The Untold Truth Of Feta Cheese

Feta is a very popular cheese and is often found in Cobb salads, egg dishes, even grilled or with fruit. It's a brined, soft white cheese that is from Greece.

The cheese is a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product, which means that only cheese from Greece, Macedonia, Thrace, Thessaly, the Peloponnese, Lesvos, and Kefalonia can be marketed as "feta." This geographical area is smaller than it sounds. It's similar to the way only sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France can be referred to as Champagne. Similar cheese from other areas is usually referred to as white cheese (via Cheese.com).

Feta cheese is made from sheep and goats milk. The sheep and goats are grass-fed, and that grass in Greece is what gives feta its distinctive taste and characteristics. When made with sheep's milk, feta tastes tangy and sharp. When made with goat's milk, however, feta tastes milder (via Healthline).

It is produced in blocks and has a firm texture. It's creamy in the mouth and can crumble, which is how it's usually served in salads or egg dishes.

The process of making feta

Due to the PDO, feta cannot contain more than 30 percent of goat's milk. The milk can, however, be either pasteurized or raw. With pasteurized milk, lactic acid starter cultures are added to the process in order to separate the whey and curds. Rennet (warning: this is where it starts sounding less than appetizing), which is curdled milk from the stomach of an unweaned calf, is added. This milk contains rennin, which is an enzyme that causes milk to curdle. The purpose of the rennet is to cause casein, a protein in the cheese, to set.

The next step in the process involves draining the whey and putting the curd in molds for a period of 24 hours to shape the curd. After it firms, it is cut into cubes, which are then salted. The cubes are then placed in either wooden barrels or metal containers for up to three days. The blocks of cheese are then put into a salted solution and refrigerated for a period of two months. When the cheese is ready to be sent to markets, it is placed in brine to keep it fresh.

Is feta cheese healthy?

There are multiple types of feta cheese. Bulgarian feta is the saltiest version. It has a firm and creamy texture and goes well with salt, pepper, and olive oil. French feta is mild and creamy. It is also less briny than other types of feta. It's also softer. Greek feta is the most common, and it's briny, tangy, and sharp. It has a fine texture so it crumbles easily (via Bon Appetit).

Feta is a relatively healthy cheese. It is low calorie and low in fat, as well as a good source of calcium and vitamin B. It also contains phosphorus, which, along with the calcium, is good for bone health. There are also gut-healthy bacteria in feta, which helps improve intestinal health and the immune system.

However, health benefits aside, it is still cheese, and has the drawbacks of most cheeses. It has high sodium levels and lactose, so for the lactose intolerant, feta is a particularly bad cheese to consume. Feta made from raw milk also can contain bacteria, such as listeria, which can make you very ill.

Feta makes up 70 percent of the cheese consumed in Greece.