This homemade feta cheese is just as tasty as its much pricier equivalent at the store. Unlike many other kinds of cheese, feta is ready to eat just a couple of days after making it.
Feta is a great cheese for new cheesemakers to try because you'll know how it turned out in just a few days (instead of months, as with many other kinds of cheese). It can also be used in recipes such as quick Serbian kajmak cheese. Other quick homemade dairy products are yogurt, farmer's cheese, labneh, and creme fraiche.
- Large stainless steel or other nonreactive pot
- Thermometer (cheese, candy, or digital meat thermometers all work here)
- Cheese knife or another long-bladed knife such as a bread knife
- Cheesecloth or butter muslin
- 1 gallon whole milk (goat milk is best if you can get it)
- 1 packet Mesophilic starter culture
- 1 1/4 teaspoons calcium chloride (divided)
- 1/2 rennet tablet (plus 1/4 cup water; or 1/2 teaspoon liquid rennet)
- 2 quarts water (cool)
- 1/4 cup water (cool)
- 1 to 1 1/4 pounds salt (kosher or other non-iodized)
- 2 1/2 teaspoons vinegar (white or cider vinegar)
Gather the ingredients.
Pour the milk into a large pot. Place the pot in a sink, filling the sink with hot water 3/4 up the sides of the pot. Alternatively, you can put the pot full of milk into an even larger pot of hot water. What you're after is a double-boiler effect of very gradually heating the milk—you don't want to put the pot of milk over direct heat.
Heat the milk slowly to 86 F.
Gently stir in the Mesophilic starter culture. Keep the mixture at 86 F for 1 hour. It's typically best to take the pot out of the surrounding hot water during this hour. It maintains the heat fairly well but tends to overheat if left in the hot water.
Stir in 1/4 teaspoon of calcium chloride.
If using the rennet tablet, crush it and then dissolve it in 1/4 cup of cool water. Add to the milk. If using liquid rennet, add it directly to the milk. Gently stir for 1 minute.
Leave the mixture alone for 30 minutes, maintaining the 86 F temperature as closely as possible. This may mean putting it back into the sink of hot water for a couple of minutes if it starts to cool off too much.
The milk mixture will set up and look something like yogurt. Poke a clean finger about an inch deep into the curd (the semi-solid milk mixture) and gently pull your finger towards you. The curd is set when it forms a "clean break," separating around your finger. It will feel like firm yogurt.
If the curd hasn't reached the clean break stage yet, wait another 30 minutes.
With a long-bladed knife, cut the curd from one side to the other, making slices about 1 inch apart that go all the way through the curd.
Turn the pot a quarter turn around and cut 1-inch slices; the second round of slices should cross the first like a tic-tac-toe pattern.
Cut the curd one last time, coming in with the knife diagonally across the squares made by your previous slices, and at a 45-degree angle to the surface of the curd. This doesn't have to be exact. You want to end up with approximately 1-inch chunks of curd.
Stir the chunks of curd very gently. Put the pot back into the sink or larger pot of hot water and gradually raise the temperature to 95 F. You want it to take about an hour. The curds will start to separate from the whey, which is the yellowish liquid.
Line a colander with butter muslin or several layers of cheesecloth. Pour the curds and whey into the colander.
Bring the four corners of the muslin up and tie it into a tight knot. Let drain for 4 hours at room temperature.
The curds will congeal together while they drain. Cut the mass that has formed into rough blocks about 3 inches wide and let drain in the muslin for another 30 minutes.
Make a saturated brine by dissolving 1 to 1 1/4 pounds of kosher or another non-iodized salt in 2 quarts of water: Add the salt a little at a time, and stop adding salt when it won't dissolve any further. Add 1 teaspoon of calcium chloride and 2 1/2 teaspoons of vinegar.
Remove the blocks of feta from the muslin and submerge them in the saturated brine for 10 to 12 hours. Note: do not leave them in longer than this. This will result in cheese that is too salty.
Drain the feta. Leave it out uncovered at room temperature for 1 to 2 days.
Transfer the feta to covered containers. Store in the refrigerator or a cool cellar or garage. Eat within 1 to 2 weeks and enjoy.
- You can get Mesophilic starter culture, rennet, and calcium chloride from home cheese making suppliers online.
- The starter culture is typically sold in packets that are measured by activity level rather than weight. When using bulk culture, check the manufacturer's instructions for making a small batch of cheese for this feta recipe. The amount needed depends on the type of milk you're using: In general, for this 1-gallon recipe, you may need 1/8 teaspoon of culture with pasteurized milk and 1/16 teaspoon with raw milk.
- Note that a large amount of salt is for making a brine to cure the feta in and is not added directly to the cheese.
- For long-term storage, make a lighter brine of 2 tablespoons non-iodized salt in 2 cups of water with 1/4 teaspoon vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon calcium chloride mixed in. Feta cheese will keep in this brine for several months.
- Feta stored in brine may soften and start to fall apart. If you are planning to store the cheese in brine for a long time, leave it out to dry for the full 2 days after its saturated brine bath.