Friday, September 3, 2010

How to make feta cheese

My wonderful friends Sandy and Heather Dunlop ran a cheesemaking class at my house last weekend. Sandy is a fourth generation cheesemaker. He's used to large scale cheese operations so wanted to have a go making cheese in a regular kitchen.

A bunch of friends got together and had a blast learning how to not make mozarella and how to make feta. The mozarella didn't work - we're not exactly sure why - but the feta turned out beautifully and wasn't at all difficult.

  • 3 1/2 litres unpasturised (raw) milk (The Dunlops collected it from a dairy farm that morning.)
  • 10 mls (2t) natural unsweetened yoghurt
  • 2.1 mls rennet (Renco) (available from some supermarkets)
  • Salt solution of 5T salt in 1 litre water

1. Mix milk and yoghurt together in a large pot.

2. Heat milk to 35°C (about body temperature, or the temperature milk is when it comes out of a cow).

3. Since you only need a tiny amount of rennet (2.1mls), use a small 5ml syringe (available from pharmacies) to measure and add it to the milk mixture.

4. Stir briskly for 30 seconds and then leave to stand for at least 35 minutes.

5. When set on top, cut the cheese using a long knife. This involves making vertical and horizontal cuts at 1cm intervals through the mixture to form cubes.

6. Give the mixture a gentle stir with your knife and leave to stand for one hour.

7. Transfer cheese mixture to a collander sitting above a large pot so the whey can drain out.

8. Place a side plate on the cheese and weigh it down with something heavy to compress the feta. Leave to drain in the collander for 18 hours.

9. After 18 hours, cut the cheese into the number of blocks you want.

10. Place feta in salt solution of 5T salt to 1 litre water and leave for 30 minutes.

11. Drain salt solution off in colander for 1-4 hours.

12. Store feta in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use. It's now ready to eat.

I cut one of the blocks up into 1cm cubes and added them to a roast vegetable salad. Delicious!

Note: You will have lots of whey leftover from making the cheese. I froze mine in one to two cup portions so I can pull it out for recipes that require soaking, eg. these banana muffins and these tortillas.


  1. Does the milk need to be unpasterised? As I am pregnant I'm not supposed to eat things made from unpasterised milk I think? But I would love to give it ago! Looks yummy and easy too!

  2. Hey Lizzie, I'm sure you could make it with town milk too. Until recently all NZ cheese had to be made with pasterised milk, so it's definitely possible. I'm not sure why Sandy specified using raw milk. Maybe it's easier or gets a more creamy result.

  3. That is cool Emma. Will have to try it sometime.

  4. We did make some with pasteurised milk too, but Sandy says the raw milk has more nutrients in it so gives a better yield. Heather.

  5. Just also a wee comment about listeria, as a dairy farmer's daughter and daughter-in-law and the wife of a food engineer and cheese maker, as well as a nurse myself, I believe the risk of listeria associated with raw milk is quite low. it is something you have to weigh up for yourself, but if you have a reliable source of milk which you know to be regularly tested (as most milk is) for listeria and cleared from it, it should be ok. I know that my mother never changed her diet when she was pregnant and drank more unpasteurised milk than ever when she was pregnant. There is as much risk from not washing your vegetables properly when having a salad as there is from raw milk as it is found in the soil, and can be carried by the animals. I guess you just have more control over washing veges than making sure there is no listeria in the milk when you're not the farmer. Heather.

  6. Sorry another one from me. If you are in doubt, it's best to avoid it, with raw milk, the fresher the better, and it should be stored below 4 degrees C as soon as possible - which most farms are, and make sure your source of milk is one that has passed the tests of any harmful bacteria.

  7. Hi Emma
    Thanks so much for your blog - I spent ages yesterday reading up and gaining lots of knowledge and ideas from you. I made your feta and have just tasted the finished product. The verdict from my children (fussy lot) aged 3 - 9, my husband and my mother is that it's really, really nice!
    I have a question though... it sits around out on the bench for a long time, nearly 24 hours for mine. Is that okay as far as bacteria go? Or should I have put it in the fridge while it was draining for 18 hours? It's been 8-20 degrees here last night and today.
    Many thanks

    1. Hey Debby, thanks for your comments and question.

      The cheese is in a process of fermentation when it's setting, so you want to leave it out at room temperature to keep that process active.

  8. Sounds like a dumb question, but is "5T" shorthand for 5 tablespoons, or 5 teaspoons? Figured out "2t" (lowercase) is 2 teaspoons 'cos 1 teaspoon = 5 millilitres, but 5 tablespoons in a litre seems like an awful lot of salt. Thanks for the instructions, simple and easy.

    1. Hi, Thanks for your question. It is 5 Tablespoons. It gives the cheese its salty flavour.



  9. Hi there,

    Thanks heaps for the recipe. Approximately how much feta do you end up with? Cheers,

    1. Hi, we didn't weigh the cheese, but it filled quite a large container so maybe 1KG (guessing).

  10. I made halloumi recently and it involved continuing to heat the pot during what would be the first 6 steps in your recipe.
    Is step 2 the only one that involves heat? In the photos the pot is still on the stove, but maybe that is just a useful surface.

    1. Thanks for your question. We only heated the milk enough to bring it back up to body temperature - the temp it would have been if we'd collected it straight from the cow and turned it into milk. After that we switched off the stove, but you're right, the stove-top was a useful surface to keep working on.
      I love halloumi. How did yours turn out?

    2. I attended a workshop first, which made it seem easy. It is a simple process, but it was quite tiring having to keep a constant eye on the temperature for ages, so I look forward to not having to do that when making feta! The chap at the local shop says his boss makes feta all the time, so I figured that was a good sign...

    3. I don't think I would be good at remembering to watch the temperature. The feta is nice and easy - and yummy. Where do you get your milk from for cheese-making?

  11. Hi Emma

    My first time making feta cheese! Interesting!!

    Feta turned out quite soft. Looking at other recipes it says that you can leave overnight to set before cutting the next day. I followed your recipe and cut it after about an hour but I don't think it had set. Do you think its ok to leave overnight? Tastes a little bland and salty but hey not bad for a novice :) Will definitely try again. Now what to do with all that whey........

    1. Worth a shot leaving it out overnight. I'm sorry to hear it didn't work so well for you. Let me know if you come up with any improvements. You can use the whey to replace milk in baking. It's also great for adding to a pot of brown rice or rolled oats to soak them before cooking - makes them more digestible.


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