Grown & Gathered's Feta Cheese Recipe

Matt and Lentil Purbrick share their method for making feta cheese from their new recipe book Grown & Gathered

If you have aspirations towards a self-sustainable lifestyle, have a look at Grown & Gathered (MacMillan, $49,99) from Matt and Lentil Purbrick — a comprehensive and well-photographed guide on how to grow, gather, nurture and cook your own food. The young Australian couple have split their debut book into several parts, from practical advice on growing, foraging and hunting for food, to how to make your own wine and how to preserve and ferment your own fruit and veges. There are also more than 100 wholefood recipes; we’d be keen to try the baked polenta crisps or the sweet potato and almond breakfast bread.

Makes 250-300g, takes 30 minutes, plus 24 hours sitting and pressing.

This is a mild feta, crumbly but still creamy. We have tried to make this recipe as simple and as foolproof as possible. Sometimes cheese recipes can look so overwhelming and complicated that you are too paralysed to even start. This is our method of making feta, which cuts out some of the standard steps and makes it easy to fit into your daily routine. Feta is a great way to use up excess milk and preserve it for 3-6 months.

2 litres milk (cow’s, goat’s or sheep’s)
1 heaped tablespoon natural yoghurt (it must have live cultures)
90ml unchlorinated water (essential to properly preserve the feta)
¼ tsp liquid vegetable rennet (chymosin)
¼ tsp unrefined salt

Brine (10%)
600ml unchlorinated water (essential to properly preserve the feta)
60g unrefined salt

Special equipment
Cheesecloth or muslin cloth
Cheese mould (this has to have holes in it)

Day 1: If you have your own cow, the milk will be the ideal temperature straight from the udder, but if you don’t have fresh milk, gently heat your refrigerated milk to 38-40C in a large saucepan, stirring constantly so it doesn’t burn. Add the yoghurt and mix well. Set aside for an hour. Place the water and rennet in a small bowl and mix well. Stir the milk vigorously and slowly add the rennet mixture. Stop stirring as soon as it has all been added. Cover the mixture and set aside somewhere where it won’t be touched, but don’t refrigerate. Don’t move or stir the mixture at all — this is essential. Leave untouched overnight or for 8-12 hours.

Day 2: In the morning, press the top of the curds with your finger — you should see a clean break where the curds break apart with ‘sharp’ edges and the whey will start to fill the break. Using a long knife, deep enough to reach the bottom of the pan, cut the curds vertically in lines 1cm apart, then turn the pot 90C and repeat to make a checkerboard pattern. Cut the curds at a 45-degree angle to the left and finally at a 45-degree angle to the right — we’re aiming for about centimetre cube-ish sized pieces (they don’t have to be perfect, just as even as possible). Make yourself a coffee and leave the feta to sit for five minutes.

Making your own cheese can fit into your daily routine, say Matt and Lentil Purbrick. Picture / Supplied

With a slotted spoon, gently lift the curds from the bottom of the pot to the top, which helps to evenly release the whey from the set curds. Catch up on some reading and leave the curds to sit for another five minutes, then
gently lift the curds again. Take another five minutes to finish your coffee. When you’re done, pour the curds and whey into the cheesecloth. Tie the cloth up and suspend it over a saucepan or bucket and leave it at room
temperature for four hours. Turn the feta out of the cheesecloth into a bowl and sprinkle over the salt. Mix until well combined. Place the salted curds back into the cheesecloth and sit in the cheese mould. Place a 3-4kg weight on top (a stack of small plates will do) and set aside overnight at room temperature.

Day 3: In the morning, your feta should now be hard and set. Cut into 2-3 cm pieces and place in a large jar. Now make the brine. Vigorously combine the water and salt in a jug and stir until all of the salt has dissolved. Pour the brine into the jar, making sure it covers the feta. Put the lid on and store in the fridge for at least two weeks to cure before eating. This curing period is what will give your feta its distinctive salty sharpness. Store in the fridge for 3-6 months.

You can also preserve the feta in salted whey, but it only lasts up to about a month preserved this way. You can also use vegetable-derived rennet, though it will add a bitterness to the cheese. This is why chymosin-derived vegetarian rennet is a much better option.

Extract published with permission from Grown & Gathered by Matt and Lentil Purbrick, Macmillan, $49.99.

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