|Country of origin||Greece|
|Source of milk||Sheep (≥70%) and goat per PDO;
similar cheeses may contain cow or buffalo milk
|Pasteurised||Depends on variety|
|Texture||Depends on variety|
|Aging time||min. 3 months|
Feta (Greek: φέτα, féta, "slice") is a brined curd cheese traditionally made across the wider eastern Mediterranean basin the roots of which can be thousand years ago in, particularly identified with 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 phyllo-based dishes spanakopita ("spinach pie") and tyropita ("cheese pie"), or served with some olive oil or olives and sprinkled with aromatic herbs such as oregano. It can also be served cooked or grilled, as part of a sandwich, in omelettes, 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. According to the relevant EU legislation, only those cheeses produced in a traditional way in some areas of Greece (mainland and the island of Lesbos), and made from sheep milk, or from a mixture of sheep and goat's milk (up to 30%) of the same area, may bear the name "feta". However, similar white brined cheeses (often called "white cheese" in various languages) are found in the eastern Mediterranean and around the Black Sea. Similar brined white cheeses produced outside the EU are often made partly or wholly of cow's milk, and they are sometimes called "feta."
Feta is a Greek soft white brined cheese with small or no 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 traditionally categorized into "firm" and "soft" varieties, the former being tangier and considered of higher quality; the latter is so soft as to be almost spreadable, and is mostly used in pies, or where its cheaper price is a factor. When sliced, feta always produces a varying amount of trímma, "crumble", which is also used in pies; trímma is not sale-able and is usually given away for free upon request.
High-quality feta should have a creamy mouth-feel, and aromas of ewe's milk, butter, and yogurt. In the mouth it is tangy, slightly salty, and mildly sour, with a spicy finish that recalls pepper and ginger, as well as a hint of sweetness.
Traditionally (and legally, within the EU), feta is produced using only whole sheep's milk, or a blend of sheep's and goat's milk (with a maximum of 30% goat's milk). The milk may be pasteurised or not; most producers now use pasteurised milk. When the pasteurised milk has cooled to approximately 35°C, rennet is added and the casein is left to coagulate. The compacted curds are then cut up, and placed in a special mould or a cloth bag to allow the whey to drain. After several hours, the curd is firm enough to cut up and salt; salinity will eventually reach approx. 3%, the salted curds are then placed (depending on the producer and the area of Greece) in metal vessels or wooden barrels, and allowed to infuse for several days. After the dry-salting of the cheese is complete, aging or maturation in brine (a 7% salt in water solution) takes several weeks at room temperature and then for at least 2 months in a refrigerated high-humidity environment, and as before, this takes place either in wooden barrels or metal vessels, depending on the producer; however, barrel aging is said to give the cheese a unique flavour and is more traditional. The containers are then shipped to groceries and supermarkets and the cheese is cut and sold directly from the container; alternatively blocks of standardized weight are packaged in sealed plastic cups with some brine. Feta dries relatively quickly even when refrigerated; if stored for longer than a week, it should be kept in brine or in lightly salted milk.
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||1,103 kJ (264 kcal)|
|Vitamin A||422 IU|
|Riboflavin (vit. B2)||0.84 mg (70%)|
|Pantothenic acid (B5)||0.97 mg (19%)|
|Vitamin B6||0.42 mg (32%)|
|Vitamin B12||1.7 μg (71%)|
|Calcium||493 mg (49%)|
|Sodium||1116 mg (74%)|
|Zinc||2.9 mg (31%)|
|Percentages are roughly approximated
using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
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.
The Greek word "feta" comes from the Italian word fetta ("slice"). It was introduced into the Greek language in the 17th century. Opinions vary whether it refers to the method of cutting the cheese in slices to serve on a plate or because of the practice of slicing it to place in barrels.
After a long legal battle with Denmark, which produced a cheese under the same name using chemically blanched cow's milk, the term "feta" has been a protected designation of origin (PDO) since July 2002, which limits the term within the European Union to feta made exclusively of sheep's/goat's milk in Greece. According to the Commission, the biodiversity of the land coupled with the special breeds of sheep and goats used for milk is what gives feta cheese a specific aroma and flavor.
When needed to describe an imitation feta, names such as "salad cheese" and "Greek-style cheese" are used. The European Commission gave other nations five years to find a new name for their "feta" cheese, or to stop production. Because of the decision by the European Union, Danish dairy company Arla Foods changed the name of their product to apetina.
Similar cheeses around the world
Similar cheeses can be found in:
- Albania (djath i bardhë or djath i Gjirokastrës)
- Azerbaijan (pendir, lit. "cheese")
- Bulgaria (бяло сирене, bjalo sirene, lit. white cheese)
- Denmark (salatost, salad cheese)
- Egypt (domiati)
- Sudan (gibna beyda)
- Finland (salaattijuusto, salad cheese)
- Germany (Schafskäse, SalatKäse)
- Georgia (ყველი, kveli, lit. cheese)
- Iran (panir lighvan)
- Israel (gvina bulgarit, lit. Bulgarian cheese)
- Italy (casu 'e fitta Sardinia)
- Lebanon (gibneh bulgharieh, lit. Bulgarian cheese)
- Macedonia (бело сирење, belo sirenje, lit. white cheese)
- Poland (bryndza)
- Romania (brânză telemea)
- Russia (брынза, brynza)
- Serbia (сир,брнза sir)
- Turkey (beyaz peynir, lit. white cheese)
- Ukraine (бринза, brynza)
- Ellen Gooch, "Truth, Lies, and Feta: The Cheese that Launched a (Trade) War", Epikouria Magazine, Spring/Summer 2006
- "Description of Feta". Fetamania. Retrieved 23 June 2010.
- "The World Encyclopedia of Cheese" by Juliet Harbutt, ISBN 0754809927 (Lorenz Books), 2006
- FetaMania.gr Production of feta information
- "Cheeses of the World" by Roland Barthélemy and Arnaud Sperat-Czar, ISBN 184430115X (Hachette Illustrated), 2001
- Odysea Feta Production Data(accessed 29/12/2012)
- Andrew Dalby, Siren feasts: A history of food and gastronomy in Greece, Routledge, 1996, p. 190
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary s.v. feta
- Γ. Μπαμπινιώτης (Babiniotis), Λεξικό της Νέας Ελληνικής Γλώσσας, Athens, 1998
- The Feta Legend drawing to a close, Press release by the Danish Dairy Board 4th March 2005  Accessed 12 December 2006
- Feta battle won, but terms must be obeyed, Kathimerini newspaper archived article 16 Oct 2002  Accessed 12 December 2006.
- Protected Designation of Origin entry on the European Commission website. 
- Gooch, Ellen, "Truth, Lies, and Feta", Epikouria Magazine, Spring/Summer 2006
- Apetina skal markedsføres som feta-mærke
- Dalby, Andrew (1997). Siren feasts: a history of food and gastronomy in Greece. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-11620-1. OCLC 150826555.
- Polychroniadou-Alichanidou, A. (2004). "Traditional Greek Feta". Handbook of Food and Beverage Fermentation Technology. doi:10.1201/9780203913550.ch13. ISBN 978-0-8247-4780-0.
- Feta registered as Protected Designation of Origin
- Fetamania - Feta's history, production and conservation methods, and recipes
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