Feta cheese is a rich and creamy soft cheese of Greece, authentically made of whole sheep’s milk, although many are now made with goat’s milk or a mixture of the two. It has been around for centuries, and hardly a Greek meal does not incorporate feta cheese in some manner. It is so popular in Greece that very little gets exported. In fact, most of the imported feta cheese comes from Italy. Nowadays, many countries produce forms of feta cheese, including Australia, Denmark, Germany, and the United States. However, modern-day, less robust versions may be made from cow’s milk, skimmed milk, or partially-skimmed milk.
Feta cheese is classified as a soft cheese made of 45 to 60 percent fat whole sheep’s or goat’s milk. The better fetas are aged (but not ripened) 4 to 6 weeks, cured in a salty whey and brine. Known as a pickled cheese, the flavour of feta becomes sharper and saltier with age. It is creamy white in colour with small holes, a crumbly texture, and is normally found in square cakes with no rind.
Feta is prized in salads or eaten as a snack and has the added benefit of melting quickly in hot dishes such as in filling for spanakopita or stifado.
With its centuries-old heritage, it is hard to believe that feta cheese has only become an international sweetheart of chefs within the past thirty years. This rich and tangy soft cheese of humble origin has long been a staple in the Mediterranean region, but is now enjoyed worldwide. Before trying one of the many feta cheese recipes, learn a little bit more about selecting and storing feta cheese, plus cooking tips.
Feta Cheese Selection and Storage
The finest feta cheese should be purchased direct from its brine bath. If it is pre-packaged, it should have some of the brine in the packaging to keep it moist. Feta cheese is best when eaten fresh, so always check the date. If you will not be consuming it immediately, store feta cheese in a brine or milk bath. The milk bath will reduce the saltiness and help keep the cheese moist and mild in flavour. Properly stored in brine or milk and refrigerated, feta cheese will last up to 3 months. Feta cheese is not suitable for freezing.
Feta Cheese Cooking Tips
- In general, feta cheese and goat’s cheese can be used interchangeably if need be.
- Those on salt-restricted diets should avoid feta cheese.
- Feta is considered a medium-fat cheese on a par with mozzarella and reduced-fat versions of regular cheeses. However, feta cheese will crumble easily, whereas mozzarella will not.
- Allow a good thirty minutes for feta cheese to come to room temperature to fully enjoy its rich, tangy flavour and creamy texture.
- Anchovies, lamb, tomatoes, basil, and black olives marry beautifully with feta cheese.
Feta Cheese Nutrition
Due to the high calorie content of feta cheese, many people ask about how healthy feta cheese, indeed, is. Well, it is, as there are several feta cheese health benefits. It is rich in calcium, and consuming a cup of feta cheese provides three-fourth of the daily calcium requirement. Calcium is required for the development of bones, and as such consuming feta cheese strengthens the bones. Additionally, it contains high amounts of riboflavin, phosphorus and vitamin B12.
Riboflavin is required by the body as it helps in metabolism of fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Phosphorous is required by the human body, as it helps in the formation of bones and teeth. No doubt, calcium is an important component of teeth and bone formation, but calcium alone is not able to build strong bones, and as such phosphorous is important mineral. Vitamin B12 is required by the body so as to keep the red blood cells healthy and prevent heart diseases. Moreover, it also helps the immune system function effectively.
- Made from Goat’s and Sheep’s milk
- Country of origin: Greece
- Region: Macedonia, Thrace, Thessaly, Central Mainland Greece, the Peloponnese and Lesvos
- Type: Soft, Brined
- Texture: Creamy, Crumbly, Grainy and Open
- Colour: White
- Flavour: Full-flavoured, Salty, Tangy
- Aroma: Nutty, Strong
See also: Feta Cheese – Is it Healthy