DIY No - Rennet "Feta" Cheese

بِسْــــــــــــــــــــــمِ اﷲِارَّحْمَنِ ارَّحِيم
السلام عليكم و رحمة الله و بركاته

I have to admit it.

It's true. My hips can attest to this! But living in Algeria, Feta cheese is near impossible to find. In fact, I've only been able to find it once in the late Opera superette in Cheraga, near Algiers several years ago. That supermarket has since closed so me, along with everyone else is seriously out of luck.

Feta cheese has to be one of my favourite cheeses. Feta cheese is an ancient cheese that has been made since the Byzantine times. According to Wiki, 

 The Greek word "feta" comes from the Italian word fetta ("slice"). It was introduced into the Greek language in the 17th century. Opinions vary whether it refers to the method of cutting the cheese in slices to serve on a plate or because of the practice of slicing it to place in barrels.
Feta cheese is a soft robust white brined curd cheese that is synonymous with Greece, Greek food and the Mediterranean. You can find feta sold in blocks or in crumbles. It's a table cheese that is present on many Mediterranean tables and recipes.

Feta can be simply served with olives, freshly cut ripe tomato and a sprinkle of aromatic herbs like oregano. But this cheese can also sparkle grilled, fried, in savoury tarts, sandwiches, omelletes or appetizers.

Traditional Feta has been made with goat's milk or a combination of goat, sheep and cow's milk. But you can find several white cheeses around the Mediterranean baring the name "Feta Cheese". Today, by European Union law only Greece has the right to brand its cheese as real "Feta" cheese. 

Being the cheese lover I am, several years ago I started learning about cheesemaking and started experimenting at home with making my own cheeses and dairy products. Through Hadj Google I was able to learn the art and science of making cheese at home. David Frankhauser's site has been invaluable resource place for me. Like most cheeses, Feta requires rennet, the inside lining of a kid sheep. Further reading, I discovered how to make rennet at home, but  normally outside of Eid al Adha I don't have sheep's stomach laying around my house.  So my task was to find a way to prepare a Feta like cheese I could prepare and consume year round. . So I went to my laboratory my kitchen and played around ... here is what I came up with! Enjoy, all you cheese lovers out there! 

This homemade version I must say tastes much better then any store bought I've ever tried. It's fresh, robust and hard to resist. Please note in this recipe, as well as other cheese making preparations ultra-pasteurized goat’s milk cannot be used. If you're looking for more flavourful cheese, us all goat's milk. The blandest cheeses come from cow's milk. 

Since I didn't use rennet in this cheese recipe, there was a need to use a half goat and half cow's milk to ensure the curdling of the milk. And longer drying of the cheese before brining. Remember, this is NOT a traditional preparation of Feta cheese. It is more similar to the preparation of the Indian cheese Paneer. It is a method that be used for  everyone not having access to rennet can try out.

The cheese's depth of taste and texture will improve the longer you keep it in the brine. The cheese will become drier and less crumbly also the longer you brine it.

If you're in Algeria, and somehow you're just not up to tackling even this supereasy cheese recipe, try LeBerbere's Jben as a good stand in for any dishes calling for feta.

active prep time: 10-15 mins | inactive prep time: 25-45mins bake time: 30-45 mins 
350g - 12oz (1 ½ cups) of cheese

    • 4 liters - 1 gallon milk (I use half raw goat and cow's  milk)
    • 3 TBS lemon juice
    • 3 TBS white vinegar
    • 2 tsp salt 
    • 3 TBS live cultured plain yoghurt (I use homemade or Soumam Actvi brand)
    • 500mL - 2 cups water or whey from the milk
    • 60g - ¼ cup salt (I use sea salt)
    • garlic powder
    • dried Italian or Provençal herbs

    • tall heavy bottom stock pot ( least 8L)
    • fine strainer or china cap
    • cheese mold or plastic container with several holes cut in the bottom 
    • cheesecloth or similar mesh material
    • knife
    • wooden spoon NOT METAL

    HEAT the milk and yoghurt to a medium heat about 30°C (86°F) THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. DON'T LET THE MILK BURN AND DON'T BRING IT TO A BOIL TOO QUICKLY. Stir continually to prevent scalding the milk. It should take a while (20 - 40 minutes).

    AFTER the milk has boiled for a couple of minutes (without burning it), turn off the heat and add the lemon juice and vinegar slowly. Leave the pot on the burner during this process. While adding the "curdlers" (juice and vinegar). Leave the pot the stove for a few minutes without touching.

    NOW start to rake your spoon through the mixture until you start to see the curds separate from the whey. If after adding the lemon juice and vinegar the curds don't separate from the whey, go ahead and boil the whole mixture for 1 - 3 more minutes until you see that separation start to occur.

    ADD the salt in and optionall herbs or dry garlic if you like

    LET the mixture sit until cool and the curds have separated completely from the whey. Cover and let sit out overnight at room temp

    THE  next morning the milk should have gelled and look lke a soft block. Cut (stir) the cheese with the wooden sppon into small curds.

    LINE the strainer with the cheesecloth, and pour in your mixture to remove all the liquid- have a potunder the strainer to catch all the whey.

    TIE up the cheesecloth at the corners, and hang it up to dry for a couple of hours on the counter or fridge.
    Let drain until no more whey drains out (about 2-4 hours)

    LINE  a mold with holes in the bottom with cheese cloth, place the cheese in, fold over the cheesecloth place a heavey weight like a brick on top of the mold and let sit overnight. Please not, if you live in a really warm place do this in the fridge.

    PREPARE  the brine by combining the salt with the whey leftover.

    THE next morning the cheese will be firm and ready to cut.Cut the cheese into cubes

    STERLISE glass jars or use plastic container if you wish to eat yor cheese within a week Add the cheese into the container and pour in the brine over the cheese. Allow the cheese to set in the brine 1-2 days to age the cheese.

    This cheese if stored in a stertlized jar can last up to one year in the fridge.

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