A Guide to Feta Cheese

Feta Cheese

Feta cheese
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Many people associate feta with Greece, and rightly so. Feta has been made in Greece for thousands of years. It's even thought that feta is described in Homer's  Odyssey.  Feta has been registered as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product, and so according to European Union law the only true feta is that which is made in Greece.

Many Balkan countries and others (like France, Israel and the United States) also produce feta, although according to the EU Protected Designation of Origin regulations, it should be called a  "feta-style" cheese or go by another name.

Wherever feta is made in the world or whatever you call it, the basic characteristics of feta don't change - salty and tangy with a creamy and crumbly texture. It's a simple but amazing cheese. There are slight variances, however, in flavor and texture depending on what type of milk is used (cow, sheep or goat) and where the feta is made.

Traditionally, feta is a sheep's milk cheese. Often, some goats milk is blended in. Less often and much less traditionally, cow's milk can be used to make a feta-style cheese.

It's impossible to precisely say what feta from different countries tastes like, but these general guidelines can be helpful when shopping for feta. Like so many types of cheese, the best way to find your favorite feta is to sample many different brands. 

  • French Feta: Most often made with sheep's milk, sometimes from the excess sheep's milk that is not used for making Roquefort. French feta is typically mild and creamy. Some goats' milk feta is also made in France and can be slightly drier and tangier.
     
  • Bulgarian Feta: Made from sheeps' milk. Creamier texture, the saltiness varies. Sometimes it has a little bit of a grassy or "sheepy" flavor mixed in with a yeasty, tangy finish.
     
  • Greek Feta: Traditionally made from sheep's milk, although sometimes a little goats' milk is blended in. Salty and tangy, with a lemony flavor, usually rich and creamy, although versions with more goats' milk tend to be more crumbly.
     
  • Israeli Feta: Full-flavored, creamy, and usually not overly salty. Usually made from sheep's milk .
  • American Feta: Can be made with sheep, goat or even cows' milk. Usually the predominant flavor is tangy and the texture is less creamy and more crumbly.

How Long Does Feta Stay Fresh?

Feta is a great cheese to always keep in your refrigerator, because it rarely goes bad (and can be used as a quick appetizer, or put on so many dishes like pizza, pasta and salads for more flavor). Keep the feta in brine, in a covered container, and it stays fresh for weeks, or even months. If the feta tastes too salty, rinse it in water before serving.