Adventure ​in cheesemaking – my first attempt at homemade feta

Note: this is more of a blog post than a recipe (although I discuss the recipes I use) but if you’re just looking for a straight feta recipe, this probably isn’t your jam.

Since having goats at our house and regular access to fresh milk, I have started dipping a toe into the pool of homemade cheese-making. Thus far this has created an interesting mix of successes and failures, but this weekend I finally decided it was time to graduate to the big leagues. It was time to create a cheese that was slightly more complex than I had done before. It was time for a cheese with culture, literally and figuratively. Specifically, I started my bigger cheese dreams with a feta.

Early cheeses

All the early and exceptionally easy cheeses I made up until now I called “farmhouse ricottas.” By the way, YOU CAN MAKE THESE. It literally only takes two ingredients, milk, and an acid. All it requires is that you heat your milk up to almost boiling (180 – 185 degrees) and add an acidic ingredient (I started with just plain white vinegar).

People make these cheeses with vinegar, orange juice, even wine. Each acid (and type of milk) brings out a unique flavor in the cheese. (Note – you can use almost any type of milk besides the ultra-pasteurized stuff.) Although we started with plain white vinegar for our acid, I quickly got on the citric acid train. It changed the flavor of the milk least of any of the different acids we tried and was still compatible for organic recipes. When you have a beautiful milk like fresh goat milk, you want to accentuate that flavor the most.

As soon as I realized that if I wanted cheese (which is all the time) all I had to do was heat up milk and add whatever acidic ingredient I thought would be interesting, there was no going back. If you have a gallon of milk in the fridge and some vinegar, you can go to your kitchen this minute and make yourself some cheese. I don’t even know why you’re reading this. Go. Now.

Once I perfected the art of bringing the milk to the edge of a boil and carefully disbursing my acid with a slow stir, then draining the curds, I began to play with flavors.

I started by draining the curds really well which will leave a dense cheese if you pack it into a mould or Tupperware. I experimented with salt, various seasonings – from dill to local honey, and even buffalo seasoning with ranch (which is AMAZING, by the way). Once you get the base method of making cheese down, you can do anything with it.

Directions:

Heat 1 gallon of milk to 180-185 degrees, stirring constantly to avoid scorching (if you have a double boiler, even better, though not necessary.)

Remove milk from heat and sprinkle either 1 tablespoon of citric acid or 1/2 – 2/3 cup of your desired acid (start slowly, you can always add more).

Slowly stir and you should see curds start to form, if they don’t, add more acid graduall. Once all the liquid and solids have separated, pour the pot into a cheesecloth covered colander.

Rinse the curds.

At this point, you can get creative – if you want to drain or squeeze the curds for a denser cheese, you can. You can salt it, or not. Add seasoning, or not. It’s fun to test out different options.

Feta

After months of playing around with the two ingredient cheese, I decided it was finally time to be an adult and try a complex cheese that takes more than one basic step. Hence, feta.

Feta is usually made with sheep or goat milk. Luckily, I have plenty of goat milk on hand because I’m your weird friend with goats in my yard. This process can be done, though, with even a normal gallon of milk from the store. If you want to try it out, you should!

For my first attempt, I followed the directions in this book EXACTLY. I wanted to get the process down,like I had with previous cheese, before I start trying to tweak or change anything.

I did go ahead and pasteurize my milk because I’m not interested in poisoning anyone.

Ultimately, I posted the whole process in my Instagram stories, and it turned out amazingly well.

I let it sit in salt for a week and then packed it in a light olive oil with Italian herbs.

Homemade and fresh feta has a creamy complexity that you simply can’t get from the store. Try it at home. Seriously.

Directions:

Heat milk to 88-90 degrees (I simply let my milk cool from the pasteurization temperature, but if you’re using store milk you don’t need to do that.)

Add culture – Flora Danica. I got this from a cheese maker store on Amazon. Because of course I did. 1/8th teaspoon. Tiny amount. Let it sit (held at that temperature – this was easy because I had a double boiler so I just left it in the warm water – for an hour.

Add calcium chloride (diluted) – this is another solidifying agent I got on Amazon from a cheese shop, it’s optional but I wanted to give my first go the greatest chance of success. 1/8th of a teaspoon again. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Add 1/16th teaspoon rennet (diluted) – bought on Amazon, again. (Literally, how did people know how to do stuff without the internet?) Let sit for 45 minutes to 1 hour and maintain temperature.

Test the curds by cutting a small slit in the curd and slipping your knife in and pulling upward – wait for the curd to “break” separating away from your knife on its own.

Cut the curds into 1-inch cubes. Okay, this was really fun. It went from a pot of milk to a semi-solid state to actual cheese chunks. Stir the curds periodically (and very gently) every 5-10 minutes for the next 20 minutes maintaining the temperature.

Drain the curds in a colander covered in a cheesecloth. Tie the ends of the cheesecloth and allow the bundle to drain for 12-24 hours. (I just tied it around a spatula and left it to drip. Unlike the other cheese, don’t squeeze these curds.

Unwrap cheese and cut into 1-inch chunks and salt. Turn occasionally for 8 hours.

Eat as is, or refrigerate.

I stored mine in olive oil and herbs, and you can leave that for up to A YEAR to marinate. WHHHHAAAAATTT!?!?!?

I’m telling you. This is life changing. DO IT. Message or comment with questions, but it was such a gratifying experience. Try it once, you’ll be hooked just like me.

Please follow and like us:

4 thoughts on “Adventure ​in cheesemaking – my first attempt at homemade feta”

  1. Would you mind sharing which rennet you purchased? Im confused by the different types on Amazon.
    We love feta and use a ton during the summer in pasta salad. Annd we have a ton of store bought goat milk that I’d love to put use quicker than it is going to be drinking. It’s in the fridge taunting my son whose cow’s milk allergy turned into a dairy allergy recently.

  2. Thanks Lady! I’m going try this soon. If it goes well maybe I will make both my husband and our grocery store’s grocery manager, who increased his order of Myenberg for our family, happy. Lol

    1. Let me know how it goes! HMU with questions. Also, I have eaten all my mistakes and some of my mistakes were better than the originals.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *