Monday, August 9, 2010

Manic Monday Munchies: Feta Cheese!

For this Manic Monday Munchies post, I decided to tell you about one of my all-time favorite single food items, Feta cheese.

The “feta” cheese you see at most grocery stores in the U.S. is not genuine Feta, for two reasons. The first is that it’s not from Greece. Of course, to many Greeks, this is the most important reason. But it’s an unfortunate part of our reality that it’s better for the environment, and more practical, to buy cheese that’s made closer to home. I’m not saying it’s the same. The Feta cheese from Greece has such a distinctive flavor, it’s like eating candy. (Can you tell that I’m drooling just thinking about it?) I’ll admit I usually buy the imported stuff (from Mani Imports).

It’s the second reason that really irks me. That is, the “feta” I’ve been able to find that’s made in the U.S. is made from cows milk. Genuine Greek Feta is made from sheep’s milk, sometimes with a little goat’s milk blended in. The difference in flavor between cow’s milk and sheep’s milk is like night and day – the cheese made with sheep’s milk is much sharper and richer in flavor, even slightly acidic. Sheep’s and goat’s milk is higher in calcium, vitamin B, and proteins than cow’s milk. Moreover, to get the correct color and texture from cow’s milk, chemical processes are used. So much for eating a natural food! These chemical processes aren’t necessary when Feta is made with the correct milk.

“Feta is crumbly in texture and white in color. Feta is traditionally sold in glass jars, although modern packaging techniques have become more commonplace. Feta needs to be covered in brine at all times otherwise it will dry out and mold fast and needs to be refrigerated at all times.” (

Here is one Feta-producer’s description of how they make Feta cheese:
“Curd is molded in large round forms, which are hand-turned frequently as they drain. As the whey drains, the cheese-crafter adjusts timing to perfect each form's texture. After skillful dry-salting, wheels are placed in birch barrels for aging and preservation. There they sit in a 7% brine solution that originally allowed farmers to preserve their milk in the hot Mediterranean climate. Today that brine gives feta its characteristic tang.
By the end of the four-month maturation, a wonderfully creamy, rich, complex flavor is fully developed. ... Its traditional method of production contributes to its full taste, natural aroma and pure white color, properties which have established Feta over the centuries as a unique natural cheese of Greece.
Enjoy this premium feta in a traditional cheese pie, over eggs, stuffed into squash blossoms, or even fried. Or just relax with a slab of feta drizzled with olive oil and garnished with fresh oregano.”

Feta has been designated by the European Union as a product of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), the origin being Greece. “According to the Code of Foods of Greek Legislation, Feta (Φέτα) is produced either from sheep milk or a mixture of sheep and goat milk, in the regions of Macedonia, Thrace, Epirus, Thessaly, Sterea, Peloponnese and Lesvos Island. It must be allowed to mature for at least two (2) months in wooden barrels or metal containers, covered in brine.” (

These days, most Feta cheese is made from pasteurized milk. In fact, I have yet to find one sold in the U.S., imported or otherwise, that isn’t. (My guess is that U.S. laws require it all to be pasteurized, but I don’t know for sure, so don’t quote me on that.) This is important to me because of the general rule of not eating soft cheeses when pregnant. Since I’ve been pregnant twice, I was worried about following the no-soft-cheese rule and having to avoid another of my favorite foods. However, if the only reason to avoid soft cheeses is the lack of pasteurization, which used to be common but isn’t anymore, then I could eat pasteurized Feta, right? I still haven’t received a satisfactory answer to this question, but when I do, I’ll come back to the subject and let you know.

In the meantime, I’m going to be right here with my plate of Feta cheese, a little hummus, Kalamata olives, and a glass of wine. Opa!


  1. I love feta cheese too!

    I once ordered a pizza that had feta cheese on it, and I couldn't even taste it. They must have used cow's milk feta. boo.

  2. Very interesting! Thank you for sharing that information!! :)