In Greek cuisine, feta cheese can be incorporated into many dishes and recipes. Much of the feta cheese eaten outside Greece is made in Italy, the United States, Denmark, and many other countries.
What makes feta cheese so special? If you haven’t had feta cheese before, you might be asking that question. If you ask around, you will find that only a very little percentage of people who love cheese dislike feta cheese in particular. The love for feta cheese can be attributed to how it tastes.
What does feta cheese taste like? The taste of feta cheese is best described as salty, tangy, and rich. Feta cheese tastes salty because of the salt brine in which it is prepared. It is also worth mentioning that as the cheese ages, its overall taste will be affected and might change. Feta cheese is made primarily with sheep’s milk; which gives it a buttery and rich flavor.
There is no doubt that feta cheese is very delicious. It is highly regarded among epicureans as one of the best cheeses in the world. This cheese is not just delicious, when compared with some other cheeses, it is healthier and packs more beneficial nutrients.
Nutritional Benefits of Feta Cheese
Feta cheese is stocked with a lot of nutrients that could be of benefit to the body. For example, one teaspoon of feta cheese is equivalent to 140 mg of calcium. Calcium is very important in the body, it strengthens the bones and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
In health circles, feta cheese is well known for its high calcium content. Since feta cheese has been part of the Greek Cuisine for centuries, it may have contributed to why they were so resilient on battlefields.
The nutritional profile of feta cheese is very impressive; one ounce of feta cheese contains just 74 calories and 6 grams of fat. In that one ounce, you also have 4 grams of protein, 1.1 grams of carbs, and minerals like zinc, selenium, phosphorus, riboflavin, and sodium. It also plays host to vitamins A, K, B6, B12, folate, and riboflavin.
Feta cheese contains Lactobacillus Plantarum, which makes up about 48 percent of the bacteria present in the cheese. Don’t fret, the bacteria present in feta cheese is the good kind, they are known as Probiotics and can benefit our health. Probiotics can promote immune health by protecting the intestinal tract from diseases, and helping to increase the production of compounds that limit the inflammatory response. These probiotics do not only boost the immune system but also provide anti-inflammatory benefits.
Feta cheese also contains Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA); which is responsible for decreasing fat mass and increasing lean body mass. CLA has also been shown to have anti-cancer properties and help keep diabetes at bay. The only flaw with feta cheese is its high amount of sodium. The cheese-making process can be blamed for this, if you are on a salt-restricted diet, or trying to reduce your salt intake, feta cheese should not find its way into your diet.
Culinary Uses of Feta Cheese
Feta cheese is delicious enough to be consumed on its own. But this cheese is so versatile that it can be used in many ways other than eating it alone. The easiest way you can include feta cheese in your diet is to have it shredded on top of your spaghetti, or in your salad to bring a contrast in taste. Feta cheese also makes a great filling for sandwiches.
Adding feta cheese to omelets can help give it a different kind of flavor. Your omelets don’t have to be boring, spice them up with feta. Feta cheese can be preserved in olive oil, preserving the cheese in olive oil is the best way to extend the shelf life of feta cheese. If you want to enjoy feta cheese in a more flavorful way, the addition of olive oil, herbs, garlic, and tomatoes can bring more flavor to it.
Feta cheese can also be paired with different spices, it goes well with different kinds of pepper, depending on what level of heat is suitable for you. However, a note warning; if you are cooking for a pregnant woman, it is not advisable to use feta cheese as it may contain bacteria that is harmful to her unborn child.
How to Make Feta Cheese? Where to Procure It?
Feta cheese has its origins in Greece. It was made with sheep’s milk; which contains more fat than cow’s milk. For this reason, goat milk has been introduced to the production of feta cheese with the goat milk taking no more than 30 percent. In Greece, making feta cheese starts with the addition of rennet and casein to raw or pasteurized sheep’s milk or goat milk, or a blend of the two.
When the milk thickens, the curd is separated, drained of excess whey, and pressed into molds. The cheesemakers will then cut the feta into smaller blocks; this might be the reason why it is called feta, which means “sliced” in Greek. These smaller blocks of feta are salted and dried for two days before they are submerged in brine where they are left to age for a period that could span from one week to months.
It is hard to find real feta cheese outside Greece, due to how much the Greeks love and hoard the cheese. But the restrictions on unpasteurized milk have also inhibited how much cheese gets into the United States. Feta cheese made with cow’s milk is available in the US, but the difference in quality is very clear. If you manage to get your hands on the traditional feta cheese, it could be quite pricey, but worth it.
What Cheese is Similar to Feta Cheese?
Traditional feta cheese can be very hard to procure, it is also expensive if you manage to get some. Other kinds of cheeses can be used in place of feta cheese, cheeses like Cotija, Cottage cheese, Queso Fresco, Ricotta, Goat cheese, and Roquefort.
Facts You Don’t Know About Feta Cheese
- Good quality feta cheese is usually aged in brine for no less than twelve months.
- Feta cheese is a P.D.O. Short form for Protected Designation of Origin Product; which means that only feta made in some specific areas of Greece with a specific method can be named “Feta”. So if you have feta made with cow’s milk, or made in the US, that is not “feta”.