The following recipe is the one I used this week. It morphs slightly over time, depending on available ingredients and time of the year. Milk products like goat milk are heavily dependent on what the goats eat, and this changes over the year, so each product you make will be unique.
1-3 Gallons of Goat Milk. The recipe will be for 1 gallon of goat milk, but you can scale it up to the size of your largest pot. In a perfect world the goat milk would be farm fresh; in the real world make sure it’s minimally pasturized. NEVER use ULTRA PASTEURIZED milk, as you will not make a useable product (ultra pasteurization kills the flora that makes good cheese). Search your health food stores, or Whole Foods; I buy my goat milk at Trader Joe’s.
Microbial Rennet – I use Microbial rennet because it’s a compromise between non-kosher regular rennet made with cow stomach enzymes, and vegetarian rennet which has a reputation of bittering over time. Microbial rennet is OK with Conservative Jews for kashrut.
Kosher Salt – get a big box of kosher (coarse) salt.
Large milk pot – I have a 5 gallon aluminum pot I use for cheese making.
Colander and pot – I use a colander inside a pot to capture whey.
1/2- 1 gallon wide neck containers for whey. I use 1/2 gallon mason jars.
Good cheese cloths – Bought at the hardware store, mine are 2-3 feet square. As long as I wash them thoroughly right after using them, the cloths last for many uses.
Disposable cheese cloth – small amounts of sheer cheese cloth to secure your cheese in a cheese press, like sheer cheese cloth cut in 2 one foot squares.
Cheese Press – Two approaches: create a makeshift cheese press, or own a real cheese press. I have a bad cheese press, it has neither a scale, nor is it stiff enough under pressure, but it works….If I were buying a new cheese press today, I would get a New England Cheese Making Supply’s cheese press, or one from The Cheesemaker. My cheese press is an older version from The Cheesemaker and it suffers from a weak bottom that bends under pressure (the upgrade was very costly so I didn’t get it).
A good liquid thermometer – you need to get to 88°F. The thermometer should be able to clip to the pot.
A timer – you’ll need to time various steps accurately.
A piece of twine 8 inches long, tied in a very secure loop.
Before we get started, we need to make sure everything is clean and sanitary. The worst thing you can do is get weird floaty things in the milk which you encapsulate into cheese and serve to people. Yuck. Clean the counters near the stove where you’ll be working. I like to use a clean metal spoon that I place on a white spoon holder so I can make sure that no crumbs, hair etc. enter the cheese.
This recipe is for 1 gallon of milk. Scale everything to the amounts you need:
Place the pot on the stove and add all the goat milk. Once the milk is in, clip the thermometer on the pot and turn the heat to medium. Stir frequently until milk reaches 88ºF, then turn the heat off.
Wait 60 minutes.
Add ½ teaspoon liquid rennet. Stir in for a few minutes.
Wait 60 minutes.
Wash your hands and test the curd with your finger. You’re trying to ‘hook’ the cheese with your index finger. The result should be a little firmer than store-bought yogurt. If it’s not firm yet, retest every 5 minutes until you think it’s firm enough.
Once the curd is firm, take a long knife and cut the curd straight down into ½ inch strips, then spin the pot 90 degrees and cut the curd crosswise into ½ inch columns. Then cut a few times diagonally.
Wait 5 minutes. Stir VERY SLOWLY for 20 minutes, constantly or frequently. You’ll notice a separation of white curds and yellowish whey. Use the following method to drain the curds and save the whey you’ll need for aging the feta.
Place the colander inside your extra pot in the sink, and drape the cheese cloth over (in) the colander. In small batches, one colander-ful at a time, pour the whey/curd mixture into the cheese cloth. Wait a minute, then lift the colander and place in the sink or another bowl. Pour the whey into jars. Make sure you save at least 1 quart of whey for each gallon of milk (your initial goat milk amount). Cover and refrigerate the jars until needed.
Once all the whey you need is reserved, take the opposing corners of the cheese cloth and tie a knot with the twine loop in the middle. Take the other opposing ends and tie a knot again with the twine loop in the middle. Then tie a second knot and hold up the twine – you should have a secure, dripping ‘bag’ of curds. Hang the twine on a kitchen cabinet knob and let the whey drain into a pot or bowl or sink.
Drain for 2-3 hours until it stops dripping.
To make the brine, measure 20 ounces of the whey you have saved and stir in 5 Tablespoons of kosher salt, for each gallon of initial milk. Make multiple batches if you used more milk. Hold a little unsalted whey in reserve in case you need it later. The acidic components of the whey preserve the structure of the feta and make it so it doesn’t dissolve in the salt while it ages.
Take the curd bag down and clean out the pot. Clean it well. Untie the curd bag and place the lump of curd and anything else you can scape off the cheese cloth into the empty pot. With your CLEAN hands crumble up the cheese. Add 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt. When added to cheese, salt stops the enzymes from further flavoring the cheese.
Set up your cheese press, add some cheese cloth to the bottom and fill the press with the crumpled cheese. Press overnight.
The next day, unload the press onto a clean cutting board and cut the cheese into 1 to 1½ inch cubes, place the cubes in mason jars (I use 1 pint wide mouth jars). Stir the brine and add it to fill the jars.
Refrigerate. You can eat the feta tomorrow or 1 year from now. I like to wait at least a couple of weeks. As the cheese matures it becomes more pungent and tasty.
Variations: Feel free to experiment with enzymes – create different mixtures or use different enzymes!