DIY Feta Cheese for Beginners

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The talented duo - Sarah & Chris from the Shebbear Cheese Co

A couple of weeks ago, we hosted another fabulous Cheese Making Workshop with the very lovely Sarah & Chris from the Shebbear Cheese Co. It was our third workshop with the talented duo - the first workshop was held in November last year, and the 2nd workshop was in February this year, and was featured in The Western Morning News. As always, a fantastic time was had by all.

Our next Cheese Making Workshop will be held next February 2014, and this time Sarah and Chris will be teaching us to make a delicious Cambozola type and Borough blue cheese. We can't wait! Details will be on our Workshop page soon.

Today, Sarah and Chris have kindly allowed us to share their famous, absolutely delicious feta cheese recipe. There’s an enormous satisfaction in making your own feta cheese. Not only does homemade feta taste incredible, but it delivers a pioneer, up-by-my-bootstraps joy that a store-bought version just can’t give no matter how wonderful it is. Once you get your first taste of homemade feta, you’ll agree it was worth the effort.

Before we get started some important notes:

  • Stay calm! Cheese making is not supposed to be stressful. It may seem complicated, but it isn’t. Just go one step at a time and you’ll get there.
  • Don’t get freaked out by the length of time it takes to make this. Much of the time is hands-off time. Another warning for those who haven’t made cheese or fermented something before; it gets a little, um, pungent smelling at times. Keep a-going. Don’t worry! Remember that cheese making is essentially controlling how fast and in what way milk ‘goes bad’. If it goes bad the right way it’s delicious!
  • The only special equipment you really need to pull this off is a large stainless steel or other non-reactive pot, a heat source, a long knife or off-set spatula, a colander, something from to drain the cheese in and muslin cloth (extra, super, mega fine cheesecloth.)  Do not confuse this with the “fine” cheesecloth you get in the grocery store or hardware store. It’s confusing terminology, but that stuff is so not fine. Just look for something called butter muslin and you’ll be fine.

How to Make Your Own Cow's Milk Feta Cheese

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Safety First: How to sanitise your equipment

Cheese making relies on good bacteria (the kind found in yogurt) as a preservative. But there are other types of bacteria you need to watch out for, to avoid illness. Basic home sanitising measures can eliminate much of the danger.

Follow these steps:

Clean counters with antibacterial wipes and wash your hands thoroughly before beginning (and throughout the process, as necessary).

Sterilise all equipment, in one of three ways:

1. Wash in hot, soapy water, rinse, and then submerge in boiling water for at least 10 minutes.

2. Steam by putting an inch of water in the bottom of a large pot, adding the equipment, covering the pot tightly, and boiling for 10 minutes. (If the cover doesn’t fit, put aluminum foil over it to trap the steam.)

3. Use the sanitise setting on your dishwasher.

Do not use bleach in cleaning the equipment, as this can interfere with the chemistry of cheese making.

If at any point in the making or aging process you see small, uniform, round holes throughout the cheese, and it feels spongy, throw it out.

Day 1: Make the Cheese Curd

Ingredients

8L whole milk (organic if possible) 1/4 tsp mesophilic MM100 culture 1/4 tsp Lipase 1/4 tsp calcium chloride in 1/4 cup (50ml) boiled and cooled water) 1/4 vegetable rennet dissolved in 1/4 cup (50ml) boiled and cooled water) Brine solution

To understand the science behind cheese making, it’s helpful to remember that it began as a way of preserving milk. You start by encouraging milk to curdle so that you can separate the solid portion (the curds) from the liquid (the whey). Rennet, a natural enzyme, is added to cause curdling. You also add live cultures, here in the form of yogurt—these “eat” the milk sugar (lactose) and produce an acid, which lowers the milk’s pH. That acidic environment, along with heat, helps the rennet curdle the milk.

Once the milk coagulates into curds, you cut into it to let the whey flow out. The remaining whey is drained off by hanging the curd in cheesecloth for 24 hours at room temperature. Once drained, the cheese will have reformed into a solid mass, ready to be cut into cubes and then sprinkled with salt to draw out any remaining whey.

Instructions

1. Heat milk in a large stainless steel or other non-reactive pot to 31C. Remove from heat.

2. Sprinkle culture and lipase over surface of milk and let stand for 5 minutes to rehydrate. Using skimmer and an up-and-down motion, gently draw culture down into milk without breaking the surface of the milk. 20 strokes. Cover and let ripen for 1 hour, maintaining temperature at 31C.

3. After 40 minutes of ripening time dissolve 1/4 rennet tablet in 17$ (50ml) boiled and cooled water.

4. After 1 hour add calcium chloride and draw milk down into milk using up-and-down motion. 20 strokes.

5. Add rennet in water and draw down into the milk as before.

6. Cover and let set for 30-40 minutes (this sometimes takes 1 hour). Maintaining temperature at 31C.

7. Check for a clean break. If achieved, use a palatte knife and cut into 3/4 (2cm) cubes. Let stand for 5 minutes.

8. Stir curds gently with skimmer for 20 minutes. They will firm up and shrink. Let stand for 10 minutes.

9. Ladle curds into muslin-lined colander. Let drain for 5 minutes.

10. Fill mold with curds. Flip after 10-15 minutes. Then flip every 15 minutes or so for 1 hour. Leave to drain for 24 hours.

IntroPageTip1Day 2: Brine the Feta

Brine Solution

Dissolve 1/8 cup salt in 475ml boiling water. Cool before putting feta in.

Instructions:

1. Remove Cheese from the mold and cut into slices.

2. Place Brine solution in a plastic container with lid and keep in fridge.

The flavour will increase over time but the feta can be eaten within 3 days of making.

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Three Easy Ideas for Serving Feta

• Top with extra-virgin olive oil, herbs, chillies and serve with olives. • Drizzle with honey and cracked black peppercorns; serve with crackers. • Dress with fresh herbs and lemon juice and bake at 190C until golden on top; spread on crusty bread.