Everything You Need to Know About Feta Cheese
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When asked to recall the names of Greek cheeses, most of us automatically name feta before recalling any of the others. Especially outside of Greece, feta cheese is by far the most popular, and it is used in everything from baked goods, such as tiropita, to served in our beloved Greek salads. But what is feta cheese, really? Here’s some more information that will help you appreciate this cheese even more:
What is Feta Cheese Exactly?
Feta is classified as a “brined curd” cheese that is made in Greece and throughout the world. In Greece, it is typically made out of sheep or goat’s cheese. However, elsewhere in the world, such as in the United States, it is made from cow’s milk or buffalo milk. However, those in Greece don’t really consider these to officially be feta cheese, although they’re similar. Typically, feta cheese is made from a mixture of sheep and goat’s cheese, usually at a ratio of greater than 70% for either sheep or goat milk, and other milks often make up around 30% of the content. However, all of this depends on the cheesemaker. When made properly, feta is crumbly, salty cheese that is usually sold in solid blocks or already pre-crumbled. Cheesemakers form the cheese curd using milk and enzymes and then age the cheese in brine.
What is the History of Feta Cheese?
Feta cheese is one of the most recognizable of all the Greek cheeses. One of the reasons for this could be that it has such a long history. As far as food historians can tell, cheese has been made in Greece since around the 8th century B.C. In his Odyssey, Homer described a process of making cheese that is actually very similar to the methods used by the shepherds to make feta cheese, so it has been assumed that feta was being produced in Ancient Greece around that time period. However, it wasn’t referred to as “feta” in Homer’s work. The first recorded use of Feta cheese traces back to the Byzantine era.
How is Feta Used in Greek Cuisine?
Feta cheese has a variety of uses, and much of it depends on the cook. In the United States, feta cheese is used in dishes such as spanakopita and tiropita and added to things like Greek salads. It can also be found in dishes such as moussaka and it is even grilled in sandwiches. In fact, it has made its way into the popular cuisine in cultures throughout the world!
It is interesting to note that feta is a protected cheese in the European Union. In 2002, it achieved PDO status, which stands for protected destination of origin. According to the EU legislation that protects food products such as feta, only those cheese that are made in the traditional way in areas of Greece, made from a mixture of sheep and goat milk from the same area, can be called “Feta”. It is interesting to note that there are similar white cheeses that are made in brine found throughout the rest of Greece and in parts of Europe, but according to EU, certain conditions need to be met in order for it to be called true feta cheese.
Categorized in: Greek Cooking
This post was written by Greek Boston