Prep 1 hr
Cook 96 hrs
Cow milk, goat milk or a combination of both may be used. Fresh milk is best (I'm talking FRESH here - like straight from the cow!) but store bought milk works fairly well. I have not tried the buttermilk version. There are numerous internet sources for cheese cultures, and they come in various forms (powder, frozen, etc). I have only used powder cultures from cheesemaking.com. Whatever form your culture is in, you should use the amount recommended for one gallon of milk, and follow any pre-cheesemaking instructions that come with it. This recipe was adapted from several sources and is designed for the beginning cheesemaker with limited access to specialty ingredients and equipment. Cheesemaking is a little tricky, as you are working with live cultures, as with sourdough bread, and a sensitive base - milk. It may take a few tries to get good results.
- 1 gallon whole milk, preferably non-homogenized
- starter culture, mesophilic or 1⁄2 cup buttermilk
- 1⁄4 tablet rennet or 1⁄2 teaspoon liquid rennet
- 1⁄4 cup cool water
- Sterilize all of your equipment before you begin (wash in hot soapy water, rinse well. Spray with a bleach cleanser or soak in water with bleach added, then rinse well again).
- Heat the milk slowly to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. (You will get better results if the temperature changes are always gradual.).
- Add starter culture. A pinch of lipase enzyme may be added for more flavor.
- Stir occasionally for 1 hour, holding the temperature at 90 degrees.
- If using rennet tablet, crush well. Add the rennet to the 1/4 cup of cool water and stir until well mixed (for liquid rennet) or thoroughly dissolved (for rennet tablet). Add the rennet to the milk and stir for one full minute, then do not touch for 40 minutes or until the milk has coagulated, continuing to hold it at 90 degrees. The milk is ready when a finger or thermometer inserted into the curd at a 45 degree angle will separate the curd firmly and cleanly.
- Cut the curd into 1/2 inch cubes. (Using a knife, make cuts all the way through the curd 1/2 inch apart, first in one direction, then perpendicular to the first cuts. Then, holding your knife at a 45 degree angle, do your best to make another series of 1/2 cuts. They need not be perfect - your goal is pieces of fairly uniform size.) Do not stir!
- Let rest for 10 minutes, then stir gently. Cut any large pieces in half. Continue to stir gently about every ten minutes for another 1 to 2 hours, continuing to hold at 90 degrees, until the curds have shrunk to about 1/4 their original size.
- Ladle curds and whey into Feta molds or a colander lined with coarse cheesecloth (which has been sterilized). The whey will drain out and the cheese will stay in the mold.
- Leave overnight in a cool place to drain. The cheese will shrink down.
- Take the cheese out of the mold and cut into 2-3 inch pieces.
- Using coarse salt, generously salt all sides of pieces.
- Leave at room temperature for a full day turning the pieces every once in a while.
- Place the pieces UNCOVERED, on a wooden board in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. They will continue to drain whey.
- Store your cheese in a brine solution made with 1/2 cup salt (Kosher, if possible) per 1/2 gallon of water (boiled and cooled to below room temperature), using just enough to cover the cheese. Let it age 1 to 4 weeks to develop flavor. Stored in brine in the refrigerator it will stay good for months, but the flavor will continue to get sharper.