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Feta Cheese

Tuesday, 10 November 2009 | Tags: ,

Whether you're cooking up Greek food, or just enjoying a salad with a flavourful topping, feta cheese is a tangy ingredient in many dishes. But they're not all created equal. Traditional Greek feta comes from sheep's milk, but in North America you can also find feta made from goat and cow milk. We find out more about feta and do a taste test to see which animal's cream rises to the top.

The Basics

  • Feta cheese is white in colour, with a rich aroma and a salty, slightly sour taste.

  • It usually comes shaped in squares or bricks and can be either soft or semi-hard in texture.

    • Soft feta tends to be sweeter, with just a bit of saltiness.

    • Semi-hard feta is tangier and saltier, with a more pronounced taste.

  • Feta cheese originated in Greece and arose out of the need to preserve it without refrigeration. Thus, the salty brine that most feta is stored in.

  • Very little authentic Greek feta is imported outside of Greece since it is so popular in that country.

    • If the label says Greek feta, you know it is made from sheep’s milk.

  • Feta made in Mediterranean countries is required to be aged for at least two months. It is also primarily made from sheep’s milk.

  • Feta made in other parts of the world, including Canada, the U.S., Australia, Denmark, and Germany, is usually made from cow’s milk or goat’s milk. Sheep’s milk is expensive and not very readily available.

  • Authentic Greek feta can cost anywhere from $7-10 per pound when purchased in small quantities.

  • The finest feta should be purchased in brine, as blocks in order to ensure it stays moist.

  • Store any unused portions in the original brine. It will become saltier and stronger as it ages, but its best eaten fresh.

    • If you would like to tone down the saltiness, you can store it instead in a milk bath. Fresh feta should store this way for up to three months.

    • Avoid buying pre-crumbled feta. Although it can be more convenient, it will likely be dried out.

  • Feta is considered a medium-fat cheese on par with mozzarella and reduced-fat versions of regular cheeses. Feta crumbles but doesn’t melt, whereas mozzarella melts, but doesn’t crumble.

    • Once ounce of feta is about 75 calories and contains 1 gram of carbohydrates, 4 grams of protein, 25 mg of cholesterol, 6 grams of fat, and 4.2 grams of saturated fat.

  • Feta is best served at room temperature to enjoy its full flavour.

  • Feta and goat cheese can be used interchangeably if needed, but they have different flavours and textures.

TEST CRITERIA

To find out how traditional sheep feta from Greece measured up against its new world counterparts, we conducted a taste test with 100 people to find out which they preferred.

  • Cow’s milk (red) feta was chosen by 26% of our testers, and was preferred by people who liked a blander cheese. Comments included dry

  • Goat’s milk (blue) feta was chosen by 30% of our testers.

  • Sheep’s milk (yellow) feta was chosen by 44% of our testers for its smoother texture and full-bodied flavour.

 

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