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How to Make Mild Feta Goat Cheese - An Illustrated Guide

Updated on March 17, 2016
Joy At Home profile image

Joy has been a goat lover and cheese lover for nearly 20 years, and enjoys experimenting with making her own cheeses and dairy products.

Cranberries and Feta Appetillas

Courtesy of: http://startcooking.com/public/IMG_3291.JPG
Courtesy of: http://startcooking.com/public/IMG_3291.JPG

Basic Cheesemaking Supplies

Basic supplies needed to make feta cheese - a large bowl and collander, a long spoon, large cotton tea towels, non-iodized salt, and yogurt or cultured buttermilk. Not shown is liquid vegetable rennet.
Basic supplies needed to make feta cheese - a large bowl and collander, a long spoon, large cotton tea towels, non-iodized salt, and yogurt or cultured buttermilk. Not shown is liquid vegetable rennet.

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.

Warming 8 gallons of raw goat milk to 86 degrees F., before adding yogurt.
Warming 8 gallons of raw goat milk to 86 degrees F., before adding yogurt.
If you make your own yogurt to add to the cheese, it can be a super cheap food.
If you make your own yogurt to add to the cheese, it can be a super cheap food.

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.

Cutting the curds into 1/2-inch strips.
Cutting the curds into 1/2-inch strips.
Stirring the curds gently.
Stirring the curds gently.
Here's what the curds should look like after they have cooked a bit.
Here's what the curds should look like after they have cooked a bit.
I am draining the cheese over a collander lined with a tea-towel, fitted into a five-gallon bucket.
I am draining the cheese over a collander lined with a tea-towel, fitted into a five-gallon bucket.
Here are curds and whey, draining.
Here are curds and whey, draining.
This is about how many curds you should have in each towel. They are ready to be tied up in a bag to finish draining.
This is about how many curds you should have in each towel. They are ready to be tied up in a bag to finish draining.
This bag is properly tied and ready to be hung.
This bag is properly tied and ready to be hung.
Four bags of curds hanging to drip, drip, drip for several hours. I leave them for at least six hours.
Four bags of curds hanging to drip, drip, drip for several hours. I leave them for at least six hours.
Knotting details on the bag. The corners of the bag are gathered together, and the shoelace is knotted around the "neck" at least three times.
Knotting details on the bag. The corners of the bag are gathered together, and the shoelace is knotted around the "neck" at least three times.
You may have to modify your tying style according to the lengths of your strings. It is best if you can loop it around three times and pull the tail partly through the last loop.
You may have to modify your tying style according to the lengths of your strings. It is best if you can loop it around three times and pull the tail partly through the last loop.

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.

Here is what your curd ball should look like when it is done draining.
Here is what your curd ball should look like when it is done draining.
Slice it into thick pieces, or if it is a small ball, in halves. Salt the pieces.
Slice it into thick pieces, or if it is a small ball, in halves. Salt the pieces.
These slices were placed in a dry dish, without water or way. 24 hours later, they had exuded enough whey to almost cover them. The salt helps them dry out.
These slices were placed in a dry dish, without water or way. 24 hours later, they had exuded enough whey to almost cover them. The salt helps them dry out.
Of course, there isn't really much whey there.  At this stage, I usually place my cheese in an ice-cream bucket with a lid, and place it in the fridge for a week. After that, it will be ready to eat.
Of course, there isn't really much whey there. At this stage, I usually place my cheese in an ice-cream bucket with a lid, and place it in the fridge for a week. After that, it will be ready to eat.

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

Wrap each slice in plastic wrap.
Wrap each slice in plastic wrap.
Store in the freezer in carefully labeled bags.
Store in the freezer in carefully labeled bags.

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.

Let the water flush out any large cheese particles.
Let the water flush out any large cheese particles.
Scrub the towel together to loosen other cheese particles, and rinse most of the whey out.  Wring out well.
Scrub the towel together to loosen other cheese particles, and rinse most of the whey out. Wring out well.

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

© 2009 Joy At Home

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    • Jarn profile image

      Jarn 7 years ago from Sebastian, Fl

      Very cool. Really well explained. You obviously spent a lot of time preparing this.

    • LiftedUp profile image

      LiftedUp 7 years ago from Plains of Colorado

      Dear Joy,

      I was glad you had a photo of the knots you described; I consider myself very poor with most knots. Only one other point left me with a question: Do you simply sprinkle the salt on the sections of cheese, or do you knead it in a bit?

      I think it is fascinating that one can make so many types of cheese with the same basic ingredients, by varying the process a little. Nice hub.

    • Joy At Home profile image
      Author

      Joy At Home 7 years ago from United States

      Jarn, good to see you. I'm glad the article turned out clear...it took a lot more work than I anticipated to make it so. I always think, when I'm considering writing how to do projects or recipes, "Oh, that'll be a breeze to get written." It's usually not. :-)

      Still, I'm very glad to be able to do things like this. I talked to a gal yesterday who is a missionary in a remote part of Mongolia, and she said all supplies must be trucked in over the mountains...which can only happen at certain times of the year. The people cannot raise crops, due to the desert conditions of the land, and though they have goats, they only make one kind of cheese, which doesn't melt and doesn't sound like it's a lot of fun to use. So I'm hoping that some of the recipes I'm writing here may help her. Some of them, no doubt, may be too complicated for the peoples' supplies or conditions, but others will probably be highly usable.

      I'm hoping they will help the many children, some of which never have enough to eat...there are so few jobs that most of the fathers and husbands lie on the ground drinking vodka all day, and in one case, one 70-something-year-old grandmother was caring for 12 grandchildren single-handedly, while the parents were in the hills caring for the animals. The grandmother had available one bag of flour to make noodles with, but she had to make it last at least six months.

      So this is a motivation for me to finish some of my cheese hubs sitting in my drafts section.

      I wish there was a way to get supplies in easier, or send a whole bunch back with the missionary. But I know of no way at present.

    • Joy At Home profile image
      Author

      Joy At Home 7 years ago from United States

      LiftedUp, feta is a fairly firm cheese, though quite moist to begin with, so you do just sprinkle the salt on the pieces. At first, it seems like an incredibly large amount of salt for the amount of cheese, as some inevitably lies in the bottom of the bowl, but it works out about right.

      The idea is to draw the whey out of the cheese, as well as to preserve it during its maturing time, both at room temperature and under refrigeration.

      I struggled with how to make the knot-tying clear, so I am glad that seems alright. Some people just knot the four corners of the towel together, and slip a shoelace or other string through the knot with which to hang the bag, but I prefer the method shown.

    • no body profile image

      Robert E Smith 7 years ago from Rochester, New York

      You certainly are a joy, Joy. It was a wonderful hub. Very informative. Loved it.

    • Joy At Home profile image
      Author

      Joy At Home 7 years ago from United States

      Thank you, No Body. I am so glad you liked it, your visit is an encouragement to me.

    • Lgali profile image

      Lgali 7 years ago

      thanks for sharing ideas

    • Joy At Home profile image
      Author

      Joy At Home 7 years ago from United States

      You're welcome, Lgali. Thanks for stopping by.

    • ronaldoh profile image

      ronaldoh 7 years ago from England

      Can you use a smaller quantity of milk, i was thinking a gallon, and how much cheese would this make.

    • Joy At Home profile image
      Author

      Joy At Home 7 years ago from United States

      Ronaldoh, you can use any amount of milk you please. Refer back to Steps One and Two in the article for the amounts of yogurt and rennet, given per gallon of milk. (The measurements are in bold type, you can't miss 'em.)

      Your cheese yield will be about 1/5th the amount of milk you start with, so 1 gallon of milk should yield about 3 cups of cheese. Of course, this will be somewhat less after you salt and cure the cheese, as it will shrink and firm up as it exudes whey.

      Thanks for reading, and let me know how your cheese turns out!

    • NewHorizons profile image

      Joseph Attard 7 years ago from Gozo, Malta, EU.

      Hi JoyATHome,

      This is very interesting reading and quite appetizing too. Would like to try making it some time, but I don't know if I can find the time with my other hobbies. At home they make a simple cheese which from my little knowledge about it, I think that the process is very similar. They make it from sheep's milk and animal rennet (extracted from the stomach of a young lamb, I think). It is left to drip in small wicker baskets - 6 inches high, 3 or 4 inches at the top and tapering towards the bottom. The basket is filled to the brim but as it drips, the cheeselet is only about an inch or two thick. The cheese is very good and can be eaten in 3 ways. 1. Straight from the wicker basket when it is snow white and soft. 2.Dried, when it is yellowish and not so soft on the outside but still white and softer on the inside. 3. Dried and 'bathed' in vinegar, salt and pepper. Three different tastes.

    • Joy At Home profile image
      Author

      Joy At Home 7 years ago from United States

      NewHorizons, thanks so much for telling me about this sheep's milk cheese. I don't have access to sheep's milk at this time, but if I ever do get hold of some, I would like to try this cheese. There is only one sheep dairy within several hours of here, I think, and nobody local milks sheep, though several people raise various breeds for meat and for 4-H youth projects.

      I'm hoping to get a few sheep within a year or two, though, so I may get the chance to try this.

      If the inclination strikes you, find out exactly how this cheese is made, and do a hub on it! Even if it's just a list of instructions, that would be of great interest to some of us.

    • Eastern Rainbow profile image

      Eastern Rainbow 7 years ago

      I to see

      Very good

    • De Greek profile image

      De Greek 6 years ago from UK

      Hmmm.. Never heard of rennet before, vegetable or otherwise. Checked it on theInternet and some company is selling it for $55.55. Seems a bit steep for an experiment.

      An experiment which I should like to make by the way. Many thanks :-)

    • Joy At Home profile image
      Author

      Joy At Home 6 years ago from United States

      De Greek,

      Rennet is just a substance which causes milk to set up into cheese. It actually causes the same process as what happens when a baby drinks milk. That's why some people use the stomach lining of a young animal, soaking a piece in warm water and then adding that to the cheese.

      Vegetable rennet is derived from various plants, thistles among them. You wait until the thistles are turning brown but before they've actually gone to seed, then pick the flower heads and make an extract from them, or simply tie them up in a cloth (muslin or similar), and toss them in a pot of cheese.

      Commercially extracted rennet tends to work faster than either of these options, and is by far the most convenient.

      I'll see if I can point you to a supply that's relatively cheap.

    • Joy At Home profile image
      Author

      Joy At Home 6 years ago from United States

      OK. Hoegger Goat Supply is a good company. They are consistent, helpful, and really care about all things cheese and goats.

      http://hoeggergoatsupply.com/xcart/search.php?mode...

      I admit the rennet costs more than I expected, but then...everything costs more than it did last time I bought it! Given that you only need a very small amount per gallon of milk (1/2 teaspoon of rennet), it's still fairly economical.

    • bonny2010 profile image

      bonetta hartig 6 years ago from outback queensland

      great hub - great photos - your an angel who just happened to pop up when i was searching for a recipe for feta cheese - thank you - now for a question - I only have one goat and don't want to always be making small amounts (iam a big feta cheese eater) so can I freeze the goats milk until I have the amount I want - would love to hear from you cheers and have a great day

    • Joy At Home profile image
      Author

      Joy At Home 6 years ago from United States

      Bonny,

      Absolutely, freeze your milk until you are ready to make cheese. It shouldn't hurt anything.

      I'm so glad the recipe helped you.

    • Jennifer 5 years ago

      I appreciate the great detail you have given here. What is the difference in feta using only rennet versus using rennet, lipase powder and calcium chloride? Another recipe I found uses these other ingredients and the aging process is longer as well it says can be kept for 4 weeks after a longer salting phase. So I guess I'm wondering if you know if the lipase and calcium chloride allow the cheese to keep longer; if I just used rennet, do I need to stick with the instructions you offer? All recipes I have looked at seem to be a little bit different and it's difficult to know how I can improvise and still be safe. Thanks.

    • Joy At Home profile image
      Author

      Joy At Home 5 years ago from United States

      Jennifer,

      I'm not really sure what your idea of "safe" is, but if by that you mean edible, I can assure you, any method will be suitable, as long as you use your nose before using cheese which may have been sitting around too long. I have never yet had cheese go bad without getting very strong in smell, and then turning colors. :-)

      I have never used lipase powder or calcium chloride in any of my cheeses yet, but I am going to make an educated guess and say that these ingredients probably have more to do with the texture and taste of the cheese than they do with the keeping qualities. The salt is the main preservative used for this feta.

      If you are concerned about the keeping quality of this or any similar cheese, you can always opt to freeze what you don't use immediately. Freezing will make the texture slightly more crumbly and less sliceable (it may break it down and make it somewhat creamy), but it won't noticeably effect the taste or most uses of the cheese.

      To freeze the cheese, wrap each chunk or slice in plastic wrap, and put in a Ziplok-type bag. Label clearly!

      Let me know how things turn out for you, as I'm interested in hearing about others' cheese-making experiences. I have lots to learn, myself.

    • Jennifer 5 years ago

      Thank you for your time and for sharing your wealth of information!!! I will certainly let you know how it turns out. (and your interpretation of my inquiry about "safe" was correct)

    • Jennifer 5 years ago

      okay, so *something* happened and contaminated my batch...it finished draining and I was ready to slice it and salt it but it is spongy and filled with uniform small holes which I'm told is very bad and should throw it out. What a waste. Thank you for your time and help.

    • Joy At Home profile image
      Author

      Joy At Home 5 years ago from United States

      I've had this happen. Don't throw it out just yet. If it smells "clean", it may be OK. When this happened to me, my yogurt batch, used for culturing it, had gotten some foreign bacteria of some kind growing in it, which wasn't obvious until I used it in the cheese. It still tasted good, and gave me and my family no problems.

      Still, use your best judgment in this matter!

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