What is Feta Cheese: Nutrition, Taste and Uses
Cheese is one of the oldest forms of preserving milk and it has been a global favorite for a very long time. Cuisines all over the world have managed to manipulate cheese in some way or other to enhance the taste of their dishes.
If you are new to the cheese world or you consider yourself to be a cheese enthusiast, you should certainly know about feta cheese. It’s one of the most ancient forms of traditional cheese and has a very rich flavor.
The purpose of this article is to create a comprehensive guide on feta cheese so you know the history and the making process of it. Also, you’ll know intricate details about it and how to use feta in different dishes.
Cheese goes as back as humanity. Domestic animals and their milk have been an integral part of survival. In the modern world, people know feta cheese as a specialized cheese from Greece that utilizes goat and sheep milk.
Traditional feta is entirely made from sheep milk. In 2002, the European Union honored feta cheese with Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). It’s a very high level of quality standard for food products that protects the tradition and integrity of the marketplace.
With the PDO certification, it’s mandatory for ‘Feta’ labeled Greek cheese to meet some quality requirements before they can be sold in the EU. For feta cheese, it requires more or equal to 70% sheep milk and up to 30% goat milk. The cheese itself can come from a variety of area located in Greece. The most common regions are Central Greece, Macedonia, Thrace, Epirus, Peloponnese, and Cephalonia.
The reason why ‘feta’ is exclusive to Greece is the diet of the sheep. For geographical reasons, livestock doesn’t get the same amount of nutrition and diet all over the world. Greece has been the pinnacle of sheep milk. Hench, the best and only feta cheese comes from Greece.
Have you ever wondered what does feta cheese taste like? If you haven’t, you can’t really call yourself a cheese lover. Feta cheese is not exactly available everywhere so it’s very normal for people to ask the question.
Feta is a brined cheese that is very soft. It has a salty and tangy flavor. You can call it a rich cheese flavor. There is no ‘real’ taste standard for feta cheese.
To answer the question of what does feta cheese taste like, we have to say it depends on your choice. The more the cheese is aged, the more it hardens. The taste also becomes more peppery with time.
Another factor is the state of the milk used in the process. If it’s made from sheep milk, the flavor will be very sharp. If you don’t like sharp cheese flavors, you can go for milder ones. They are often diluted with goat milk. Feta cheese has an interesting texture. While it produced as a block, it looks hard and feels firm when you touch it.
But once you cut it, the texture softens. It becomes mushy and can collapse if you touch it. It feels really creamy inside the mouth. It melts immediately while releasing the strong flavors of this ancient Greek cheese.
How It’s Made
The making process of feta cheese is not rocket science. But there is one rule you cannot violate. You cannot use goal milk more than 30% in quantity. The milk can either be raw or pasteurized before it’s made into cheese.
If the milk is pasteurized, the lactic acid starters are added to work as a culture. It separates the whey from the curd. The main ingredient in the curd is casein protein. To set the casein, an ingredient called rennet is added.
After the process is done, the curd is left to drain for 24 hours. The curd is usually placed into block shape molds for further processing. Once the 24 hours have passed and the curd is firm, it is cut into pieces to be salted. The salting process creates the salty flavor that a lot of people crave.
The salted cheese is then placed into wooden barrels for aging. After a certain amount of time the cheese is placed in a salted solution (the brine) and refrigerated. The brine is added to preserve the texture and freshness for a long time.
Other than thinking about what does feta cheese taste like, you should also ask how good this Greek cheese is for your health. Let’s look for answers.
Feta cheese not only tastes good, but it also has some significant food value as well. The nutrition has made it a good choice for people who like to get some lean protein with their meal. Let’s take a look at the food value of this traditional Greek cheese.
One ounce of feta cheese provides:
- 75 calories
- 6 grams of fat
- 4 grams of protein
- 1 grams of carbohydrate
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin B6
All of these ingredients are very important for basic nutrition and feta cheese can deliver them very well. Feta cheese is significantly lower in fat and calories than other aged cheese like parmesan or cheddar.
Cheese is a major ingredient of the western diet and for valid reasons. Cheese is very rich in calcium as it’s directly extracted from milk. Feta cheese is no different. The calcium, protein, and phosphorus are great for bone health which means consuming feta cheese can improve your bones.
Sheep milk fundamentally contains more calcium and phosphorus than cow milk. So, feta cheese offers more nutrition in the same amount of serving.
Again, cheese is very rich in probiotics. Probiotics are very important to main a healthy condition of the guts. The lactobacillus Plantarum is a really helpful bacteria found in this Greek cheese. It also provides anti-inflammatory benefits as the bacteria increase the production of compounds inside the guts.
If you think feta cheese is only good for Greek salads, you are wrong. Greeks are the highest consumers of cheese in the world and over half of their consumed cheese is feta. They can’t possibly eat all this feta as salads, can they?
Feta has such a nice flavor that you can use it in a wide variety of dishes. For example, you can sprinkle feta cheese over some potatoes. Mash potato, potato salad or baked potato, everything is good with feta cheese.
Pizza is a very obvious use of feta cheese. Other than using different types of cheese, you can just use a decent amount of feta cheese to give your taste buds a different dimension.
Feta cheese can pair with fruits as well. They create a very nice and unique texture if you use feta cheese over some cantaloupe or watermelon.
Every Italian dish you can think of goes perfectly with feta cheese. Pasta is a prime example of feta cheese implementation. It will give even the simplest form of pasta a different level of texture and taste.
In other words, feta cheese basically goes with any dish you can think of. From breakfast to brunch, from lunch to dinner, you can easily use some feta cheese in one dish or another. If you are an egg enthusiast, you can try feta cheese with Greek-style scrambled eggs or simply sprinkle some over your regular omelet.
From you we’ve learned today, it’s obvious that feta holds a very high standard in the world of cheese. People all over the world like the Greek cheese. But there are a lot of knockoffs as well. Be careful what you are buying and do some research about the product to check if it’s actual ‘feta’ form Greece.
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