May 16, 2015

Homemade Feta Cheese - Fairly easy!

Although I've been cooking, baking and making various food items around the home, have I been posting?  Welp, not as much as I'd like!  This morning I'm finally taking the time to type this one out - AND link to the items I used, which I bought on Amazon because I didn't have any local options.  You might have retailers near you (Mennonite store, homesteading store, cheesemaking store) that has these items.  I bought mine on Amazon (including the Gerber flatfold diapers for cheesecloth) and will add links at the bottom of this post.

I haven't been able to make my homemade feta as 'dry' as the store bought kind; but it's a more 'fresh' tasting cheese than store bought.  Feta is something we have on hand ALL the time but the price of it has gone up again.  We buy the plastic container at Sam's Club or Costco.  After it went up again, I decided a $2.50 gallon of Sam's Club milk with the cheese making ingredients I already had at home would be a lot cheaper than a $10 container of feta.  Plus, it's just rather fun to make your own.

Feta Cheese

Goat, cow or sheep milk - 1 gallon
1t buttermilk powder (or 1/4 t any other mesophilic starter or according to the starter package per 1 gallon milk)
1/4 t liquid calcium chloride diluted in 1/4 c water
1/2 t liquid vegetable rennet (or 1/4 t animal rennet) in 1/4 c water
1/2 t lipase dissolved in 1/4 c water
5 T sea salt (any non-iodized salt)

Heat milk to 86 degrees in a large pot on the stove (medium high heat takes about 15 minutes).
Remove from heat.  Sprinkle the mesophilic starter over.  Wait 2 minutes and whisk in.
Cover and let this rest for about an hour - it should stay around 86 degrees if it's in a stainless steel pot w/ lid.
Add the calcium chloride, whisking in.
Add dissolved rennet, whisking in.
Cover and let set 1 hour more.
Check for a clean break (the solids have formed a gel like thick top - easy to cut through or break with finger)
Slice into 1/2 - 1 inch cubes.  Let set for 10 minutes.
Stir curds gently over medium low heat for 20 minutes to arrive at 86-90 degrees.
Let it rest for 5 minutes and drain your curds into a cloth lined colander either with a slotted spoon or carefully pouring.
(Save the whey to make ricotta if you wish).
Bundle up your cheesecloth and hang to drain at least 6 hours - preferably overnight.
Unwrap and slice into slabs.
Sprinkle each side with salt (about 1 tablespoon total) and plate on a plate or in a container.  Cover to protect, and leave on your kitchen counter - flipping every few hours the first day and draining off the whey being drawn out by the salt.  Each time you flip and drain, rub and sprinkle a little more salt on all sides of the slabs.
Age in the refrigerator 7 days, flipping and draining each day, although the amount will be less and less.
Total salt used should be between 3 and 5 tablespoons depending on how salty you like it.
Some people use the excess whey in a jar to store the feta.  Some like it stored in a tight container.  Some, in water.
I've tried all three and personally prefer a dry store as I felt the why and water choices resulted in a softer, more fresh and slippery mozzarella like cheese instead of the crumbly feta I prefer. 

To be organized, I keep the bottle of rennet, calcium chloride, etc. next to the container of water I've diluted it in.  That way I can tell for sure which I have already added.

Do not buy the product labeled "cheesecloth" at a dollar store or grocery store.  It's not really cheesecloth and is more for dusting or painting rags.  A nice cotton diaper like Gerber 10 pk Flatfold - NOT the ones with 'extra padding' but a simple, thin, flatfold.

This is the cubes or squares you slice to allow the whey to start draining from the curds.

Hung to drain.  How you do yours is up to you but if you have cupboard handles that can hold a stick, spoon or similar item, this is a quick, easy way to drain your homemade soft cheeses.

I usually have to hang mine over night as they are not 'ready' in just 6 hours.  They are still rather grainy, tiny curds and tend to stick to the cloth and falls apart.  By letting it alone all night long, it finally will 'come together' and form the ball.  Slice into slabs and start to rub and sprinkle salt on all sides to draw out the moisture.

I started with a plastic container, but after trying various ways, my favorite is to place the slabs on a large plate and cover with another large plate.  This allows me to flip and drain easier and more quickly.  Up to you!

You might need or be interested in these items to make your own soft cheese;

Gerber 10 pk Flatfold Birdseye Cloth Diapers White
Calcium Chloride, 2 oz.
Mesophilic C101 - 5 Packets
Mild Lipase Powder (Calf) 1oz
Liquid Animal Rennet - 2 oz.
Organic Liquid Vegetable Rennet, 2oz.
Feta and Ricotta Mold
Feta, Yogurt, Yogurt Cream Cheese DIY Kit


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