Greek Feta: Why and How to Buy It

Greek Feta: Why and How to Buy It

Continuing on with last week's theme, this Sunday marks the Cheesefare (Forgiveness Sunday). This Sunday reminds us of our need for God’s forgiveness and guides our hearts, minds, and spiritual efforts on returning to Him in repentance. This upcoming Monday marks the true first day of the Lenten season. As we say goodbye to cheese, and dairy in general, I wanted to briefly touch on a topic which has interested me. Is Greek feta superior to the American made brands, if so, why? Here at Nick's, we are fortunate enough to carry many specialty items which are typically not found at your local Kroger, Food Lion, or even specialty groceries such as Whole Foods and Wegman's. One product which brings customers from all over the region is the Dodoni Feta cheese, which we we offer in 400g, 1 kg, and 2 kg sizes. In today's blog, we will explore the make-up of both Greek and American feta, as well as the buying process (different brands, different types, etc).

The History and Ingredients

Over 6,000 years ago, myth has it that feta cheese was created by Cyclope Polyphemus when noticing that milk from his sheep has curdled and taken a solid form. The word feta itself means slice or slab in Greek. As time progressed, other nearby nations such as Germany, France, and Denmark began to produce feta, though in 2002 the European Union granted name protection rights to Greece, and its "Greek feta". 

Today, there are a plethora of brands which produce feta, albeit in different forms and flavors. The "true" feta is made from sheep's milk, though much of the US-domesticated feta is produced using cow milk. Many from Greece feel as though this feta is not "authentic". Dodoni, which produces their feta in Epirus, Greece, uses a blend of both sheep and cow milk, though notably, all of their milk is from Greece. Sheep's milk tends to produce the sharp, rich flavor that many attribute to feta, while cow's milk offers a milder taste. In addition to regular sheep's milk, the French have their own version of feta, which uses Lacaune sheep's milk and produces a softer, creamier flavor. 

The other key ingredient which gives feta it's flavor is salt. Specifically, the salt and water combination that makes up the brine. The purpose of brine is to keep the cheese from being exposed to air, which would allow the cheese to dry out and taste sour. The brine allows the cheese to stay moist and fresh for up to three months! The salty flavor is one of the more distinct flavors attributed to feta, something that pairs very nicely with other flavors in salads and pastas. 

The Buying Process

As discussed above, if you are searching for true, authentic feta, you may have some trouble finding it in your local grocery store. Look on ingredient labels for sheep's milk, as well as messages such as "produced in Greece" to ensure that you are buying an authentic product. Brands such as Athenos, Greco, Costco, 365 (Whole Foods), and Odyssey all use COW's milk to produce their feta. This is for good reason, as it is much cheaper to produce... though it does not quite give the same flavor. 

Other helpful tips are to look for feta in brine, if it is not in brine, I would not recommend that you purchase it. When buying without brine, you lose a lot of the salty flavor, and the cheese goes bad much quicker. Also, I would advise against buying pre-crumbled or cubed feta for the same reasons, flavor and preservation. 

Concluding Thoughts

At Nick's we offer the Dodoni brand (click here for link), which is probably the closest version to traditional feta in our region. We also sell the Valbreso French Feta (click here for link) if you were looking for the creamier, milder taste. We pride ourselves on offering authentic products from the Mediterranean, and will continue to do so for as long as we are in business.

Thank you for reading along, have a nice weekend.

- Nick's

1 comment

  • Linda Tsironis Caruthers

    I purchased the French feta for the first time last month along with the Dodoni Greek feta brand. Very good. Thank you for offering both.

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