How to Make Mild Feta Goat Cheese - An Illustrated Guide
Cranberries and Feta Appetillas
Basic Cheesemaking Supplies
What You Will Need to Make Mild Feta Goat Cheese
Like many cheeses, making feta goat cheese is not complicated. It requires mostly common kitchen utensils, some time, and some refrigerator room.
Specifically, you will need:
- Stock pot(s) or large cooking pot(s), suited to the amount of milk you have
- A large bowl (stainless steel is best...I don't recommend plastic)
- A large collander...stainless steel or enamelled is best
- A long knife
- A long spoon (wooden is best)
- Tea towels - large and woven of cotton (not a waffle-weave), as you will use them for straining the whey off the cheese
- A measuring cup
- An accurate thermometer
- Yogurt, plain
- Rennet...you may use animal or vegetable, in liquid or tablet form
- Salt, non-iodized (unprocessed sea salt is best)
- A 5-gallong bucket, if dealing with more than a gallon or two of milk
- Time...about three hours initially of cooking and cleanup time, plus 10-20 minutes the next day, and 10-20 minutes (once) the following week
A Note on Equipment
If you are just experimenting with making cheese, please don't rush out and buy expensive equipment just yet. If you can, make do with what you have around the house, until you know whether cheesemaking is for you. If you find you like it as a hobby or even a business, then you should invest in proper equipment. However, you must start with an accurate thermometer...sticking a finger in the milk to guess the temperature may allow you to turn out an edible cheese, but it will not allow you to turn out several uniformly good cheeses in a row.
Next, even if you don't get anything else, invest in a high-quality stainless steel stock pot, with a heavy bottom. This will save you much frustration due to scorched milk, and may save you many hours of clean-up, as well. Next come towels. If you are just beginning, almost any dish or tea towel may do. But eventually you will want something you can rely on, and know is clean - that is has not been exposed to bacteria and things that can influence your cheeses. To this end, invest in some good towels, and keep them separate from your everyday kitchen towels. Be aware that the so-called cheese-cloth sold in supermarkets is not what you should be using. The weave of this cheesecloth is entirely too loose for real cheesemaking.
Now that you know what to use, I'll show you what to do.
Step One - Adding a Yogurt or Buttermilk Culture to Warm Milk, Allowing the Milk to Ripen
Over low flame, warm milk to 86 degrees F. You may use any quantity of milk that you have, so don't be alarmed at the large amount shown. This just happened to be what I had extra this week. Measure 1/4 cup cultured buttermilk or plain yogurt per gallon of milk, and stir in thoroughly. Let milk alone to ripen for 1 hour.
Because I am working here with about eight gallons of milk, divided between two pots, I measure out one cup of yogurt per pot...1 cup per four gallons of milk.
Step Two - Adding Rennet, Allowing the Cheese to Set
Mix into 1/4 cup cool drinking water 1/2 teaspoon of liquid vegetable rennet per gallon of milk. Stir into milk thoroughly.
I measured out 2 teaspoons per pot...2 teaspoons per four gallons of milk.
Put the lid(s) on the pot(s), and allow to set another hour.
Step Three - Cutting the Curds, Draining the Curds
The curds should now look a lot like commercial yogurt - a coagulated, satiny smooth mass floating in the whey. With a long knife, cut the curds into 1/2" cubes. Cut first one way, then the other, to make a grid, then reach slantwise into the pot and cut the strips of curds horizontally at least once.
Allow the curds to rest for five minutes.
Stir the curds gently for 15 minutes, using the spoon to break them up a bit more. Keep the pot at 86 degrees F. Don't worry about the risk of breaking the curds into tiny particles, as with mozzarella - these curds are sturdier.
Have ready at least one tea towel per two gallons of milk. I needed four, and six might have been better.
Pour the curds into a colander lined with a large tea towel. (Remember, pour about two gallons of curds and whey per towel.) With a sturdy shoelace, tie up the towel into a bag, and hang to drip for 4-6 hours. I like to use the towel bar over my bathtub.
If you have more than one bag of curds to drain, tie up one and set it in a large dish while you get another one draining...go hang the first one, and by the time you get back to the kitchen, the next one should be ready.
Note on how to tie up and hang the tea-towel "bags": Wrap one end of the shoelace around the bag, with the corners of the towel all drawn up together so there is no chance of its falling open. Leave a tail of shoelace 6" to 8" long. Wrap this tail around, and tie a simple knot...wrap around again, knot again...wrap and knot once more. Remember, wet things weigh a lot...the cheese is heavy for its size. On the towel bar, take about three wraps without knots, then take what's left of the shoe lace and pass it in front of the hanging portion. Leaving a bit of a loop, pass it to the back, through the loop, and draw it up tight. This is easy to undue, but won't slip.
Step Four - Cutting the Curds, Salting the Curds...First Maturing Period
Depending on the size of the curd ball(s), slice each into halves, quarters, or thick slices. I sliced mine, because I pushed the limits of how many curds should be hung in a bag.
The salt proportion runs thus: 4-5 tablespoons of course, non-iodized salt per original gallon of milk...or per 3-4 cups of cheese. Therefore, my eight gallons of milk would require 2 to 2 1/2 cups of salt.
If you prefer not to use this much, don't. I have experimented with less, and the cheese still turns out good, with many yummy uses.
After salting the cheese, place the pieces in a dish, then cover them and allow to stand at room temperature for 24 hours.
You may cover the cheese either with a tea towel (supposing the atmosphere is clean and smells fresh), or you may cover it with plastic wrap. Be aware that if you use a towel, it may wick whey out of the dish and all over your table. Plastic is usually a better choice.
Step Five - Maturing Your Cheese (1 Week)
After the 24 hours, salt all pieces again, on all surfaces, if desired. If there is enough whey in the dish, you don't need to do this, as the cheese will soak in the brine sufficiently. Let rest at room temperature for two more hours.
Place the cheese in a covered container in the refrigerator and age for 5-7 days. I like to use a recycled ice-cream bucket with a lid for this process, as it will hold a large batch of cheese.
After this period, the cheese is ready to eat.
Use the cheese within two weeks, or package and freeze it.
Step Six - Packaging Your Cheese
Thawing Feta Cheese
When you thaw your feta cheese, don't worry about it's getting very crumbly, like frozen cheddars sometimes do. This feta is crumble-resistant. You may thaw it in a dish on the counter, or in your refrigerator, as you please. Don't leave it long at room temperature, or it will spoil more quickly than normal.
A Note On Clean-Up
Immediately upon emptying the cheese curds, fill the pot(s) with a bit of water. As soon as you have hung your bags of curds, come back to the kitchen and wash the pots and utensils. If you wait until they have dried at all, you will find it many times harder. Pay particular attention to rivets and other milk-trapping areas, and use a wire-type scouring pad, if necessary. Dry the pots with a clean towel, if you wish, and set them where they can dry thoroughly before being put away, as any water left in them will exacerbate any smells left from the milk. If necessary, fill the pot(s) with bleach water and allow them to soak.
Clean out any curds left in the towel(s), using a knife to gently scrape them clean if necessary. Bundle the towel(s) together, so as not to scatter whey or cheese particles, and take them to a clean sink. Rinse the towel(s) under cool running water, rubbing them together systematically between your hands, and either toss them directly in the washer, or hang them to dry until you have a suitable load of laundry ready.
Fun with Feta Cheese
Questions & Answers
© 2009 Joilene Rasmussen