French Feta

French Feta

Feta is a beautiful example of the logical nature of the seasons and cheese making.  Try making feta in the heat of the summer – during that couple days of curing before it’s dunked in the brine, just watch those fuzzy molds multiply before your eyes! Ugh!  Those are not the kind of molds you want – and sure, you can clean them off with vinegar, but it’s just counter-intuitive to go through all of that, when you can wait until that crisp fall and early winter weather arrives and make your feta as cheese makers in past centuries did, following the natural cycle of the seasons and preservation.

There are so many different authentic fetas – that definition can change from person to person, from nationality to nationality, which is not at all surprising for a cheese that has been around for a long time.  I am going to crudely lump them into two types and loosely label them with a decent approximation of an appropriate name. There is the Greek feta, which is firmer and crumbly, with a lower moisture content, and the French feta, which is softer and creamy with more moisture.  Both have their merits – Greek feta in a salad or over pizza, French feta in spreads or sliced over mushrooms.  I tend to make more Greek feta as we use it more and I find it easier to store.

This is the recipe for the softer, creamy style of feta.  Crumbly feta recipe here.

1 gallon goat milk

¼ tsp MM100 culture or ¼ cup buttermilk

½ tsp liquid rennet dissolved in ¼ cup water

1/8 tsp lipase dissolved in ¼ cup water

Warm the milk to 86 deg, then add the culture and lipase, stirring gently.

Set your timer for 1 hour to ripen, keeping the temp at 86 deg.

After ripening for 1 hour, add the rennet/water, stirring gently in an up and down motion.

Wait 40 minutes, then check for your clean break.

Cut the curds into 1-inch cubes and let them rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

Maintaining the temp at ~86 deg, stir/cook the curds gently off and on for 20 minutes, breaking the longer pieces into 1 inch sections but trying not to create many pieces smaller than 1 inch cubes.

Set a butter muslin-lined colander over a large pot or sanitized bucket.  Pour the curds into the colander and tie the bag of curds up to drain for 8 to 12 hours.

After 8 to 12 hours, take the cheese down and slice it into chunks.  (I recommend a minimum of 3 X 3 inch chunks.  To keep saltiness down, larger is better, provided you can fit it through the top of your jar. Also, smaller pieces can fit more into a smaller space, so that is another thing to consider if enough space in the jar is an issue.)

Sprinkle all sides of the cheese blocks with non-iodized salt and place them in a container that you can loosely cover.

Place the container in a dark location at room temperature for 2 days, checking in at least half-way through to re-salt.  If any fuzzy mold growth has begun, wash this off with water and re-salt.  You may pour off the whey that is sweated out during this time if you’d like tho it is not necessary.

After 2 days, place the feta blocks into a large container (I like gallon pickle jars or ½ gallon mason jars) and pour whey brine over them. Pictured here I have used quart-sized plastic soup containers.

Age at least 2 weeks.  While the feta can keep indefinitely in the refrigerated brine, I prefer to have the French feta consumed younger than 3 months.  The tighter you can pack it, the better, as cheese that sticks out from the brine may develop some surface mold.  Note in the right-hand picture above:  the left container is well-packed, the right container will be prone to mold as the brine is not covering the cheese.  If any mold forms on the surface of cheese protruding from the brine, or the brine itself, simply remove it. The mold is just on the surface and the feta is still fine.

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