The first mention in the historical record of cheese aged in brine, known today as “feta”, is in Homer’s Odyssey. In one of their first adventures after sacking Troy, Odysseus and his men find themselves on the island home of Polyphemus, the cyclops son of Poseidon. The Mycenaean travelers notice that they aren’t in some typical monster’s lair. Rather, it’s clear the cyclops is a dairy farmer and cheesemonger, and lives in a full blown cheese cave.
“We entered the cave, but he wasn’t there, only his plump sheep grazed in the meadow. The woven baskets were full of cheese, the folds were full of sheep and goats and all his pots, tubs and churns where he drew the milk, were full of whey. When half of the snow-white milk curdled he collected it put it in the woven baskets and kept the other half in a tub to drink for his supper.”
So while the threat of being devoured remained a threat for Odysseus and his men, Polyphemus is at least civilized enough to pair human flesh with finely brined feta cheese.
1 qt milk (goat or cow works too) 4 tbsp. vinegar
2 tsp. salt
-Put the milk on a large pot and heat over medium high heat to 180 fahrenheit (simmering but not quite boiling), stirring constantly to prevent scalding. Switch to a spoon and stir in the vinegar. When you’ve stirred enough to fully mix the vinegar, add the salt and turn off the heat . -Let stand for 15 minutes, or until curds have separated and whey is almost clear. Place two layers of cheesecloth in a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl, and ladle in the curds. —Gently lift the ends of the cheese cloth and the lump of curds. Tie it to your faucet, or two a spoon hanging over a bowl. Let hang for 1 hour, unwrap and turn out into a bowl.
You knew this was coming. After butter and yogurt, here is Anthrochef’s first of many future cheese recipes.
It’s also the simplest, easiest, and quickest way to practice this ancient phenomena of separating moisture from milk fat. Half an hour of work and an hour of waiting time and you can have homemade goat cheese. This is not Chevre. This is a mild and crumbly cheese, comparable to Indian Paneer, making it very versatile in application but not with a lot of personality of its own. Salt is very important to not end up with a bland product.
The only ingredients are milk, vinegar, and salt. And look! I found some fresh, unpasteurized goat’s milk!