What is that smell?! I’ll tell you what that smell is – it’s spring! And what does spring mean? Oh, so many varied and lovely things, but this week it meant that my kitchen had that tangy smell of home made feta! Want to find out how to make feta cheese? Come with me…
Want to learn a few more things about healthy eating, delicious recipes and keeping your family nourished? Be sure to check out the Homestead Kitchen chapter from our book, The Do It Yourself Homestead. Don’t have your own copy? No worries, just click on this to get yours today. If you’d like a sample from our kitchen chapter, just email me at Tessa@homesteadlady.com and I’ll get you set up.
Got Milk…A lot of it?
Our dairy goat, Mazie, has felt that vernal tingle and her milk production has picked back up. Mazie’s been in milk for the past two and a half years. Through winter’s blast and summer’s swelter, she’s been trucking along. We plan to finally dry her up this summer and give her a rest before we breed her in the fall. For all her obnoxious ways, she really is a softie and I’ve felt strongly that her biology is telling her that babies are in order.
I’ve tried to explain that her milk is absolute gold and we can’t possibly go without it for a whole gestation/nursing cycle but she is unmovable; goats are notoriously stubborn about many things. It’s in the Bible; I’m not making it up.
At any rate, I noticed a pristine, bright-white milk backlog in my fridge (a sight unseen in the winter months due to lower production and a winter’s need to warm ourselves with dairy), and suddenly realized that I could start making cheese. How to make feta cheese was one of the first questions I asked myself when I started to figure out the process of making my own cheese.
Making Your Own Cheese
The idea of home cheese production seemed completely foreign to me a few years ago. What kind of whack job makes their own cheese?! Did I really need another thing to do?
Author Barbara Kingsolver’s account of her cheese making experience with Ricky Carroll in her book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle says it all, I think. A very fun read, if you’re at all interested in DIYing, homesteading or living frugally.
These days I look back and wonder why I was so nervous – it’s just cheese, apparently. Soft cheeses are usually the easiest, simply because they don’t require any “special” equipment. If you’re looking for an easy raw cheese to make, feta is your girl.
The recipe was inspired by Ricki Carroll’s Home Cheese Making, which is a very good book for the beginning or seasoned cheese maker. You can buy beginner cheese making kits from New England Cheese Making Supply on Amazon, as well as lipase, cheese salt and culture.
If you can fine one, a live mentor comes in handy as well, as you learn to make feta cheese.
Incidentally, Kingsolver’s book is one of the many that inspired my own, and is listed as a valuable resource for the homestead student. Want more details about our book? Click below.
How to Make Feta Cheese
In the spirit of passing along spring’s inspiration, here is the recipe I use for feta, plus a few photos. For a fancy, printable version of this recipe (minus the photo tutorial), just click this link.
- 1 Gallon Whole, Raw Milk
- 1/4 tsp. lipase powder diluted in 1/4 cup water and allowed to sit for 20 minutes (optional – use if making this recipe with milk other than goat’s milk)
- 2 oz prepared Mesophilic starter or one packet
- 1/2 tsp. liquid rennet (or 1/4 rennet tablet) diluted in 1/4 cup cool, unchlorinated water
- 3 tbsp. cheese salt
- 1/4-1/3 cup cheese salt, for brine (optional) – brining gives it a stronger flavor, though, which is what makes feta distinct
- 1/2 gallon water, for brine (optional)
See tutorial below for procedure.
1.Combine the milk and the diluted lipase, if desired. Heat the milk to 86 degrees F.
2.Add the starter, stirring to combine. Cover and allow to the milk to ripen for 1 hour.
3.Add the diluted rennet and gently stir with an up-and-down motion for several minutes. Cover and allow to set at 86 degrees F for 1 hour. You can set your pot into a hot water bath in your sink, and monitor the temperature a couple of times in the hour to make sure it stays close to 86. Don’t freak if it falls below; just add some warm water to the bath. I use my hot box insulated bags to keep an even temperature.
4.Cut the curd into 1/2-1 inch cubes.
5.Allow to set, undisturbed, for 10 minutes.
6.Gently stir the curds for 20 minutes.
7.Pour the curds into a colander lined with cheesecloth.
8.Tie the corners of the cheesecloth into a knot, and hang the bag over the sink to drain for 4 hours or more. You may hang it for more or less time, depending on the temperature in your house, and how sharp you like your feta. You can hang it anywhere clean-ish in your house, but the kitchen is a logical choice. Remember to put a bowl underneath to catch the whey that strains out. Massage and/or knead the feta every now and then, to encourage more whey to drain out.
9.Untie the bag and cut the curd into 1-inch slices, then cut the slices into 1-inch cubes.
10.Sprinkle the cubes with the salt to taste, and then place in a covered bowl to age for 4-5 days in the refrigerator. Here it is in the photo sitting next to the yogurt that I made the day before. Yippee for goats and spring!
11.For that strong feta flavor, make a brine solution by combining 1/3 cup of salt and the water. Place the cheese in the brine solution and store in refrigerator for 30 days. (Use this method only if your goat’s milk comes from a farm; store-bought goat’s milk tend to disintegrate in brine.) This container isn’t ideal for brining because it really should be flatter, to allow for all of the feta to be in the brine solution at once. Also, glass would be better than plastic. However, not every one of the nine people I feed likes their feta brined. Besides, this was the container that I could find a lid for.
You know what I mean. If I have to fight my Tupperware and Pyrex lid drawer one more time…
12.If the curds are not setting firmly enough for you to cut easily: next time add 1/8 tsp. calcium chloride diluted in 1/4 cup water diluted calcium chloride to the milk before adding the starter.
The perfect raw cheese to make yourself
And voila, you have feta! Never buy it again – this is way too easy to make. Raw cheeses can be expensive to buy, but this one you can totally do yourself as long as you have access to quality raw dairy. Like I said, you can also pasteurize your milk for a pasteurized version of feta, but it is traditionally a raw milk cheese.
Yes, it takes a little time to make your own feta, but when you’re done, you will have made cheese where there was no cheese before. You will feel awesome; you will be awesome; most importantly, you will eat awesome…ly. (If Shakespeare made up words, so can I.)
Feta is such a versatile cheese. It’s tasty plain or tossed onto a salad. Besides, once you learn to make feta, you can also easily learn to make mascarpone and ricotta cheeses. Both delectable cheeses are used as key ingredients in two of the frosting recipes found in Quinn Veon’s mouth watering book, Cake Stand. Click below to learn more about that beauty!
For a tutorial on how to make a Wonder Oven, please visit this link from Prepared Housewives. To purchase one or to simply learn more about using one, please visit this link from Food Storage and Survival and/or Prepared In Every Way (or here’s her Etsy link) – these aren’t affiliates, just awesome bloggers I know who sell cool things.