|Ingredients for 1,2 kg feta cheese:|
- 8 litres of whole milk, non-homogenized
You can use 1-2 litres of homogenized with 6-7 litres of non-homogenized. This enhances softness and makes flavors develop faster. This is due to the high numbers of small size fat globules in homogenized milk packing closer together. This will slow down the drainage of whey. The small size fat globules tend to be broken giving an easier access for the enzymes to work on.
You can use homogenized milk only, but just be aware, this curd is not as stable and easy to work with compared to curd from non-homogenized milk. It tends to be less sticky and will often cause the cheese to crumble and break later in the process. There are a lot more smaller particles in homogenized milk and you risk loosing them when draining off whey. Potentially this could result in lower yields - even if flavours develops just as nicely. However with a bit of practice it is not difficult to master curd made from homogenized milk - it is only a matter of your preference and patience.
Some of the best cheeses are made from milk with a high fat contents but you can use a fat reduced milk if you prefer. There is only a minor loss of fat in the process, so a cheese made from full fat milk will have a high fat content, whereas a cheese made from semi-skimmed milk will have reduced fat content.
Use full fat or fresh raw milk if you are lucky enough to get your hands on it - either cow, sheep or goats milk. Raw milk is high in fats and makes a really nice full fat cheese.
No matter what type of milk you choose - make sure it is as fresh as possible. No more than a couple of days old!
- 5 pinches of starter culture or 1 dl soured milk
The slightly acidic flavour a cheese has is due to fermentation and the work of lactic acid bacteria. Hjemmeriets freeze dried starter culture contains a mix of lactic acid bacteria that ensures a quick well balanced development of nice flavors.
Soured milk contains the same type of lactic acid bacteria as does our freeze dried culture - only the species differ. Using soured milk to culture the milk for cheese will work just as well as freeze dried starter culture but due to the different blend of species in it, you may get a different result i terms of taste. This could even differ with each batch. On the contrary starter cultures comes out with the same result each time. This is a sure way of knowing the same flavours develops nicely each time.
On the other hand, what is so compelling about making homemade cheese is the unique results you often get. If you experiment with different types of cultures, you are more likely to develop you own unique cheese.
Add more or less starter culture if you wish - this recipe only reflect our recommendations. Adding less starter culture slows the fermentation process, causing less acidity and a slower development in flavours. The contrary happens if you add more starter culture.
Adding starter culture also affects the cheese texture. The more starter you add, the faster fermentation happens, the higher acidity - hence more whey will drain off later, leaving a drier curd. So if you want a cheese with a nice soft texture, do not use too much starter culture. If you do not add ANY culture at all - the curd simply collapses.
- 1 pinch of lipase enzyme
Lipase is a naturally occuring enzyme that works on fats and break them down in to fatty acids and other tasteful components. Lipase is what makes the well know taste in Feta cheese.
- 2 pinches of nut flavouring culture (Optional)
This culture contains a particular species of lactic acid bacteria that secretes a mild nutty-ish flavor when it breaks down lactose.
- 2 ml rennet
Rennet is an enzyme that by its mere presence causes the milk proteins to change and coagulate. This is what transforms the milk to curd!
After coagulation the curd still contains active rennet and it will continue to work on the proteins while the cheese matures. Adding more rennet than our recommendations will therefore influence how the cheese comes out at the very end.
- 350 g salt to be dissolved in 2½ litres of boiled water
Adjust the amount of salt to taste. The purpose of soaking the cheese in brine, is for salt to absorb to its core. Make it more salty if you like - just do not make it less salty than our recommendations. If you find 350g is too salty simply reduce the lenght of time you soak the cheese in it. When salinity is too low (under 350 g) there is a chance the surface will go soggy. For a saltier cheese - just make a brine with extra salt or leave the cheese soaked in brine for longer.
If you do not have access to kitchen scales, here is a helpful rule of thumb for you:
1 dl coarse salt weighs approximately 120 g
1 dl fine salt weighs approximately 140 g
- 2 garlic cloves
- 12 bay leaves
- 1 liter grapeseed oilRequired tools:
- Pot with lidHelpfull tools (non-essential):
- Long knife
- Two small glasses
- Plastic or glas containers for storage
- Cheese trays
- Cheese mat
- Cheese moulds
- Kitchen scalesPreparations:
- Dish brush
- Large spoon
- Cheese cutter
- Thermometer clip holder
We recommend you leave the milk un-opened on the kitchen counter for approximately 10 hours prior to beginning the process. This allows the milk to slowly gain room temperature, which in turn enhances greater yields and gives softness to the cheese.
When milk slowly gains room temperature rather than being heated on the stove, it makes calcium more bioavailable and that benefits coagulation upon adding rennet. The result is a firmer curd where less whey drains off. In turn, that contributes to a softer cheese and greater yields.
The same result can be achieved merely by adding some calcium chloride to the milk.
Everything begins with hygiene
Hygiene is crucial when making cheese: Fill a pot with water, cover with a lid and bring it to boil. Now scold each of your tools suited for scolding by carefully pouring boiling water over them; cheese trays, moulds, mats, colander, etc. Use a dish brush for scrubbing if possible.Steps:
- Pour the milk in to a pot and slowly heat it to 32°C.
Make sure to heat it slowly - stir from time to time.
A lower temperature, down to 28°C, slows fermentation and acidification, which later reduces how much whey drains off and gives a softer texture.
A higher temperature, up to 36°C, speeds up fermentation and acidification, which increases how much whey drains off and yields a firmer texture.
- Dissolve the following ingredients in a small amount of cold water; starter culture, lipase and nutflavouring culture (optional). Pour the mixture into the pot - stir for ½ minute.
All you need is about 10 ml cold water to dissolve the cultures.
- Cover with a lid and wrap a towel around the pot to keep it warm - leave it for 30 minutes.
This sets off the initial fermentation process, where the lactic acid bacteria begins to break down lactose, produce lactic acid and other tastefull components that makes up the well known flavours in cheese. This process continues for several days until almost all sugars (lactose) have been broken down or when acidity drops too low for the bacteria to thrive.
- Mix rennet with a small amount of cold water, add it to the milk and stir gently for about ½ minute.
Again, use about 10ml water to mixed with rennet.
- Cover with a lid and wrap the pot in a towel to keep it warm - leave it for (at least) 30 minutes.
It is important you do not stir the milk at this point and let it coagulate in peace. Coagulation usually starts after 10-15 minutes. After 25-28 minutes the texture should look like pudding - this is curd. Times can vary depending on the milk temperature, but ideally that should be around 32°C. So it is important you make sure to keep the pot warm, keep it covered and wrap it in a towel. Coagulation slows if the temperature goes lower.
The coagulation time will influence the amount of whey which will be drained off: The longer coagulation time, the less whey will be drained off, and thereby give a softer cheese. Coagulation could be done for 1 hour and thereby give a softer cheese. The effect of coagulation time is futher described under the description of the rennet product.
- The milk has now coagulated and curd has formed.
Perform the "clean cut test": With a knife, cut into the surface of the curd. If it leaves a clean cut with sharp edges - it is ready and you can move on to the next step. If it does not leave a clean cut - allow it to coagulate for a few more minutes before you cut the curd.
The timing of the cutting into cubes impacts how the cheese turns out. Once you have cut the curd, whey immidiately begins to drain off and leak from within the cubes. The longer the curd is soaked in the whey, the more time there is for lactic acid bacteria to work on the milk sugars - breaking down lactose and build up lactic acids - which increases acidity in the curd.
If you cut the curd too soon, the acidic flavor will be less distinct whereas if you wait a little, it intensifies.
It is up to your preferences to decide how intense you like the acidic taste in the cheese. Feta cheese however is known for its distinct acidic flavour and this is why we recommend slow drainage. If you wish a cheese with even more intensity to the acidic taste - then just allow the milk to coagulate for over 30 minutes before cutting the curd into cubes.
- Use a long knife or cheese cutter to cut the curd into 2-3 cm cubes - and let it rest for 10 minues.
The size of the cubes impacts how fast the whey drains off. The bigger the cubes are, the slower whey drains off and the more acidic the cheese gets. For feta cheeses where an intense acidic flavor is desirable, it is therefore important to make large cubes compared to when making mild cheeses - like cottage cheese.
Because the cube size matters to the outcome, try to cut them in equal sizes. If you are not careful about getting them equally sized, the result is lots of different sized cubes where whey drains off differently. This affects both tast and texture in the end.
Rennet continues to work on the proteins in the milk even after cutting the cheese, so coagulation will still take place and cause some of the cubes to stick together. To seperate them and prevent them for sticking together, stir the cubes gently 10 minutes after cutting the curd. If you fail to seperate them they will stick together in great lumps.
- Now stir the cubes gently every 15 minutes for an hour.
Cover the pot with the lid and a towel whenever you are not stirring.
The whey slowly seperate from the curd during this time - the curd is shrinking and whey is squeezed out in the process.
You can stretch or shorten this time a little - again, just bare in mind, the longer the curd stays soaked in whey, the more acidic it becomes. How fast the whey seperates out and how acidic it becomes depends on the temperature and how much starter culture you added in the beginning. The process is complete when there is about half curd half whey in the pot.
- Place cheese moulds in a cheese tray with a cheese mat in the bottom. Fill curd into the moulds and cover them with another cheese mat. Put a cheese tray on top, facing upside down. Get a firm grip on the handles, tilt the trays to let whey run off and turn them to the flip side. Repeat this often to begin with as whey drains of quickly in the beginning.
If you do not turn the cheese trays frequently, whey will rise in the bottom tray and soak the moulds partly. Being soaked in whey affects the curd and the outcome. If you want to ensure drainage happens fast and continuously - simply drill a 10 mm hole in the bottom middle of two extra cheese trays. This will allow whey to escape through the bottom into a sink or bowl. When whey drains off faster, fermentation slows down and gives your feta cheese a nice softness. Just bare in mind, once you have drilled the hole, the trays can only be used for whey drainage hereafter.
- Now prepare brine: Boil the water, dissolve the salt and let it cool off until next day.
Cool it faster by placing the pot outside or in cold water.
- After 24 hours of draining (pH should be around 4.6) soak them in brine. Use a plate to weigh them down under the brine surface.
You can measure the pH value using a pH strip but it is optional in this recipe. If you followed each step promptly and started out with fresh milk, the pH level will be correct after 24 hours.
- Soak the feta cheese in brine for 2-5 hours - as you prefer.
The saltiness the cheese obtaines from the brine depends on the physical size of the cheese, the concentration of salt, temperature and of the lenght you leave the cheese in there.
Make them more salty by cutting the cheeses into smaller pieces, by using a brine with a higher salt concentration, using a higher temperature during brining or by brining for a longer period. Make them less salty by brining the uncut pieces of cheeses, by using less salt in the brine (do not go below 125 g per liter), by brining at a lower temperature or by brining for a shorter period.
NOTE: The salt content must always be at least 12%. Any lower, the surface of the cheese may turn soggy.
Gently stir the brine now and then to induce a bit of movement in the liquid. When salt penetrates the cheese, water flows out and dilutes the brine close up to the cheese. Therefore it is important to cause a bit of movement to even out salinity - if do not do this, it may also cause the surface to go soggy.
- Lift the cheese out of the brine, cut it into smaller pieces and place it in suitable food safe containers. If you wish - add bay leaves, garlic or herbs - then cover the cheese in oil. If you prefer to use brine rather than oil, see instructions and comments on how to make the right brine. Feta cheese kept in brine is not as shelve stable as feta cheese stored in oil - but it will stay fresh for about a month, if not been eaten before then...
You have to taste the feta cheese before you cover them up, to get a feel for how long it needs to mature.
Sometimes it already tastes great, sometimes it needs to mature for a few days. Each batch will be different, influenced by variations in the milk, season, cultures or each little step in the process.
The cheese can seem quite salty if you taste it right after soaking it in brine, but that usually reduces after a few days of maturation.
Season you feta cheese with herbs you wish but be very mindful of hygiene! Rule of thumb is not to use fresh herbs from the garden unless they have been carefully rinsed, scolded and dried in the oven. Storebought dried herbs are safe to use and so are fresh garlic gloves. Always be mindful of hygiene - it is such a pitty to spoil a perfectly made cheese by introducing contaminating bacteria from herbs.
That goes for adding any spices or herbs earlier in the process too! Always be hysterical about hygiene on this matter! The milk contains so many nutrients on which bad bacteria love to thrive and contamination is lurking around the corner, if your are not very careful.
It is up to your likings to decide if you wish to store the cheese in oil or brine.
Using oil protects the cheese from air, keeping it fresh and stable for several months. If you prefer to mature and store the cheese in brine, you can not at the same time use spices to flavor the cheese as the taste from the spices will not get well distributed through water, unlike through oil.
Choose any oil you like but be aware that oils like olive oils will solidify when refrigerated. Grapeseed oil stays liquid and provides an almost neutral flavor - as does sunflower and rapeseed oil. There are many options - it is all up to you.
If you prefer to store your feta cheese in brine as it is commonly done, you need to make a brine with the exact same salt content as the cheese has. (For feta cheese that is typically 2-5%, meaning you need to make a brine with 20-50g salt per liter of water). Boil the water, dissolve the salt and cool the brine.
It is very importance to have the same acidity and salinity in the brine as is in the cheese. If the levels are not equal, the brine will rob the cheese of nutrients and make the cheese soggy - sometimes even slimy!
Use some of the fluids listed below, to create the right balance (these are maximum values per liter of brine):
|Lactic acid (15%)
Note: The values given above are the maximum levels, do not necessarily use so much and each one of them.
Whey can be added, 1 part to 3 parts brine. This helps acidify the brine with same acids that are already present in the cheese. This is ideal as it also contains beneficial salts, like calcium that will enchance the calcium balance too.
Use ONLY the clear whey that drains off towards the end of the draining process.
Vinegar – use up to 1 tbsp. per liter brine. Vinegar increases acidity.
Lactic acid (15%) – use 5 ml per liter brine. Lactic acid increases acidity.
Calcium Chloride (33%) is added to balance the calcium content. Insufficient free calcium ions in the brine will cause calcium to leak into the brine from the cheese. This lead to a softening of the cheese and it causes the surfaces to go soggy. If the cheese looses a lot of calcium to the brine it sometimes even draws water in.
- Cover the containers with lids and label them if you wish.
If you make several batches or take out servings from more than one container at the time, it may be nice to have them labelled. We recommend you label both the lid and bottom just in case you get the lids mixed up. This ensures you always know what is in the containers and when it was made.
- Leave the containers at room temperature for 24 hours before you refrigerate them.
Lactic acid bacteria that thrives at room temperature are still working on the lactose and in the process, they help develop flavors more fully.