By Kylie Archer
When you venture into the world of cheese making, you have a favourite cheese that you probably want to reproduce at home. Mine is fetta. I love fetta. Whether I’m using it in a greek salad, using it with spinach in a flatbread piadina, sprinkling it on pizza or using it in spanakorizo, I can’t live without it.
Fetta is more specialised than ricotta, but you can still do it in your kitchen at home AND unlike hard cheeses or French soft cheeses, you don’t need to age it. That means you don’t need to buy a cheese fridge. Yes, I have a cheese fridge.
Fetta is not for the kitchen-phobic nor the fainthearted, but having said that, it is an easy cheese to make and definitely gives value for money, especially after you’ve made it a couple of times! The whole process takes about four hours. But that is not four active hours, each step only takes 5-10 minutes, so you can cook, clean (ugh), whatever in between steps.
At this point we need to talk about sterilising as well. With cheese making you are creating bacteria growth in milk. You want that to be good bacteria, no nasties. Whether you stove boil, high heat dishwasher cycle, microwave sterilise, use Milton or Iodophor, you HAVE to do it for all your utensils, molds and the containers that you are using for the cheese. It adds 5 minutes more to the time it takes to make the cheese, but trust me…
Before making fetta, have a scout around your kitchen. There are a few bits and bobs you need that you may have already at home. Some other bits are special cheese additives and you will need to either purchase them online or from a local brew shop.
What you might have at home:
- 10 litre container plastic and food safe with a lid
- Esky that fits your container
- Measuring cup
- Syringe (bought at the chemist for 5c!)
- Slotted spoon
- Cheese molds (GO TO BIG W they have sistema containers with a strainer in them- they are PERFECT!) get two of the larger (deli containers I think they are called)
- Maturing box (red containers made by décor that have a rack in the bottom are perfect!)
- Large saucepan
- Long bladed knife (preferably without a sharp tip…but whatever you’ve got)
- Cooled boiled water
What you’ll need to buy:
- Vegetarian Rennet
- Non-iodised salt
- Mesophilic culture
You also need 4 litres of unhomogenised milk. Parmalat makes a good one, otherwise try your local organic store for a creamier one. If you really can’t find unhomogenised milk (not to be confused with unpasteurised), you can buy calcium chloride to add to the milk that helps to alleviate the problem, but the cheese will be best with unhomogenised milk. You can also use goat’s milk, in which case you have to get some calcium chloride. If using it, add it at the same rate as the rennet.
1. On the stove, heat the milk to 32 degrees.
2. Remove from the heat and pour the milk into the large plastic container. Put it in your esky.
3. Add ¼ teaspoon of mesophilic starter.
4. Add 1/10 of a teaspoon of lipase powder dissolved in 20ml of cooled boiled water (the water needs to be boiled to eliminate the chlorine in the water)
5. Add 1 ml of rennet mixed into 10ml of water.
6. Mix well, making sure you push the milk around the corners of the container.
7. Put the lid on the plastic container and leave it for 60-90 minutes.
8. To check if it’s ready, stick your knife in it. If the curd (the solid) pulls clean away from the knife, you’re ready to keep going. Otherwise, pop the lids back on and make a cup of tea. Come back in ten and check it again!
9. Cut the curd in 2cm cubes. Do this left to right then top to bottom. Then stick your knife in on an angle and do it through the rest of the curds.
10. Rest for 5 minutes.
11. Lift spoonfuls of the curd to the surface and gently jiggle it. Do the whole container. Then replace lids
12. Rest for 60 minutes (lid on), then jiggle jiggle again!
13. Rest another 60 minutes (lid on) then jiggle jiggle again!
14. Rest for 10 (lid on).
15. Now, draining the whey as you go (keeping it if you want it for bread, chooks, protein drinks) fill your cheesecloth lined molds- for this bit you are only using the removable drainers from the “molds” keep the lids and containers clean and ready for when you bring the cheese. Go back and top them up until all the curds are used.
16. Put them on a draining rack.
17. Turn them, using the cheesecloth about 5-6 times over the next 6 hours. Pour out any whey each time you turn them so they don’t get waterlogged.
18. Leave it overnight in the mold on the draining rack on your bench. I use a Nanna net (what I call a food tent) over the top to keep out any nasties…
19. In the morning remove the cheese from the molds and place it on the draining/maturing rack. Leave it to air dry for 24-48 hours at room temp. Keep the nanna net over the top and turn the cheese regularly. By about the 36 hour mark, the cheese won’t be wet, it will just be clammy. It can take as little as 24 hours or as long as 48 so keep checking it.
20. Using 100g of salt to 1 litre of water, make up a brine solution. Leave the cheese in this (I put it back in the external containers of the mold- without the drainer in it) in the fridge. After 24 hours in the brine you can eat it, or marinate it!
You can store the fetta for up to 4months, changing the brine every 2 weeks.
Eat it with lotsa bread.