Homemade feta cheese is easier to make than you might think! It takes some time but I’ll show you how to make a large batch of feta and preserve it so you only need to do this every few months if you want a constant supply of feta in your fridge. I am making this feta cheese with store bought milk but you can do the same exact process with raw milk. I have the handy How to Make Feta Cheese printable for you at the end of the post. Let’s get to it!
If you’ve been following my blog for a while you know that I am from Israel. If you are new here, well, first, welcome! Second, it’s important that you know that I am from Israel and it’s also important that you know that an Israeli cannot exist without feta cheese.
It’s just not possible. It’s like an American without a hamburger… Doesn’t make sense, right?
So I moved here to the U.S. back in 2005 and right away, within a few short weeks I noticed two problems with this wonderful place that I call home that really puts it at serious danger for all kinds of bad things if you ask me.
The first thing is that a mysterious someone is cutting the leaves off the tops of the celery before selling it at the grocery store. Who is cruel enough to do something like that is beyond me! Do you know how many fabulous things you can do with the tops of the celery? Do you know how healthy and tasty they are?
The second thing that I noticed shortly after I landed here is the availability (or none thereof) and quality of feta cheese. People, the $1200 plane ticket to Israel is worth it just for the feta cheese. Trust me and get that ticket! It will change your life forever.
So I am still hard in search of the someone who has the audacity to cut off the tops of celery all over America, but the feta cheese situation ends right here and now cause I am going to show you how to make your own!
Homemade Feta Cheese…
Making feta cheese at home takes just a little bit of cheese-making knowledge and a gathering of some basic supplies and ingredients. Once you have everything you need it’s a walk in the park.
I’ll show you how to make enough cheese that you can freeze some of it. Feta cheese freezes with no problem and is just as tasty after you thaw it as it is the day you make it. If you make a large batch and freeze some of your feta, you’ll only need to do this once in a while in order to have a constant supply of feta.
Supplies You’ll Need to Make This Feta Cheese…
Let’s talk supplies for a moment, shall we? Here is what you need…
A large stainless steel pot – we are going to process two gallons of milk here so you’ll need a pot that is large enough to hold that amount. It has to be either stainless steel or enamel because aluminum will leach into your cheese.
Heating milk to the right temperature is the most important part of cheese-making, therefore, many places will tell you to use a double boiler system or to purchase a cheese vat which is a special pot for cheese-making. You can create your own double boiler by placing a pot within a pot or you can go ahead and purchase the cheese vat, but I found that if I turn the heat to medium on my stove and make sure to stir the milk it does great in a regular pot.
So I use this stainless 12-quart pot.
Measuring cups and spoons – we are going to use 1/8 of a teaspoon and 1 teaspoon and also 1/2 cup so make sure you have those on hand.
Cheese thermometer – when you purchase a cheese-making thermometer, make sure the range of temperatures is between 80F to 200F at least. Once you get into cheese-making you’ll want to try and make other kinds of cheeses so that thermometer should be useful for you beyond the feta. It’s really helpful if you can clip the thermometer to the pot.
A stainless steel skimmer – we will need this to stir the milk. Here is one that looks good from Amazon (the one you’ll see me using here is from Hoegger Supply Company but I don’t think they have it anymore…).
A curd knife – we will need a curd knife to cut the curds. This can be just a simple icing spatula or even a large kitchen knife.
A colander – you’ll need a large colander that can catch all the curds.
Cheesecloth – let me tell you a secret… You don’t really need a fancy cheesecloth! Your local Walmart sells a pack of five or so flour sack tea towels for something around $5 (something like those. I am linking to Amazon so you see what I am talking about but I’ve never purchased those, the one you’ll see me using in this tutorial is from my local Walmart).
They work better than a cheesecloth in my opinion and they are so cheap! It’s really all you need.
A bowl – to catch the whey. I use the largest from this set.
We will also need a cutting board, a knife, and a 9×13 inch dish or something similar to salt the cheese in.
Ingredients you’ll need for homemade feta cheese…
Milk – we are going to need 2 gallons of milk, but it doesn’t matter if it’s cow’s milk or goat’s milk and it doesn’t matter if it’s raw or from the store, it’s still going to be the same recipe and process. In this tutorial, I am going to use two gallons of store bought 2% cow’s milk.
Calcium Chloride – you will need calcium chloride ONLY if you are using store bought milk because it has been processed (pasteurized and homogenized) and it won’t give a good set without the addition of calcium chloride.
DVI Feta culture – I use a feta culture but you can also use mesophilic culture.
Rennet – I use animal rennet but there is also plant based rennet available.
**My calcium chloride, feta culture, and rennet were purchased from Hoeggers Supply Company (you can also find some of the supplies there) but you can also find them on Amazon.
Make sure to keep your rennet and calcium chloride in the fridge and the culture in the freezer and they should last for a long time.
Kosher salt – we are going to need to salt this cheese, of course! You can use cheese salt or just kosher salt from the grocery store. Don’t use regular table salt because it has iodine in it and will color your cheese blue.
Once you’ve gathered your supplies and ingredients we are ready to make this feta cheese…
How to Make Feta Cheese…
Start by adding the milk to the pot and setting it on the stove top. Turn the heat to medium and heat your milk to 86 F.
Make sure to use your slotted spoon to stir the milk constantly so the bottom doesn’t burn. This is not the time to go do the dishes, stay with your milk, stir it and watch that thermometer. A lot of cheese-making failures are a result of heating the milk too much (don’t ask me how I know this please!).
Once the milk reached 86F. Remove the pot from the heat. Add one tablespoon of calcium chloride to your 1/2 cup measuring cup and fill the rest of the cup with water. Add this to the milk and stir.
Then, sprinkle 1/8 teaspoon of the feta culture on top of the milk…
And use your slotted spoon to mix it in well.
Cover the pot and let the milk rest for 1 hour. During this hour, we want to try to keep the temperature at 86 F
It’s best to do this in a warm house. If your house is cool, just get ready to wrap the pot with a fuzzy blanket or set it in a sink full of warm water in order to keep the temperature.
After an hour, when you uncover the pot, it will look like nothing happened. The milk will look just as it looked before and that’s fine. Add a teaspoon of liquid rennet to your 1/2 cup measuring cup, fill the rest with water, stir, and add this to the milk.
Immediately, stir the milk with the slotted spoon to mix the rennet in well. Before you cover the pot again, make sure to use your thermometer to check the temperature of the milk. Again, we want to keep it at 86 F (or very close to it) which is not hard to do if your house is warm. If the temperature is low, fill your sink with hot water and carefully set your pot inside the sink.
Ok, so once you checked the temperature, cover the pot again and let it rest for another hour.
When you come back to your milk after an hour, it should look like this. The milk has completely coagulated and set because of the rennet.
Grab your icing spatula and let’s cut those curds! We start by cutting vertically. Make sure you reach all the way down to the bottom of the pot and space your cuts about 1 inch apart…
Next, we cut at a 90-degree angle to form 1 inch squares on the top surface (again, make sure that your knife goes all the way down to the bottom of the pot).
Lastly, hold your knife at a 45-degree angle and make sideways cuts.
It doesn’t have to be perfect. Once you cut your curds, cover the pot and let the curds rest for 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, mix the curds with your slotted spoon…
Be gentle and slow here! Your movement should be from the bottom of the pot to the top, and in circles. We want to break those squares that we made after cutting the curds.
After a couple of minutes, you’ll have something that looks like the picture above. Smaller pieces of curds swimming in their whey. Cover the pot and let the curds rest for 5 more minutes.
When you uncover the pot you’ll notice that all the curds sunk to the bottom. Get your slotted spoon and stir again, slow and gentle to prevent the curds from sticking together. Then cover the pot and let the curds rest for an additional 5 minutes.
Uncover the pot one last time and stir the curds again. So we stirred the curds 3 times in 5 minutes intervals over 15 minutes. This allowed the curds to extract as much whey without sticking together.
The curds are ready for hanging at this point and we need to transfer them from the pot to the cheesecloth (or flour sack in this case…).
You can catch the whey and make ricotta cheese from it, you can use it to substitute water in recipes (it’s great in bread recipes) or give it to the animals… There are many uses for whey.
If you want to collect it, place your colander inside a large bowl. If you don’t want to collect it you can place your colander inside the sink and let the whey go down the drain.
Line your colander with the cheesecloth or flour sack…
Grab your pot of curds and transfer them to the colander. This can be a messy business with whey splashing all over but it is what it is…
Once all of your curds are in the colander, collect the corners of the flour sack and use a string (I use yarn) to tie the sack together. Then use a hook to hang it on one of your kitchen cabinets (you don’t have to use a hook, of course, it just makes it easier…).
Make sure to place a large bowl under your hanging bag to catch all the whey that is dripping out.
Let this hang overnight. I usually start making my feta cheese around 6 pm, this way, before I go to sleep I hang the bag and it has a whole night to get rid of the whey.
When you wake up in the morning, your bag is going to be half the size you left it the night before. Almost all the whey is gone and it’s now a solid cheese!
Take your bag down from the cabinet and set it on a cutting board. Gently, open and uncovers your beautiful ball of cheese.
I always need to take a moment here and just stand and look at it in amazement, it’s like collecting eggs from the chicken coop, it never gets old!
Remove the flour sack (you can wash it and reuse it or just wash it and use it as a kitchen towel) and set your ball of cheese on the cutting board…
Use a large kitchen knife to cut the cheese into 1 inch thick slabs…
Take a 9×13 cake pan or casserole dish and cover the bottom with some kosher salt, about 2 tablespoons or so…
Take your slabs of cheese and set them in one layer in the dish…
Then sprinkle some more kosher salt on the top of each slab. Cover the dish with a plastic wrap and place it in the fridge.
The salt will dry the cheese and more whey will come out. After a few hours, take your cheese out of the fridge, gently tilt the dish to dump the whey, salt the top of the cheese, turn each slab and salt the other side.
We are going to let the cheese cure in the fridge for 24 hours. During those 24 hours get rid of the whey and salt two or three times.
Try to not get carried away with the salt, each time, just salt lightly. but also don’t worry about the cheese being too salty. If later you find that it’s too salty for you, you can just wash it with cold water before you eat it to get rid of some of the salt.
The next morning your feta cheese is ready to eat! There are so many things you can do with feta cheese, you can add it to sandwiches, casseroles, pasta sauce… But my favorite thing is just to stick it in every salad. It will go so well with this Mediterranean egg salad, or this beet salad, or those garlic beans.
Also, there is nothing like feta cheese and a perfectly cut sweet watermelon in the summer! Sweet and salty, dry and juicy… It’s a perfect combination.
Freezing Feta Cheese…
Before we are done here, let me just say that we just made a large batch of feta cheese. There is no need to leave all of it in the fridge unless you are having company and you know that you are going to use all of it in the next 10 days or so.
There are a couple of ways to preserve feta cheese. You can cut your cheese into cubes, pack them in a jar and top it with olive oil. Go ahead and add rosemary and garlic in the oil and it will season your cheese as well. It’s so tasty and as long as the cheese is under the oil and you keep everything clean, you can leave your jars at room temperature.
Another way to preserve your feta cheese (and a cheaper way since olive oil is expensive…) is to freeze it.
I have a Nesco food vacuum sealer and I use these vacuum bags. I place a couple of slabs of cheese in a bag, then fold a sheet of paper towel and stick it inside the bag between the cheese and the top of the bag.
Then, when I vacuum the bag, all the moisture that is pulled out of the cheese is caught in the paper towel and doesn’t interfere with the sealing process.
For the life of me, I can’t remember where I learned this trick but it’s one you must know if you vacuum food for freezing.
Make sure to label your bag and it is ready for the freezer! It should last in the freezer for a long time. When you want to use your cheese just thaw it and use it. It will be just as fresh and tasty.
I hope this was a clear tutorial. Don’t get overwhelmed by the steps, there are a few of them but they are very simple. After you make feta a couple of times this will be easy peasy.
Here is the handy printable…
- 2 gallons of milk
- 1 teaspoon calcium chloride diluted in 1/2 cup of water (only if you are using store-bought milk).
- 1/8 teaspoon feta culture or mesophilic cheese culture
- 1 teaspoon rennet diluted in 1/2 cup water
- Kosher salt
- Add milk to a large pot and set on the stove top. Turn stove top to medium heat and heat your milk to 86F. Make sure to stir constantly so the milk doesn't burn.
- Once the milk reaches 86F, remove the pot from the heat and add the diluted calcium chloride. Stir it in with a slotted spoon.
- Sprinkle the cheese culture on the milk and use the slotted spoon to mix it in well.
- Cover your pot and let the milk rest for an hour while keeping the temperature at 86F.
- Uncover your pot and add the diluted rennet, stir the rennet in immediately with the slotted spoon.
- Cover your pot and let it rest for another hour.
- After an hour your milk should be completely coagulated and it's time to cut the curds. Cut them with a large knife or a large icing spatula vertically and then at a 90 degree angle to form squares on the surface of the curds. Than cut the curds at a 45-degree angle.
- Cover your pot and let the curds rest for 5 minutes.
- in the next 15 minutes, uncover and stir the curds three times at an interval of five minutes between each stirring. Make sure to stir from the bottom to the top and around the pot.
- Set a large colander in your sink and line it with cheesecloth or flour sack. Transfer your curds into the colander and give the whey a couple of minutes to drain.
- Collect the sides of the cheesecloth or flour sack and tie them with a string to form a bag. Hang your bag on a kitchen cabinet. Place a bowl under the bag to catch the whey and leave your bag hanging overnight.
- In the morning, set your bag on a cutting board. Open the bag and gently remove it, set your ball of cheese on the cutting board.
- Use a large kitchen knife to cut the ball into 1 inch thick slabs of cheese.
- Sprinkle two or three tablespoons of kosher salt on the bottom of a 9x13 inch pan. Set your slabs of cheese in one layer in the pan and sprinkle another thin layer of salt on top of the slabs. Cover the dish with a plastic wrap and set in the fridge for 24 hours.
- During those 24 hours, take the pan out a couple of times, get rid of the whey and lightly salt the cheese from both sides again.
- After 24 hours, your cheese is ready to eat! You can preserve some of it in oil or freeze some of it.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 20 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 206 Total Fat: 8g Saturated Fat: 5g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 3g Cholesterol: 33mg Sodium: 243mg Carbohydrates: 20g Fiber: 0g Sugar: 0g Protein: 14g