Thursday, July 24, 2014

Fresh Milk Feta!

   Despite this summer's crazy un-routine routine, I have managed to find time for milking and cheese making. Surprised? I know, me too. When you have several gallons of milk staring you in the face every time you open the fridge you manage to find time to put it to good use. Cheese seemed to be the best use I could come up with at the time. This particular cheese does take a few days, but the amount of time and attention needed per day is minimal, so it does work well with a hectic homestead schedule.
   Along my path to a home dairy many a cheese recipe has come. Some pass through with a slight nod and others remain household staples. I received a recipe for feta in a cheese making kit purchased early on. It was okay but nothing to call the neighbors about. After research, reading, trial and error the farm boy and I have put together a marinated feta we just can't live without.
    In the past, we tested our recipes with purchased pasteurized cow's milk as well as purchased raw cow's milk both of which had excellent results. Having a small dairy herd on our homestead, all of my cheeses are now made with fresh, raw, unpasteurized cheese from our very own dairy goats. A heavy bottom stainless steal stock pot with a lid serve us well along side a digital thermometer. Instead of purchasing expensive cheese cloth for our cheeses, I use cloth diapers- the unfolded kind purchased just for this purpose. They hold up well to multiple washing and are sturdy for hanging heavy cheeses.
    Without further ado, I share the recipe we make every week with fresh, raw milk from our herd queen, Zaida.

Zaida's Feta

1 gallon fresh milk
1/4 cup cultured buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon liquid rennet
1/4 cup water
kosher salt
Slowly heat milk to 86 degrees. Remove from heat and stir in the buttermilk. Allow the culture to work for 1 hour. Stir rennet into 1/4 cup water and let rest at least 20 seconds. After the buttermilk has cultured in the milk 1 hour, stir in rennet. Cover and allow to set 30 minutes. 

After 30 minutes, test for a 'clean break'. This means you will see curd breaking away from the whey. If there is no clean break, allow another 30 minutes before testing again.

Once a clean break is seen, cut the curd vertically, horizontally, and at a 45 degree angle. The goal is about 1"curds. Let the curds rest in the whey 10 minutes. Line a large colander with butter muslin, cheese cloth, or a cloth diaper. 

Ladle the curds into the lined colander and let drain there 15 minutes. My colander is in a larger pan to catch the whey which I feed to our chickens. If you have no use for the whey, let it drain in the sink.

Gather the curds in the cloth and knead it, working out as much liquid as possible. 

Place the cloth/curds into a mold or any container that will drain well. My mold came with a cheese kit preciously purchased, but before that I used a plastic container we had punched holes in. 
Flip the cheese every 15 minutes for 1 hour to allow even draining as well as good shape formation.
After that, allow to drain wrapped in the cloth in the mold at room temperature 12 hours.
Flip the cheese and drain another 12 hours.

Remove the cloth. Salt the outer surface of the cheese before setting it to ripen at room temp 24 hours. As you can see, I flip my mold upside down in a bowl resting the cheese on top. This allows for any further drainage that might occur. 

The block of cheese is now cut into cubes and set to cure another 24 hours. If desired, the cheese may be 'crumbed' even further. 
From here, it can be stored in a brine solution; 5 tablespoons salt/20 oz. water. I prefer to marinade my feta in olive oil and herbs, such as herb de provonce. Oil marinated is allowed to set at room temp three days before refrigerating or freezing. 

    There you have it! Farm fresh, wholesome and totally healthy! 
*and- not overly time consuming :)

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