One of the main reasons I keep goats is feta cheese. Feta is an amazingly delicious cheese that adds so much flavor to a lot of dishes – especially Greek salads. You can make raw feta because the process does not require high temperatures. In fact, 86 degrees is the highest temperature you will have to heat it. I love raw cheeses without using the process of high temperatures that kill all those enzymes and good bacteria.
First things first, if you are into making cheese buy Ricki Carroll’s book, “Home Cheese Making”. This recipe is directly out of her book. The only difference in my recipe is that I’ve adapted it to using strictly raw milk instead of pasteurized.
To make feta from raw goat’s milk, you will need the freshest milk. If it is at all old you will get competing cultures and you will end up with a cheese with a spongy texture that will soak up brine. You can still eat it but don’t brine it because you’ll end up with a lot of watery, salty cheese. Best to start with fresh.
You will need to order a few things and I recommend using supplies from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company. They are fast and I’ve never been disappointed in the quality. You will need lipase powder, liquid rennet, and 1 packet direct-set mesophilic starter. Other kitchen things you will need are non-iodized salt, cheese cloth, a digital thermometer, stainless-steel stock pot, colander, and a slotted stainless-steel spoon.
Start off by dissolving 1/4 tsp. of lipase powder in 1/4 cup of filtered, non-chlorinated water. It takes about 20 minutes to completely dissolve. Lipase is not required but it makes the final product have a sharper flavor.
Next, put one gallon of raw goat’s milk in a large stainless steel stock pot. Add the dissolved lipase directly into milk and stir with an up and down motion. Heat the milk evenly on a medium-low setting and stir often until you get it to 86 degrees*. Add the packet of direct-set mesophilic culture and let dissolve for 2 minutes before you stir it in an up and down motion. Let it sit at 86 degrees for one hour with a folded bath-sized towel on the lid.
*(Ricki Carroll recommends heating the milk in a water bath. I find that too tedious and I’ve never had bad results with heating directly over a medium-low flame gas burner. I also add a bath towel on top of the lid, after removing the pot from the flame, to insulate the pot and it maintains the temperature for the hour wait. Note: I also live in Hawaii so the outside temperature is always warm.)
After an hour, check the temperature, you may have to heat it up by a few degrees to reach 86 degrees again. Now add 1/2 teaspoon liquid rennet diluted in 1/4 cup of cool, filtered, non-chlorinated water. Stir slowly and in an up-and-down motion. Cover and let sit another one hour placing the bath towel on the lid.
After the hour, the cheese should pull away from the sides of the pot. You will see a beautiful curd, in the shape of a pot, floating in whey. You will need to cut the cheese in the pot using a long knife. I usually use my bread knife. You will cut in a 1 inch checkerboard pattern then go over with the knife at a 20 degree slant to cut the vertically long curds. After cutting, let it sit undisturbed for 10 minutes.
The recipe deviates here again from Ricki Carroll’s.
For the next 30 minutes you will gently stir the curds every ten minutes while maintaining the temperature at 86 degrees. After you stir, place the insulated towel on the top of the lid again. What this does is help release the extra whey from the curds.
After 3 consecutive stirs, pour the curds into a colander lined with cheese cloth. You can also use one of those nylon nut-milk bags, if you have one. Hang the cheese up with a pot underneath to catch the whey as it drips off.
I hang the cheese for 12-24 hours instead of four hours. In addition, as it drains the cheese sometimes takes on the shape of the hanging bag, so you will need to take it down about 1/2 way through and reverse it to end up with a round cheese ball instead of the cheese conforming to the hanging bag.
Test if it’s dry enough by gently squeezing the hanging ball of cheese. If it seems too soft, or is too wet, wait some more time. If it is firm, take it down and proceed to the next step.
Now you will salt the cheese. I don’t use the specific cheese salt you can buy from the cheese supply house but instead I use Hawaiian sea salt or Himalayan pink salt.
You want to make sure there is no iodine in your salt and that it’s not a chemical salt like Morton’s. Also, use fine-grained salt.
Cut the cheese into 1-inch cubes and dust with salt making sure to cover all sides of the cube. Place in a large covered container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days checking daily for excess water or stuck together cubes.
On my farm, I also need a sign on the container that says DO NOT EAT. Otherwise, the cheese will be half gone before it’s done.
During this time the cheese will develop a nice feta flavoring and dry out from the salt pulling the moisture from the cheese. When they seem dry enough, taste them. If they taste like feta then you can eat them now, store them in a brine of salt water or olive oil and herbs.
For a brine, Ricki Carroll recommends 1/3 cup of salt to 1/2 gallon of water. I’ve used this and it works out fine. I never need that much brine so I usually half the recipe.
For olive oil marinade, add cheese in a glass jar along with fresh herbs and pour olive oil over the cheese until it covers the cubes and store in the refrigerator.
This is not a hard cheese to make for a beginner but you are going to need about 3-4 hours of time up front. While I make this cheese, I usually find other things to do in my kitchen like clean or make other food.
The time doesn’t matter, because once you taste this cheese you will know your time was spent wisely. I love to add it to salads, egg dishes or pasta. Even as a snack of one cube savored is a treat. Enjoy your goats and your milk by making this cheese. Aloha!