Homemade Raw Goat's Milk Feta
The neighbor down the road here in Greece makes her own feta every morning from the milk of three of her goats. The one you see here is Margarita, named for the daisy-like white pot on her nose. Mina and her husband are city folk who retired to the country and took up a little substance farm to spend their golden years tending. They have 15 goats, three of which are milkable, loads of rabbits, countless chickens, special breed pigeons (a.k.a. “squab” in your fancier restaurants) 12 dogs, who knows how many cats and if that weren’t enough, they hunt boar in winter.We caught up with Mina at about 10am yesterday since she dedicates mornings for cheese making. The goats had been milked and the 5 liters of fresh milk (from that morning and the night before) had been mixed with 1 tbsp salt and 1/4 tsp powdered casein (the enzyme that turns milk into cheese) dissolved in ¼ cup warm water. After 1 hour, the cheese looked like this: It seemed like the consistency of a light pudding.Then Mina poured the cheese into a large cheesecloth (about halfway between what we know as cheesecloth and a smooth cotton dish towel) over a very large bucket to catch the whey, and began to squeeze. She lifted the gathered cloth and let the whey pour down. She twisted the cloth and let more whey out.She kept pushing and twisting until finally the contents of the cheesecloth fit into her specially made Cretan cheese basket (at left).There they rested hanging and draining for 2 hours until she unveiled this:
This very fresh cheese can be eaten as is (but it tastes nothing like feta) or it can be placed in salty water* for 4–5 days where it will harden and mature and then can be eaten as regular feta. Since the milk used here is raw and Mina uses no preservatives, Mina ages her cheese in a highly salty brine.A few hours before you enjoy it, you must let the cheese rest and desalinate a bit in fresh water. Once the 4-5 day salting process is complete, the cheese can stay in the brine for months. Here in the back of the photo, you have the freshly-made cheese and in the front, you have Mina’s traditional feta. My favorite is the aged, salty traditional feta, eaten with oregano and tomatoes (about evry day of our vacation so far!) while Gabriel prefers the soft, fresh cheese, which is lovely drizzled with some Greek honey.
*Mina’s test to see if the brine is salty enough entails placing a freshly lain egg in the water and adding salt little by little. When the egg floats, the brine is salty enough. And in case you’re wondering, no, I didn’t ask about salmonella.