Feta Cheese

If you aren’t already adding feta cheese to your salad and pizza topping offerings, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to expand and upscale your menu.

The classic Greek curd cheese, with its distinct flavor and rich tradition, continues to be a favorite among restaurant-goers.  It is believed that the sheep’s milk cheese that Polyphemus the Cyclops made in his caves in Homer’s The Odysseywas an early form of feta; and shepherds in the Greek mountains still make it from the unpasteurized milk of free-range sheep and goats.  Authentic Greek feta – as designated by the country’s flag on the label – is made in Greece from the milk of sheep or goats that have been raised on natural feed and has a splendid pure white color without the use of artificial whitening agents.

Today, most of the feta produced outside of Greece is made from pasteurized cow’s milk, or from cow and goat’s milk combined, and required artificial whitening to keep it from yellowing over time.  The cheese is salted and cured in a brine solution for a few weeks to several months, which gives it its sharp salty flavor, then formed into square cakes or loaves, ranging  from soft to semi-hard.

Firm, but crumbly, feta has a lower fat content compared to other white cheeses, averaging about 45%.  Some people are put off by the strong salt content, and feta can be soaked in fresh cold water or milk for a few minutes to make it less salty.

Feta cheese can be added to pizzas and is especially tasty when combined with spinach and tomato slices.  Another great combination is cooked shrimp and minced garlic over mozzarella cheese, topped with feta, sliced olives, green onions and rosemary.  This one can also be cut into wedges for a great appetizer.

Feta is also delicious crumbled over salads.  Try adding it to your regular spinach salad, perhaps with some red onions and chopped black olives.  Or for something really different, combine spinach with sliced strawberries, sprinkle with crumbled feta and dress with vinaigrette.  Feta is also widely used as a dessert cheese.

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