November 23, 2017

A Tale of Two Fetas

In my last cheesemaking post I mentioned how even small changes in the making of a cheese can make a difference in the results. Here's an example of two fetas. The photos below were taken after each was pressed and sliced. They look like very different cheeses!

Feta #1

Feta #2

Quite a difference, eh? Both are made from my goat milk, following the same recipe with only a few differences. First, here's the recipe.


  • 1 gallon raw goat milk
  • ¼ cup starter
  • 1 regular dose rennet
  • cheese salt
Warm the milk to 90°F (32°C), stir in starter, and incubate for one hour. Gently stir in rennet and let sit one hour or until clean break. Cut curds into ¾-inch pieces. Slowly stir the curds for 30 to 60 minutes. Let curds settle and pour off whey. Save 1 quart of the whey for the brine.

Strain the curds. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp salt and mix. Let stand 10 minutes for the salt to pull out some of the whey. Pack curds into a cheese press. Flip cheese several times. Once it's cooled, removed from press and cut into one-inch slices. Salt the slices and leave on cheese rack to dry. Flip them a couple of times to dry evenly. When dry, pack on crock or glass jar and cover with brine.

  • 1 quart fresh whey
  • ¼ cup salt
Dissolve salt in whey. Cover and let age during the feta drying process. Pour over cheese, making sure to cover it.

Age the brined cheese slices at less than 50°F (12°C) for least two weeks.

Now, here are the differences in my two fetas.

Feta #1
  • whey as a starter culture
  • heat maintained at 90°F (32°C)
  • light pressure in the cheese press

Feta #2
  • kefir as a starter culture
  • heated (accidentally) to 100°F (37.7°C)
  • firmer pressure in the cheese press

Interesting, isn't it? For each feta I salted the slices, allowed them to air dry, placed each in it's own jar of brine, and allowed to age in the fridge.

Taste test results?

Top: Feta #1; Bottom: Feta #2.

Dan was recruited as my taste tester. He thought the biggest difference was in texture, but the flavor was very similar and very good.

Feta is traditionally a salty cheese, so I add no extra salt when I use it in cooking. We've been enjoying it in salads, scrambled eggs, and omelets.

Homegrown salad

Do you see why cheesemaking is so challenging on the one hand but so intriguing on the other? It's a good thing I'm not a perfectionist! The potential for subtle but delicious nuances is endless!

Feta #1 stored in herbed olive oil with fresh sprigs
of thyme and rosemary. After we eat the cheese
the oil will be used for salads and sautéeing.

As Dan says, how could anyone ever get bored with homesteading?

A Tale of Two Fetas © Nov 2017 by Leigh


Michelle said...

So delicious-looking; I LOVE feta cheese!

Yarrow said...

Ohmigosh! What a lovely post, I'm almost drooling. I love your cheese experiments, they fascinate me.
Someone said to me recently (another English person who's been in France for a very long time)that it's desperately quiet here in the winter with nothing at all to do! I said she should come and spend a few days with us. We're on the go constantly, despite not being up to Homesteader grade yet, but I wouldn't change it for the world. xx

Leigh said...

Michelle, have you ever thought of milking your Shetlands? I've been researching milking sheep and apparently, sheep milk is higher in both butterfat and protein than either goats or cows. It's supposed to give a very high cheese yield!

Yarrow, living a good life in the country is always rich with things to do! You'd probably have a wonderful visit.

Harry Flashman said...

I like feta cheese. Both of those look pretty savory. I wanted to come by and wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving. I expect Thanksgiving has a lot to it, as you live on a farm. Kind of like the first celebrants.

Michelle said...

Honestly Leigh, no; don't know when I would fit that in and am not sure who I would try to train. The old black ewe Inky I bought years ago had been used as a milker successfully before I got her; she had bigger teats that would have been easier than the microscopic ones of all my current girls.

Cozy Thyme Cottage said...

It would be wonderful to make my own cheese but don't think that is going to happen! Yours looks delicious. Enjoy a bite for me!! Nancy

Leigh said...

Thanks Harry! A Happy Thanksgiving to you too! I have to admit it's pretty special to have so many homegrown foods on our Thanksgiving table: sweet potatoes, butter, whole wheat bread, onions and cornmeal for the cornbread stuffing, milk for ice cream, green beans. Every year we say we need to start raising turkeys. Maybe next year!

Michelle, finding time is often the problem! And it's not just the milking, it's doing something with the milk. :) I'm guessing most folks who milk sheep use machines. I've looked at an economical manual one from Dansha Farms, because I hve one doe with short teats that is harder to milk when she's full. I'm hoping she's easier next year after her second freshening.

Nancy, it's not that hard to do! :) The hardest part is finding milk that hasn't been ultra-pasteurized. UHT milk won't make cheese.

Chris said...

Cheese alchemy! I love learning from those happy accidents. I agree with Dan, learning to do things for yourself, is never boring. Challenging, mystifying, confusing and even annoying sometimes, but rarely boring!

Having tasted fetta myself, similar to your two variations, I prefer the texture of cheese #1. More like a flexible tasty cheese, and less like breadcrumbs. I particularly enjoy eating them with fresh, black olives! Love the squeaky sound of chewing cheese, on my teeth. Yes, I'm totally weird like that. ;)

Leigh said...

Chris, feta and black olives! Oh my, add a little lettuce and tomatoes - that's my dream salad. :) Add a hunk of sourdough bread and there's a meal!

The variations are very fun with cheese, but also why I like to stick with one recipe for awhile - to make sure I'm getting fairly consistent results, even if it's just for me!

Rain said...

Hi Leigh :)) I LOVE how you stored your Feta! You asked: Do you see why cheesemaking is so challenging on the one hand but so intriguing on the other? MY answer: Oh yeah. LOL...I love that you did two Fetas. I have yet to make a Feta, and we just love that cheese. We'll often make "Greek" pizzas with red onions, tomatoes, Kalamata olives and Feta. Yum. I love how you're making your cheeses without the store-bought cultures. For now, I'm sticking to that method until I can feel more confidence in my cheesemaking, then I might try some from David Asher's book.

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!!! :)

Leigh said...

Rain, I so agree with sticking with what's working, especially at first. That's why I'm not trying a whole lot of different cheeses. I stuck with my original "Little House on the Prairie" cheese for a long time, but only recently figured out what some of my problem was. Live and learn! The feta appeals to me because it can be cured and stored in the fridge. That's important considering how hot our summers are!

Donna OShaughnessy said...

Oh how I love feta cheese. You and Rain and others are motivating me to get out of my easy to make Farmer's Cheese and Mozzarella cheese rut. Don't know what I'm waiting for, our cow gives us ample supplies every day.

M.K. said...

Oh, Leigh, this is lovely. We keep feta in the fridge all the time. Sometime ... when I get a better handle on all the other creative projects I'm working on ... I want to regularly make feta. Thank you!!!

Cassandra said...

Oh they both look fabulous!