Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Feta Fête

The first time I set out to make a gluten-free ricotta so my husband could partake, I was stunned by how easy it was. Since then I've successfully made several kinds of yogurt cheese, chevre, and mozzarella. These are all fresh, unbrined cheeses. I'm not yet ready to try real aged cheeses yet, but feta seems like a reasonable step toward more complex cheese making. And my goat milk supplier recently told me that her two current milkers are producing an astounding 4 gallons a week, so she can easily get me enough milk for cheese making! Still not sure I want to brine cheese for 30 days (so many things possible to go wrong in all that time), but if cheese prices keep going up I'll probably risk it.

How to Make Feta Cheese

 (from Cultures for Health Newsletter)
Feta cheese makes a wonderful addition to salads, sandwiches or as a garnish for meat or vegetables.  Generally made with goat milk, it can be made with cow milk if desired.
What you need:

Feta Instructions:
      Warm the milk in a stainless steel (or other non-reactive) pot to 86 F degrees.  Add the culture to the milk and stir thoroughly.  Allow the milk to sit undisturbed for an hour at room temperature.  Once the milk has sat, dilute the rennet in 1/4 cup cool water.  Mix the rennet/water into the milk using an up and down motion with your spoon (not a stirring motion).  Incorporate the rennet but do not over mix.  Place a lid on the pot and let the milk mixture sit undisturbed overnight.  The next morning, check that the milk has gelled and there is a clean break in the curd.  Use a knife to cut the curd into 1/2" x 1/2" cubes.  If necessary, use very clean hands to check the bottom of the pot for curds that may have been missed.  Gently stir the curd off and on over the next 20 minutes.  The curds should become somewhat retracted. 
      Place a tea towel, cotton bag, multi-layered cheese cloth in a colander.  Pour in the curds and allow the visible whey to drain off.  Once the whey has drained, tie the cloth in knots and hang it over the sink or a bowl.  Allow the curd to drain for another 4 hours or until no more whey drips off.  
      Make a brine solution using 1/3 cup non-iodized salt and 1/2 gallon of water.  Place the curds in the brine solution in a jar with a lid in the fridge.  Brine for 4-5 days if using store-bought goat milk or for 30 days if using farm fresh goat milk.  
      Extra tip: If you find that your curd doesn't set firmly enough, some cheese makers suggest mixing 1/8 teaspoon calcium chloride diluted in 1/4 cup water into the milk the next time you make feta.

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