Any tourist visiting Greece will almost immediately notice the importance of feta cheese on the table. Greeks eat feta on its own, with watermelon, and every other food imaginable.
French and Greek enjoy the highest per capita cheese consumption in Europe.
Feta is arguably the best-known Greek food abroad and the government won the right to internationally call feta PDO (Protected Designation of Origin).
Even in Greece this white crumbly, “wet” relatively low-fat cheese may be produced in Macedonia Thrace, Tessaly, Central mainland, the Peloponnese and Lesbos Island in the Aegean Sea.
Feta is produced from ewe’s milk, although up 30 per cent goat’s milk may be added pending on availability. Cow’s milk must never be used.
There are many other countries i.e Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Denmark, France, and Canada that produce feta, but none can rival the taste, texture, and complexity of a well-made Greek feta.
By its very nature this cheese can be soft, or semi-hard, salty or mild, or very mild.
The best comes from dairies specializing in feta exclusively.
First, the milk is settled in large vats, and then renneted, cut, heated, salted and scooped into perforated mild for drainage. The following day the block is sprinkled with sea salt and stacked in 20 litre tins or wooden barrels.
Containers are topped with whey and brine, sealed and stored for a minimum of 60 days before shipping. Some are aged longer for extra flavour.
Dodoni feta has a lemony flavour and rich texture; barrel aged versions possess more complex flavours and firmer textures than those regular.
produced in other countries often contains cow’s milk and lack the distinct flavour of those from Greece.
Taste of food always reflects the environment in which it grows and Greece has the right geography to do justice to the reputation of this unique cheese. Greeks eat it in their appetizers, sprinkle it on their pastas an incorporate it in their salads, or as an appetizer in itself with crusty bread, as a snack, or even with fruit.
In Toronto there is no shortage of authentic feta and imitations.
The best and most varied spreads of feta can be found in Greek or Armenian grocery stores with a high turnover.
Here are some of the recommended stores – Pasquale Brothers, Arz Foods on Lawrence east, Greek grocery stores on the Danforth, Ararat on Avenue Road, Alex Farms at the St. Lawrence Market on Front Street.
Always store feta in a brine and refrigerate it. Before using, soak it in plain water to leach the salt.