Cheese. Just a mere mention of the word and one would think of sumptuous appetizers or meals served with them. Cheese, when served with wine, depicts impeccable taste and class. Here is but one of the many varieties of cheeses: Meet the Feta Cheese.
Feta (from the Italian word ‘fetta’ meaning ‘slice') is actually cheese curd in brine solution. It takes at least three months to make feta. When it is removed from the solution, this type of cheese dries up immediately. Milk from goats, sheep or cow can be used to make this.
The color of Feta cheese is white. It is usually formed into four-sided cakes that can either be soft or semi-hard. Its salty flavor can be adjusted to suit the taste of the maker.
Traditionally, in Greece, feta cheese is made with just goat's milk or a combination of goat's and sheep's milk. They are first salted as a slab, then sliced, then salted once more before it is subjected to maturation process.
Other countries that make feta cheese include: Albania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Serbia, Ukraine, Romania, Iran, Australia, Denmark, Germany and many other countries. Although feta is called differently in each country, the process of manufacturing it is the same.
The first historic record of feta cheese was during the Byzantine time. One Italian who visited Candia (in 1494) made a vivid description of the brine solution used in making feta cheese. Additional records are those of Balkan peasants who made it either with sheep's or goat's milk.
Nowadays, cow's milk can be used to make feta cheese. The processes involved are: curdling of the milk with rennet, separation and draining of the curd, putting salt on the blocks of curd, slicing the slabs which are then salted once more.
Feta is usually used in making salads and is much tastier when combined with tomatoes, olives and green vegetables. One can store feta cheese indefinitely because of the salt solution. A wise tip: if you want to reduce the saltiness of the cheese, soak feta first in milk or water (just for a few minutes) before eating.
Now here is some important nutritional information: it contains 30-60% fat of which 45% is fat from milk. The caloric content is 100 calories per small slice. Whether that's good or bad for you is a question you need to ask your nutritionist.
There were actually some studies that were done to lower the salinity of feta cheese and how this has significantly improved its nutritional value. The conclusion was, it has good and bad points. The good: it is a superior source of riboflavin, protein, calcium, phosphorus and Vitamin B12. The bad: it has a high cholesterol and sodium content. It comes with high saturated fat.
Another downside to eating feta cheese: pregnancy would not allow feta cheese consumption. Since feta is made from unpasteurized milk and comes in soft, it may contain a type of bacteria called Listeria. Although Listeria registers symptoms like that of the common flu and can be tolerated by adults, it is highly fatal to fetuses.
Could you take another bad news? It is very difficult to get the real thing in the country. Since it is highly consumable in Greece and because of the restriction on importing products made with unpasteurized milk, Americans can have a taste of feta through commercial counterparts. Although the commercial feta cheeses are inferior in most aspects, at least they are the closest we could get to feta taste. If you are looking for the ‘original’ cheese, then be prepared to pay exorbitant fees!
Enough with the bad. There are more good to this type of cheese than the occasional bad. Feta cheese is used in a lot of sumptuous recipes which stimulate the taste buds and it is highly-incorporated in most Greek meals. Here are a few recipes that you could research online:
1. Chunky guacamole (or Guacamole Picado)
2. Goat Cheese Patties
3. Feta and Ricotta Cheese Fondue
4. Greek Scramble
5. Lamb and Olive Balls
6. Lemony Artichokes with Feta and Oregano
7. Lobster bundles
8. Mediterranean Feta Cheese Dip
9. Leg of Lamb Stuffed with Roasted Garlic, Feta and Basil Leaves
10. Spinach Triangles (Spanakopita)
Aren't the recipes enough to convince you that there is more good to feta cheese than bad? If you're not convinced and would want to decline a nice meal with feta in it, then believe me, you're definitely missing one half of your life!
Lee Dobbins writes for http://cheese.topicgiant.com where you can learn more about making cheese, cheese recipes and different types of cheese like feta cheese .