By Melissa Souza
As a child I remember my Yiya having balls of curds draining around her kitchen. She was from “Greece’s Old Country” as she called it. Her homemade feta cheese was maybe the best thing I have ever tasted. We used to sneak big chunks of it as it was aging in her fridge. We lost Yiya a few years ago, but keeping her recipes alive for my own children has always been very important to me. In the Old Country they didn’t use things like calcium chloride, but since they are readily available, and make the process a bit easier, I have tweaked Yiya’s recipe a bit.
1 Tbsp. plain greek yogurt
6 Tbsp. pure fine seasalt (for a later step)
Heat milk on medium low heat (stirring) until it reaches 88°F. Remove from heat, and stir in one tablespoon greek yogurt (mix it with a tablespoon water so it’s easy to blend), and one teaspoon calcium chloride (this will make your cheese curds more firm). Cover and let sit for an hour. (1)
Dissolve half a tablet of rennet in about four tablespoons of cold, unchlorinated water. Wisk gently into milk. Cover and let sit overnight or about 12 hours. (2)
The next morning there will be a layer of whey on top of the pot, and the curds will have separated. Take a long, sharp knife and cut ½ inch slices into the curds. Turn the pot 90 degrees and cut ½ inch lines the other way. (3) Take your clean hand or large spoon and lift the curd strips from the bottom, then cut any large pieces. (4)
Strain the whey into a large pitcher or jar and save for a later step. (5) Wrap the curds tightly in cheese cloth, and allow to drain until no more whey comes out (about four hours). (6) Unwrap your curds, sprinkle with one tablespoon of pure fine sea salt, and break up curds to mix in all of the salt. (7)
Transfer curds into your cheese press or mold. There are online ideas for making one if you don’t own one. In my case, I just have the mold, but no cheese weights, so I press the cheese inside by placing my husband’s exercise weights on top. The cheese will sit like this overnight. (8)
Once the cheese is in the mold, transfer 2½ cups of the whey into a jar and add five tablespoons of salt. This will be your brine for your cheese. Let the brine sit out 12-24 hours. Allowing it to sit out will make it acidic, and it must be or your cheese will melt. I set it next to the cheese press, and let both do their thing for 12-18 hours in the summer, or longer in the colder months.
In the morning dump your cheese onto a flat surface and cut into chunks. Place all the chunks in a container, and cover with the brine. (9) Store covered in fridge, and allow cheese to age in the brine for 3-5 days before eating.