Shopping for Greek feta cheese can be a little more than confusing. Despite the 2005 ruling by the European Union restricting the use of the name "feta" to Greece, the market is still filled with cheese labeled "feta" from EU member countries like France and Denmark. Feta also can be found from Romania, Bulgaria, and the U.S.
For the purpose of this article, we'll talk about Greek feta—that delicious salty cheese made from sheep or goat milk, or a combination of the two. Many of the other feta cheeses in the market—and even some Greek export feta—are made from cow's milk, and the taste falls far short of the original version.
What to Look for in Greek Feta
If you're going to prepare a traditional Greek recipe with authentic flavor, look for feta made in Greece or made in the Greek tradition with these characteristics:
- Made from sheep or goat milk, or a combination
- Whole blocks (or bricks or thick slices, not crumbled)
- Plain, not seasoned
The brands of Greek feta most commonly found in U.S. markets are:
- Mt. Vikos
- Barrel-aged Greek feta (often sold without a brand name) in specialty shops and delis
Of course, it's delicious and authentic, but it also can be expensive. These imported cheeses can cost anywhere from $7 to $10 per pound when purchased in one pound or smaller quantities, and if you're a fan of feta, the price can be a stumbling block. The solution? Buy in large quantities and store it. Feta is often sold in large quantities and the price can drop dramatically.
Where to Buy
Most chain supermarkets sell feta in small packages, so if you want larger quantities, look elsewhere. Greek and Middle Eastern markets are one solution, and online shops that sell Greek products are another. Also, try using your favorite search engine to find "feta cheese."
How to Store
Feta should always be protected from exposure to air which will cause it to dry out and will cause the taste to sharpen or sour.
- Store in brine: Feta is often sold in blocks packed in a brine solution (heavily salted water). It can be kept refrigerated, covered with the brine, for quite a long time. If, during use, the amount of brine decreases, add more. To make a brine, mix 1 pound of kosher salt with 1 gallon of water. The salt might not dissolve completely, but this is okay.
- Store in paper: Barrel-aged feta sold straight from the barrel can be wrapped in a lightweight paper, then in a plastic zip-top bag. Keep the feta in the paper, even when it gets soggy from the cheese moisture, and keep both in a plastic bag or plastic wrap.
- Store in olive oil: This is often called "marinated feta" and, depending on how you plan to use the cheese (great for salads), this might be the solution for at least part of your feta. Place chunks of feta in glass jars to 1/2 inch of the top and cover completely with olive oil. Seal tightly and store. Do not refrigerate.
- Freeze: Feta can be frozen, but the texture will change slightly. After defrosting, use this feta to crumble on salads or in cooked dishes, rather than as slices. Wrap in airtight plastic packaging before freezing. Defrost in the refrigerator without removing the wrapping. When defrosted, if not used at once, store in brine or olive oil.
Too Salty for Your Taste
If Greek feta is too salty for your taste, take the piece you want to use and soak it in a mixture of half water and half fresh milk for 1 hour. Remove, dry, and discard the water-milk mixture (unless you use it for bread making).