MICHAEL KRAUS
Culture

Fabled Feta

By Daphne Zepos


Published on April 12, 2014

Greeks are particular about their feta. Some like theirs soft and mild; others prefer it hard and crumbly. Some crave a pungent, chevre-like flavor, others a lemony-sour tang. Traditionally, feta has been made by shepherds from the milk of sheep and goats that graze on grasses native to a particular valley, plain, or mountain range—which gives the animals' milk, and the cheese made from it, a distinctive regional flavor. Most feta is still made in small dairies, which buy milk from nearby farmers. The cheese makers scoop the curds into metal molds to drain overnight; in the morning they sprinkle the blocks of young cheese with salt and stack them in a wooden barrel or tin container. The container is then topped off with whey and stored for 60 days so that the cheese can mature. When I buy feta, I keep it in the fridge, submerged in brine. I often doctor the brine to adjust the flavor of the cheese—if it's very salty I store it in plain water to temper the salinity; if it's very sharp I add a little milk. Like many Greeks, I use feta at just about every meal, adding it to salads, stuffing it into pies, and crumbling it on stews. And I usually leave a generous slice of feta on the table all afternoon, to be nibbled on during the long hours between lunch and dinner.

Want More Saveur?

Get our favorite recipes, stories, and more delivered to your inbox.