I have been promising to bring you my homemade feta cheese recipe for a while (Ahem, probably a couple of years. Eek.) Today is finally the day. You may be wondering why I bother making feta cheese from scratch. The answer-as is often the case- is that homemade tastes great and because I can. I am, after all, the daughter of a man who feels driven to walk laps around the house outside in blizzards when authorities warn that you shouldn’t go out unless you have to do so.
There’s an enormous satisfaction in doing something that seems just undo-able, isn’t there? Not only does homemade feta taste incredible, but it delivers a pioneer, up-by-my-bootstraps joy that a store-bought version just can’t give no matter how wonderful it is.
…But there’s another reason to take the plunge and it’s a doozy. For the cost of three gallons of milk (it can be pasteurized/homogenized or raw, cow or goat milk) and about a dollars worth of other stuff, you get a massive amount of feta cheese. As in a gallon jar of brined feta cheese. If you’re fearful of trying your hand at cheese making, just think of it this way; the risk is about twelve dollars worth of materials (depending on milk cost near you) versus a potential payoff of about forty dollars worth of cheese and an enormous ego boost. If it -bumbum BUM!!!!!- goes wrong, you can feed the errant cheese to dogs, cats, pigs, etc… They’ll be happy.
I’m going to get right into it because even if I’m being succinct, this post is going to be long on account of the how-to photos… There’s no getting around it. Some important notes:
- Stay calm! Cheesemaking is not supposed to be stressful. It may seem complicated, but it isn’t. Just go one step at a time and you’ll get there.
- Don’t get freaked out by the length of time it takes to make this. Much of the time is hands-off time. Another warning for those who haven’t made cheese or fermented something before; it gets a little, um, pungent smelling at times. Keep a-going. Don’t worry! Remember that cheese making is essentially controlling how fast and in what way milk ‘goes bad’. If it goes bad the right way it’s delicious!
- The only special equipment you really need to pull this off is a large stainless steel or other non-reactive pot, a heat source, a long knife or off-set spatula, a colander, something from whence to hang the cheese and butter muslin (extra, super, mega fine cheesecloth.) Do not confuse this with the “fine” cheesecloth you get in the grocery store or hardware store. It’s confusing terminology, but that stuff is so not fine. Just look for something called butter muslin and you’ll be fine. Finer than cheesecloth. Sorry. You can get it here. (Note: This is an affiliate link.)
- You can opt to use raw OR pasteurized/homogenized milk. It can be cow milk or goat milk. Any of those choices will be delicious.
- Goat milk is naturally more tangy, so if you use cow milk, you may want to consider adding a bit of lipase powder. Lipase is an enzyme that naturally occurs in higher amounts in goat milk. If you want cow milk feta to have that bite that is found in feta, lipase powder is your answer. You can get it via my beloved Amazon.com should you wish to. (Note: This is an affiliate link.)
- As far as specialty ingredients go, the lipase is optional, but rennet and mesophilic culture are not optional. Again? You can turn to Amazon.com (Affiliate Links.)
Whatever you do, don’t think Junket Rennet will do the job. It simply won’t. That’s for custard making. My preferred cheesemaking rennet is made from animal sources:
But there is a perfectly acceptable and delicious vegetarian option…
- Finally, I suggest you start the process around lunch time. This gives you the time needed to do the Day One portion of the recipe before too late in the day.
Just think what you’d do with a gallon jar full of fabulous feta cheese. You can go nuts with feta! On pizzas, spanakopita, this tempting salad from my friend, a baked potato, in soup, in omelets, with olives and bread, IN bread, and in just about any recipe that calls for cheese. Where would you use your wealth of feta?