Greek salad is a proper Greek salad only with feta cheese in it. Of course, it has to be Greek feta cheese but here is a catch: there is no other feta cheese but Greek feta cheese.
The Greek Feta Cheese War
Until some years ago, there was an ongoing “cheese war” about the name feta, since some other European countries make similar cheeses, and one of them in particular wanted to keep the commercial name feta for its cheese. Finally, the EU Commission forced peace providing the certification which, in brief, states that only Greeks have right to use “feta” for their cheese. Now, it is basically a brand name. And EU verdict was a fair game since feta has been Greek cheese at least for the last two centuries.
The history of Greek Feta Cheese
It’s a common believe that a cheese, in general, was created by incident when nomadic people somewhere in Asia carried milk in animal skin bags and fermentation did a trick, producing some curdles. Feta was not an incident. First written testimony, by Homer, said that in the mountainous caves in Greece people made cheese from the milk of sheep or goats.
The word “feta” itself found its way into the Greek language only in the 17th century and is mostly borrowed from Italian “fetta”, which means slice and latin “offa” – bite. But the cheese itself goes back to the Byzantine Empire where it was known as “prosphatos”, meaning recent or fresh.
The procedure of making (feta) cheese from sheep milk was known in the Balkans, not only Greece, hundreds and hundreds of years ago. And for a long time it was known only in that region. The goat version is of the recent times but the method is the same. Nowadays, feta, being exclusively Greek product, is known and desired all over the world.
Feta, the princess of cheese
Feta cheese, called by many people “the princess of cheeses” due to the high standards the Greeks use in the making of it. Feta is the most loved and consumed cheese in Greece. The thing is – cows have nothing to do with feta!
This cheese, a product of either sheep milk, or a combination of sheep and not more than 30 percent of goat milk, is always fresh with its acidity preserved due to the wooden barrels full of salty solution (brine) where it’s kept. Using sheep and goat milk is something that makes feta cheese stand alone – cow milk is a different story and can never produce such a white cheese. In addition, sheep and goat milk are very high in protein content.
Feta cheese can be harder or softer in its texture, more or less salty or fatty… One big and important difference in taste is due to the usage of raw or pasteurized milk. The former, still used by shepherds or very small dairy plants, doesn’t allow the long process of ripening since milk is seasonal, and during summer this “raw” feta ripens fast. Taste of the shepherds’ feta is particularly distinctive and all Greek, real fans of feta cheese would tell you not to miss a chance to try it, if you get it – not matter what!
However it comes to our plate, feta cheese is yummy, yummy, yummy, with its distinctive flavor and taste, somewhat milky. It is tangy but well rounded, with a nice linger. Greeks consume the biggest amount of feta cheese in the world – over 12 kg per person annually, as some statistics show. As we already said, feta is what makes Greek salad so Greek, but it is not used only for a salad.
One of favorite Greeks’ dishes is baked feta, a delicious combination of tomato, paprika, onions, parsley and, of course, feta as the main ingredient. Another delicious typical Greek appetizer is feta dipped into olive oil and oregano. And of course – there is a cheese pie made with feta!
Feta cheese can never miss from a typical Greek meal, in whatever form, shape, dish and recipe.