Feta cheese production may sound difficult, but if you have the time, why not give it a try? Well, after we buy or find milk from someone we know, preferably sheep or goat we are ready to start the process of making feta cheese.
The correct proportion of milk for the preparation of traditional feta is 70% sheep’s milk with 30% goat’s milk. It goes without saying that the milk is fresh, still hot from milking or frozen from the previous day. With sheep’s milk because it has more fat we will make more cheese but it will become softer. Goat’s milk gives less cheese and becomes harder.
Feta cheese production
Starting we must first strain our milk with a cloth e.g. through a pillow to make sure it has no foreign bodies (hairs or blackheads). Then we have to pasteurize it, to kill any microorganisms or germs. So we put the milk in our cauldron and heat it up to 65 degrees Celsius for ten minutes (sterilization temperature). If we are not sure about the origin of the milk, it would be better to pasteurize it at 90 degrees Celsius, but this will take us more time to heat and cool it.
The old shepherds who made their own cheese and knew that their animals were not sick and their milk was of the day, coagulated it directly without pasteurization. For the whole process we need to be sure of the temperature and have a cooking waterproof thermometer. After reaching 65 degrees Celsius, keep a few kilos of sterile milk for the mizithra process later, turn off the heat and wait for the milk to cool to 35 degrees Celsius. We must be very careful in this so that it is neither less nor more.
Second part of feta cheese production
We are now ready to pour our yeast which we have diluted and mixed in a cup of water. Of course, we have bought ready-made yeast and we pay attention to the proportion according to the kilos of milk we have. Of course if we are fanatics we can have our own natural rennet.
Natural rennet is made from a small lamb or goat that is booing and has not yet eaten grass. We take his stomach which is full of milk, we add salt, we tie a knot in his esophagus and the beginning of the small intestine and we hang it in the sun until it dries. Some people use half-and-half yeast for a more spicy taste.
So we pour our dissolved yeast into our milk which as we said is at 35 degrees Celsius.Stir after our milk so that our yeast goes everywhere and then wait about 45 minutes for it to thicken. Be careful not to stir again until our milk thickens. Our fresh cheese is now ready. Then we put our cheese in special containers that exist to drain. If we do not have it, we put it in classic strainers with small holes.
When it cools we can start salting with a small amount of salt. The process of salting the feta should be continued around 5 to 7 days after until our cheese drains well and hardens. Finally, store the feta in clean containers (barrel or tin) and add water with dissolved salt (brine) until our cheese is covered, to preserve and mature.
Feta in barrel
Preparation of brine for feta
To preserve the feta we will need to make brine. The brine is made with a ratio of 7% salt and the rest of the water. For aroma we can add a few sprigs of thyme or rosemary. The storage temperature should be cool and stable. The normal maturation process takes about 3 months but if we are in a hurry we can consume it earlier. Besides, fresh cheese is very tasty.
Preparation of cream cheese and mizithra
The milk that drained from the production of our cheese (commonly whey) could be used to make mizithra. Reheat it this time and at 60 degrees pour a few kilos of sterile milk that we have kept before and continue heating to 80 degrees Celsius and at the same time strain the cheese that rises to the surface with a strainer and put it in a bag to drain. This is the cream cheese and it will become our dry mizithra, after it is first salted and dried.
Make homemade mizithra
We salt the mizithra we want to dry and place it in a shady but well-ventilated protected place with a tulle, until it drains and no more liquids come out. Summer temperatures are ideal to get the result we want fast enough. Depending on the volume we have given to our mizithres and the temperature of the season, the drying period varies from 2-4 weeks.