Feta is a brined curd cheese traditionally made in Greece. Feta is a crumbly aged cheese, commonly produced in blocks, and has a slightly grainy texture. It is used as a table cheese, as well as in salads (e.g. the Greek salad), pastries and in baking, notably in the popular dishes spanakopita (“spinach pie”) and tyropita (“cheese pie”) and combined with olive oil and vegetables. It can also be served cooked or grilled, as part of a sandwich or as a salty alternative to other cheeses in a variety of dishes.
Since 2002, feta has been a protected designation of origin product in the European union.
Feta is a soft white-brined cheese with small holes, a compact touch, few cuts, and no skin. It is usually formed into large blocks, which are submerged in brine. Its flavor is tangy and salty, ranging from mild to sharp. Its maximum moisture is 56%, its minimum fat content in dry matter is 43%, and its pH usually ranges from 4.4 to 4.6.
Feta is salted and cured in a brine solution (based on water or whey) for several months. When removed from the brine, it dries out rapidly. It is made with goat’s or sheep’s milk. However in modern times imitations are often produced commercially with pasteurized cow’s milk. Curdled milk with rennet is separated and left to drain in a special mold or a cloth bag. Afterwards, it is cut to large slices that are salted and then packed in barrels filled with brine.
Feta cheese is first recorded in the Byzantine empire under the name πρόσφατος (prósphatos, “recent”, i.e. fresh), and was associated specifically with Crete. An Italian visitor to Candia in 1494 describes its storage in brine clearly.