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See also: Feta Cheese Facts & Trivia

FETA CHEESE

 

Feta is a classic and famous Greek curd cheese whose tradition dates back thousands of years and is still made by shepherds in the Greek mountains with unpasteurized milk. Feta cheese originated in an area that now includes Greece and Bulgaria**.  Originally made with goat's or sheep's milk, but today much is often made commercially with pasteurized cow's milk (the firmer cow's milk version is made for export). The curdled milk (curdled with rennet) is separated and allowed to drain in a special mold or a cloth bag.  It is cut into large slices (*feta means 'slice') that are salted and then packed in barrels filled with whey or brine.

     Salted and cured in a brine solution (which can be either water or whey) for a week to several months (this is why it is sometimes called a 'pickled' cheese). Feta has a high salt content, close to 5% (most cheeses contain 1½ to 2% salt).  The cheese dries out rapidly when removed from the brine.

     Feta cheese is white, usually formed into square cakes, and can range from soft to semi-hard, with a tangy, salty flavor that can range from mild to sharp. Its fat content can range from 30 to 60 percent; most is around 45 percent milk fat. It is now made in many countries, but usually the pasteurized cow's milk version, on a commercial scale.

     Feta is delicious crumbled over salads (the Classic Greek Salad), or together with sliced tomatoes, sprinkled with olive oil and fresh herbs. It is also used as a filling for puff pastry (feuilletes).

*What’s in a name:
(Modern Greek: tyri pheta (cheese slice). Italian: fetta (slice).

**5/10/2005 A note about the name ‘feta’ cheese and the emails below. It looks like the European Court of Justice may has finally decided that Greek cheese makers have the exclusive right to use the name ‘feta’ for their cheeses. “In the view of the advocate general, ‘feta’ meets the requirements of a designation of origin in that it describes a cheese originating from a substantial part of Greece, whose characteristics derive from its geographical environment and its production, processing and preparation are carried out in a defined area.” The issue has been in and out of court since 1994.

Visitor E-mails concerning Feta Cheese
The following e-mails include both factual and biased comments on Feta cheese. I include some of them as an example of how an innocent item like cheese can become enmeshed in national, ethnic and cultural controversy. Remember, Feta cheese existed long before humans created the artificial boundaries of modern states and countries.

“...Feta cheese is considered ( also ) Bulgarian product and what you call "Greek salad" is known in West Europe as "Macedonian salad" and in Bulgaria "Russian salad". The Greek feta is made of cow milk and is definitely inferior to the Bulgarian sheep milk feta. Give it a try !”
Ina Zachary

Hi James: I just read your article on feta. Just to clarify a few things, I would like to mention that feta is produced in Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey. They are the best known of all. Some claim the best to be Bulgarian but it is debatable and a matter of personal opinion.
However, France and Denmark also produce feta. They are processed and packaged. Obviously they lack a semblance to the original product. The origins of feta are also unclear, while some claim it to be Greek others place the origin in Macedonia which partially is in Greece and now independent.
Regards H berberoglu

Dear sir,
I am a greek and live for several years in west Europe. First of all: Nobody hear calls the greek salad, macedonian salad. Everyone calls it with the same name as you. The only thing called macedonian is something that reminds a bit of a salad but the vegetables are cutted in to small cubes and are mixed with other things. I also want to say that we cannot have a comparison between bulgarian feta and greek feta because: True feta is only greek....the other is not feta is white cheese and that's how is called even in Bulgaria. Nowhere in Greece cow milk feta is produced. The feta cheese is only produced by sheep's and goat's milk. The cheese that is made of cow milk it's called "telemes" in Greece. You should also know that Greece brought the subject of the Feta production to European's Union council because some other fabricants of Feta cheese such as France and Denmark are using cow's milk for the feta cheese production and they don't respect the tradition and they ruin the quality of the cheese. So what was told on the first mail was not proper and true. Forgive me for my english but I am greek and I live in a french speaking country.
George G.

 


Dear Sir: I was reading your info on feta cheese, and found it very interesting and concise. However the troubling part was the email that you have posted from a women regarding Greek vs. Bulgarian feta. My grandmothers family made feta cheese in Greece for many decades. Traditional Greek feta uses sheep's milk.  Goat's milk is a newer variation. Cow's milk is used for export and in feta cheese made over here in the US. If you buy Greek feta that is made with cow's milk it is not Greek feta at all.  Cow's milk feta is so much different then sheep or goat feta and really should not be compared. I just wanted to let your other reader now that she has not really experienced Greek feta if all she has had is made with cow's milk. I'm sure that feta has been made in several countries for many years, but being a descendant of an actual Greek Feta cheese maker I feel I need to stick up for Greek feta. 
Tina L.

8/2004
I have just read the article Ina Zachary and found it so incorrect to the point of being offensive. Just to set the record straight Feta cheese is from Greece and as you rightly pointed out it's been produced in Greece for thousands of years from Sheep's and sometime goats milk. The other White Cheeses found in eastern Europe were produced by nomadic race of people called Vlahs (also know as Armani) who were actually sheep and goat herders during the Roman reign, they spread through out the entire Balkans which is why white cheese can be found through out the whole of Eastern Europe however Feta Cheese is Greek and it's name is Greek, as you rightly pointed out it means "slice". The Romanian white cheese is called "Telemia" and is completely different in both taste and texture to the Greek feta cheese.
     As for Greek Salad being known as Macedonian Salad in Western Europe is just an outrageous claim, I have live in England for 15 years, and due to my work I travel extensively through out Germany, France, Switzerland, Romania, Hungary, Greece and Italy and I have never ever heard of a Macedonian Salad. I truly find this offensive and I'm sure that other who have read this page do too, therefore I urge you to either move the post to the bottom of the page or remove it completely. I strongly believe in freedom of speech however the facts here are so distorted that are giving the general public incorrect information, it would be the same as me claiming that Yorkshire pudding is actually made in Siberia and it's know as Siberian pudding in Western Europe.
I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
Michael Matsoukas

10/25/2004
About the so called Feta dispute...FETA is a Greek white cheese...There is also Bulgarian, Romanian and Turkish white cheeses as noted. The only reason why the Greek one became more famous over the others is the relative isolation of Bulgaria during communism. But let me assure you that the Bulgarian white cheese is nothing like the Greek one!!! If you call the Bulgarian cheese 'feta' in Bulgaria they will absolutely "kill" you...(not literally of course:)
All the people I know upon trying the Bulgarian one never touch the GREEK one again, personally I cannot eat the Greek one, it has a hell of a strong taste! Make yourself a big favor and try Bulgarian white cheese - you will love it - guarantee!
I cannot comment on the Romanian and Turkish ones but the Bulgarian is definitely better than the Greek one. I am sure few years from now it will push the Greek one into the abyss. First in Europe and then in America;-)
Just to let you know Yoghurt (a Turkish word) is a Bulgarian product also!!! The Bacteria that makes it is called Lacto Bacillus Bulgaricus -. So it makes sense that the Bulgarian cheese is better, don't you think?:)
P.S. Bulgarian cheese is made of cow, goat and sheep milk. Needless to say, the sheep one is the best!
Daniel P.

12/11/04
I'd like to post my 2 cents on this Feta Cheese debate. I tried not to repeat what other's have said and provide something that adds to the discussion.  Thanks.
     As a cheese lover and being of Bulgarian AND Greek descent, I can’t believe there’s so much fuss about a commercially distributed product. Yes, “Feta” is a Greek word and so, “feta cheese” is the white cheese made in Greece.  And indeed, there are other white cheeses in this world, such as the Romanian version, the Cypriot version called Haloumi, the Danish feta cheese, etc., and you will find the appropriate name and origin on the package in the supermarket, or on a sign at the deli counter.  There is even a white cheese made in South America that's less salty and more “flexible” than the European or Turkish versions. It is the predominant use of the word “Feta” that has come to describe white cheese that creates the confusion and the ridiculous nationalist outbursts.  One cannot claim that a certain type of cheese is “better" than others as it is all a matter of personal preference.  There isn’t a golden standard that all white cheeses have to amount to. They’re all made differently to achieve their unique texture and taste. As far as the origins of white cheese, historical accounts place it in the Balkan Peninsula that is now modern Greece.  There’s no one to say that it couldn’t have originated elsewhere in the world, say in the ancient Middle East or Northeast Africa, and migrated as trade routes expanded.  As far as “Macedonian Salad” is concerned, there couldn’t be a more absurd characterization. Ancient Macedonians inhabited part of what is now a Greek province and part of what is now an independent nation of the same name. Macedonians, Athenians, Spartans, Thebans, etc., had one thing in common: they all shared the same culture, the same language, and worshiped the same 12 Gods in Mount Olympus. There was one name that collectively described all the inhabitants of the separate nation-states in the Peninsula: “Greek.”  Please, no more absurdities about cheese and salad. It’s just food.
Tony Oustabassidis

 

 

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