds into 1.5cm – 2cm cubes – VERY GENTLY – and then stir GENTLY. Allow it to set and then repeat two more times.
Lift the curds into cheese moulds if you have them, or yoghurt pots with holes cut in the sides and base if you don’t. Allow to settle under their own weight for 12-16 hours at room temperature, invert a few times during this period.
The cheeses should be solid and able to be handled when turned out. Place them into the 15% brine (half a cup of salt to 8 cups of water) for at least 10 days, but as long 5 weeks. Treat the feta as a fresh cheese once it is out of the brine and eat refrigerate, eating within a week. The longer you leave it, the stronger and saltier it will get. If it goes too far then you can put it in fresh water or milk for an hour to draw out some of the salt. My preference is for very salty feta, so I tend to use a stronger brine. You’d be surprised at how nice extreme-salt feta is when sprinkled onto salads or tomato sandwiches.
It is possible to store the homemade feta in oil (it will be slightly acidic so don’t worry about botulism) add some herbs to oil eg. Rosemary to the oil this will give a bit of flavour, but is more about the visual effect of poshing up your cheese.
If the cheese starts to break apart in the brine, either use immediately, be extremely gentle or add a capful of vinegar to the brine – this firms up the cheese by adding a thin rind to it, too thin to notice when your eating but good enough to hold it together a bit.
In the future then there might be a molecular gastronomy kit for making feta cheese, but until then – enjoy and share this recipe.
The home-made feta is a nice little gift if you cut it into small, neat cubes and then put into little glass jars of oil and rosemary. Add a handwritten label just to emphasise the point that you are a good and generous person that makes gifts for people, rather than just asking amazon to do the hard work for you!