Saturday, August 04, 2007

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.

14 Comments:

Blogger Valli said...

When on the island of Kea in Greece we went to a small family run goat farm. I think they just sold their cheeses locally. We had a lovely lunch, danced to the strains of bazouka music, sipped raki and then snorkelled in the Agean. A perfect day!!

5:03 PM  
Anonymous ann said...

You won't mind if I ask you to ship some of that to Brooklyn, right? of course not, and on your vacation no less. You're such a good bloggy friend! Just kidding, but seriously, do pat one on the nose for me and the boy. we're insanely jealous!

4:40 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Oh wowsers. Thank you so much for this post. I love the series of photographs that details the making of the cheese and that accompanies your explanation so well. Isn't it wonderful to know EXACTLY where your food came from?

I'm eating up these Greek vacation posts, let me tell you!

9:20 PM  
Blogger rowena said...

What a fabulous, fabulous post Susan! I am so wanting to visit Greece...maybe next year, but in the meantime keep up the great eats!

3:20 PM  
Blogger Figs Olives Wine said...

Fascinating, wonderful post!! It seems like you're having an extraordinary trip, and I can't wait to hear more. In the meantime, I'm off to buys some feta - though I'm sure it won't hold a candle to this gorgeous stuff you've been eating!

2:53 PM  
Blogger Susan in Italy said...

Hi Valli, Sounds like a great day. Is raki anything like ouzo or tsipouro?

Hi Ann, I'd have Mina shipping this stuff all over but she won't even sell any to the town restaurant. Says there's just enough to give to her grandchildren and to friends (lucky us!)

Hi Christina, Yeah, I'm not usually exposed to local food. The local outdoor markets in Milan have sellers who'll tell you anything you want to hear, so if you as if it's local, they'll just say yes.

Hi Rowena, Yes, you should really visit Greece since it's so close, yet a world away from Lombardia.

Hey Figs, Let us know what you do with the feta!

9:16 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

This is such an engaging post! It really gives new meaning to eating locally. How wonderful to see Mina go through the whole process; I laughed at the test with the egg. ;)

3:22 AM  
Blogger Kumudha said...

Wow! that goat is so adorable.

9:00 PM  
Blogger Riana said...

This is so inspirational, thank you for sharing it with all of us. I have been making goats milk yogurt, but would love to make feta too!

2:48 PM  
Blogger hellomelissa said...

my mouth is, quite literally, watering.

makes me want to go up the road to the local goat farm and get me some goat cheese. although it's not feta... yum...

3:45 PM  
Blogger Judith said...

You're it!

I tagged you for a blog game; details here.

2:28 AM  
Blogger nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Thank you for these fantastic photos. Now I am craving a nice fresh salad with some feta cheese.

4:05 PM  
Anonymous Paz said...

Very cool to be able to make your own feta. Love the pics.

Paz

3:52 PM  
Blogger Susan in Italy said...

Hi everybody, thanks so much for commenting. I'll have a few more Greek posts coming up soon.

Hey Judith, thanks for tagging me! I'll get right on that meme.

11:17 PM  

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