First Feta.

I’ve been getting weekly 1/2 gallon deliveries of raw goat’s milk for a few weeks now, trying my hand at making cheese. For some reason I can’t stand to drink goat’s milk, but I just love the flavor of chevre, soft white goat cheese. In Europe, especially France, little rounds of the stuff, toasted and served on bruschetta, were ubiquitous served with green salad, and I just can’t find that combination here in the States. I could easily buy some already made, but it’s so expensive that I thought I’d try my hand at making my own.I found a lot of recipes like these online for at-home cheesemaking, and as it turns out, the soft cheeses really aren’t that difficult. I’ve made a couple batches now, with mixed results. While they both had a good flavor, the first was too soft and I oversalted the second. Next week I’ll try to restrain myself a bit more. :) I can’t wait till the summer basil comes in and I can wrap little loaves of it in fresh chopped basil leaves and give it out to my friends along with my organic, home-grown vegetables. Ah, summer!

I doubt I’ll get around to making anything that requires a cheese press or extensive aging or molding – cheddar or queso fresco or bleu or anything like that – but I did decide that I’d like to try something a little bit more challenging than fromage blanc. Turns out, Feta provides a nice alternative. It’s a hard cheese, but it starts out as a soft one. It’s aged and salted until it loses all its whey, then pickled in a strong salt solution until it gains a firm, crumbly texture.

Turns out that the hardest part of the process was letting go of my own inhibitions: the primary hanging-and-salting-and-aging process (4 days total outside the fridge) made me quite nervous. I was reassured, though, when I opened the sterile container I’d been aging it in and was confronted only with a vaguely cheesy, definitely feta-ish, smell instead of the horrid stink I’d been expecting (I guess those people who’ve been making it for hundreds of years do actually know what they’re talkinga about, huh? -grin-). Then all I had to do was chop it up and drop it in the brine to pickle for 1-4 weeks.

We get to taste it for the first time next Sunday – I’ll probably make a bacon-spinach salad and some nice kalamata sourdough to go with it – and I’ll be sure and let you know how it goes!

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