Saturday, August 21, 2010

Homemade Feta & Food 'n Flix

This month, after dipping my toes into the proverbial "kiddie pool" by making (what was almost too easy) Ricotta Cheese, I was feeling adventurous enough the attempt Feta cheese. And with the help and guidance of Heather over at Girlichef, who is a self-proclaimed "cheeseslut," and member of the fabulously inspiring team behind Forging Fromage, I knew I was in good hands. However, being as stubborn as I am...There, I said it. I stubbornly ventured to go-it alone and, to no surprise, wasn't very successful. My first attempt resulted in what's known in the cheese making world as a "bad batch," and an entire gallon of milk going down the drain.
The following day I was left with a half gallon of milk--enough for a half batch, new resolve, some valuable lessons learned and a willingness to try again. I reserved a couple of the tips I found helpful from other blogs and web sites, but stuck, for the most part, to just one recipe.
This time, I successfully made my very first piece of feta, albeit half the size I originally intended. I was, nonetheless, very proud.

I won't let you make the same mistakes I made.

1. Don't panic! Trust the process and stay the course.

2. Sterilize your equipment; Fill the the pot you're using with water, add measuring cup, spoon, knife and boil for five minutes. Carefully drain water from pot along with your tools. 30-60 minutes before cutting and draining cheese curds, boil cheese cloth in smaller pot. Drain, allow to cool enough to handle and squeeze out the excess water. Line colander with a double or triple layer damp cheesecloth.

2b. Wash surfaces with warm soapy water: Counter/ Table, your hands before handling cheese.

3. Some web sites suggest cutting the feta into slices (like I did), before salting, but to prevent over salting, only cut the feta in half. That's what I'll do next time.

4. Don't be discouraged; Anything you attempt for the first time (or 2nd or 3rd, in some cases) is bound to have some kinks. It's important to exercise patience and know that practice will pay off.

5. Let's do this!

Feta Cheese

Recipe courtesy and Adapted from Girlichef, via 'The Home Creamery' by: Kathy Farrell-Kingsley


Ultra-fine cheesecloth (Or butter muslin, Or sterilized unused hankerchief)
Table (butter) knife
Measuring Cup
Slotted spoon
Dish/Bowl that can hold feta and be covered


Yield: 1 lb. Make at least 24 hours before needed.

1 gallon milk
1/4 c. cultured buttermilk (Or 1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt with live cultures)
1/4 tsp. liquid rennet (or 1 half rennet tablet)
1/4 c. cool water (55-60 degrees F)
1/4 tsp. calcium chloride
coarse salt

*Note: I subtracted 1/4 cup milk from the gallon I was using to make homemade UN-cultured buttermilk (made with vinegar)and, much to my surprise, it worked out just fine.

This is what a clean break looks like.

After cutting lengthwise and crosswise into 1-inch squares.

Stir to break curds and carefully pour into cheesecloth.

1. In large heavy-bottomed pot, heat milk to 88 degrees over low heat. Stir occasionally to prevent milk from scalding. Heating milk to correct temperature will take about 10 minutes. Once the milk has been heated, stir in buttermilk OR yogurt. Place cover over pot and turn heat off. Leave pot undisturbed for 1 hour.

2. Either, break up to dissolve tablet or stir liquid rennet into cool water. Pour this mixture, and calcium chloride into into milk mixture. Stir for 60 seconds to dissolve. Milk will still be warm. Return cover over pot and allow to sit undisturbed for 1 to 3 hours, until coagulated. Mine took 3 hours.

3. After one hour, You can test for a "clean break" by inserting a very clean finger; Dip little (pinky) finger about 1-inch into coagulated mixture and pull up. If finger removes clean and liquid (whey) pools, you have a clean break. If not, allow to sit for another 2 hours.

4. Starting lengthwise and then crosswise, insert sterilized blade of table (butter) knife to cut curds into 1-inch squares. Stir mixture gently 3 or 4 times to break up curds. The temperature should still be at 88 degrees. Mine was not, so I turned the heat to low and allowed mixture to come to temperature. Turn heat off.

5. Place colander in a large bowl. Slowly pour curds into ultra-fine cheesecloth (or butter muslin) lined colander. Use a tool, such as a wooden spoon, to lay across colander and make a "bag" by tying the four ends of ultra-fine cheesecloth over the spoon, so that the bag is suspended higher than the liquid (whey) that is being released. At this point, a lot of the liquid should have been released. Temporarily place colander into clean sink. Transfer liquid remaining in bowl to a smaller bowl that can be covered and refrigerate. This will become our brine. Return colander to bowl, adjusting so that the ends of spoon are laying flat on either side of colander (or bowl). You could add folded dish towels to each side of the bowl and lay ends of spoon securely on towels for more height, if needed. Refrigerate cheese until drained, approximately 4-6 hours.

6. After 4-6 hours, remove bowl with cheese from refrigerator. Wash hands before handling cheese. Untie cheesecloth and remove ball of cheese. Yes, it's exciting and looks delicious, but don't eat it...yet.

7. Cut the ball of cheese evenly down the middle, giving you two halves. Transfer cheese halves to something that can be covered, such as a baking dish. Salt the entire surface of both halves of the cheese and cover dish. Allow dish to sit out at room temperature for 24 hours. I was skeptical, too, but trust me.

8. 24 hours later, you'll have cheese that is sitting in the liquid that has been drawn out by the salt. Carefully drain excess liquid; Salt surface of the cheese once more and cover dish. Allow cheese to sit at room temperature for 2 more hours.

After all the hard work and patience, you can eat your cheese now or, Stir in 3-5 tablespoons of salt to the brining liquid we reserved earlier and add pieces of cheese. Cover and refrigerate up to 4 weeks.

*Note: If you accidentally threw the brining liquid away (this happens), simply cover cheese with water that you've salted, cover and refrigerate.

Once you've removed the cheese from the cheesecloth, only cut mound into half and NOT into slices like I've done below. This will help prevent over-salting.

After 24 hours, the salted cheese will be sitting in a pool of water. Heather had a lot of water, but I only had very little. That's okay! This was just after salting.

After a full night and day, your cheese is ready to eat.

Food 'n Flix

At the start of this post I mentioned Heather over at Girlichef, who guided me through my cheese making endeavor. Well, Heather has started a new blog called Food 'n Flix and was so kind to ask if I would co-host it with her. The premise is, once a month we'll feature a film that relates to food, either directly or indirectly, watch the film, and prepare a dish or dessert inspired by that month's film. Our first month is September and we'll be starting with the film 'Chocolat' starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. That means chocolate is the star ingredient. The best part is, everyone is welcome to join in and participate. We'd love to have you over to share in ideas, dishes, movie suggestions, and what's sure to be a lot of fun.



  1. OMG Ree you made Feta! look awesome and you are amazing!! look delicious! gloria

  2. WOOOOT!!! Awesome job woman! It looks absolutely gorgeous =) Confidence is key, LOL!! Now, you know I want you to link this up to Forging Fromage, too...right!? Man, I never let up, do I!? I'm so totally rocked it.

  3. Hello Terriane!!!!!!!

    I like to see you again!!!!!!!

    Very, very kisses and thanks for your coment!!!!!

    Good night!!!!!

    La Mambalina

  4. There is NO way I could do this, but I LOVE that you can! I laughed when I saw you say "don't panic" bc thats just what I did. Amazing!

  5. That's awesome! Homemade feta sounds just wonderful, very impressive!

  6. I can't believe you make your own cheese! I NEED to try this!

  7. Homemade feta!? wow...I am very impressed!
    Do you think it would work without calcium chloride? I have liquid rennet though.

  8. Hi Ree
    Thank you so much for your rapid answer!!
    I think I could try it with my homemade yogurt. Really need to get rid of rennet as soon as possible before it's due.
    Thanks again,

  9. Wow, I'm seriously impressed! This looks awesome!

  10. You rock! I am totally impressed that you made your own feta! How positively delicious it must be. I was all happy because I made yogurt cheese this weekend - but this totally puts me to shame - and inspires me!

  11. Amazing work.
    Well done, I could never do anything like this. The sense of achievement must be enormous.
    Wishing you a great weekend ♥

  12. I need to be your neighbor because you Make your own feta! I'm a huge fan of feta and any recipe that is feta related:-) Also, thank you for your very lovely comment on my award post. Happy Sunday to you. xo

  13. Hi Ree,

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and saying hi. I am looking forward to Food-n-Flix--glad you are co-hosting with girlichef and I am looking forward to getting to know you. Your feta looks delicious too.



  14. This is something I want to try! Your instructions make it look like something I might be able to attempt. Do you have any suggestions about where to get rennet and calcium chloride? Thanks!

  15. wow. my mom makes her own cheese and I don't know if shes ever made feta... i'm gonna send her this link in case she hasn't. this looks great!!

  16. I am in awe of this entire process you took on. I guess ricotta was some serious childs play compared. Congrats on the new endeavor. Food n Flix sounds like a cool idea!

  17. Super awesome! Sooo much work to be done lol! You won't see me doing this, I am too lazy:P
    Don't mind having some of that feta though makes good salad ingredient. Food Flix sounds like a fun, I'll have to check it out.

  18. The feta looks amazing. This is next on my to-do list!

  19. Great job! So glad you gave it another shot, I think the feta has been my favourite so far. Thanks for forging with us!

  20. Ree!! you made cheese! and I love the was delightful to read. I am not gonna make cheese...ever...I am not into dairy at tummy does not like dairy :(

    Thanks for the wonderful commen!! I am glad we found each other.

    BTW I am coming to cambridge...sometime in october for a month. To do some analysis. Would you like to meet up? It may be fun!

  21. i am SO proud of you! i am just going to leave this one to you miss impressive.

    food and flix sounds like a blast! i'm into it :)

  22. I'm glad you didn't let the first attempt put you off! This cheesemaking stuff is seriously nerve-wracking.


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