feta: the cyclops cheese

by Lucky Bielka
I am a feta snob. Not all feta is created equal. Along with real Greek feta, our grocery store also sells some strange small pre-cut plastic-tasting squares that are disguised under a feta label. Definitely not the same thing.

The ancient Greeks would agree. Feta can be traced to the Byzantine Empire and specifically Crete 8000 years ago in a written description by Homer in the Odyssey.  Yes, in this case a cyclops (Polyfimos) is described making this cheesy wonder. (source: Somehow it makes me really happy to think of it as cyclops cheese.

Anyway, as for a description, feta is officially based on goat's milk or a combination of goat and sheep's (no more than 30%) milk. While cow versions are available this is pseudo-feta (I am a cheese snob). Real feta ;) matures for a couple of months to get its own fantastic feta-ness and is stored (and distributed) in a brine.

I would provide more information here, but the enthusiasm that is will fill in the gaps with such alacrity I feel that my own description may be inadequate. (The font on this site is insanely small, but the information is all there in it's very own cheese-PR glory.) You can *even* find out how much you have learned with the feta-invaders game which includes some interesting Greek/The Entertainer type of background music.

So, back to the cyclops cheese, feta is white crumbly salty “semi-firm” brined cheese. While I've combined it in quite a few recipes to good effect, to be honest, I personally think that feta at its best is served cold in thin slices next to a cold salad with crispy cucumber, tomato, olives and red onion, otherwise the subtlety of its flavor may be lost. But who can deny its delicious contribution to Spanakopita (spinach and feta wrapped in feather light phyllo dough) or crumbled into scrambled eggs?

Feta isn't exactly diet cheese, but its flavor means that a little goes a long way. That's how I've chosen to look at anyway.

Do you have any favorite feta recipes or feta opinions? (Some people, I understand, just don't like goat- or sheep-milk-based cheese. I understand. I feel the same way about tripe and durian.)


Sylvia said...

Mmm, feta cheese. Locally we have two "greek cheeses" in the shops, one is feta, the other is "white cheese" so I guess they got done by some sort of naming regulation.

I love making Turkish pide - little cheese bread/pie thingies - with feta and chile flakes. Similar to this recipe:


Grumpy but sweet said...

I want to try the recipe! :)