Feta Cheese - the real deal
Feta cheese has been made in the rocky mountains and coastlands of Greece since Homer's Cyclops herded sheep. Although authentic feta cheese is protected by PDO status (protected designation of origin), these rules only apply within the European Union. In the US, for example, an estimated 70 per cent of cheese sold as "feta" is nothing like the real deal. It's produced in Iran, Canada and Israel from cows' milk with none of the traditions or flavour of true feta. It's a bland and creamy, heavily- processed travesty and unsurprisingly lots of people don't like it much.
While true feta cheese is made from a mix of sheep's milk and goats' milk, some non-European food producers still pass off white cheese made from cows' milk as feta. Brands include Arla, Tamar Valley, Nisi Danish and any number of "Greek-style" labelled products. They just aren't feta and taste nothing like the real deal.
Real feta has a unique crumbly texture, a natural saltiness and a complex range of herbal notes that come straight from the sun-baked rocky slopes of Greece. Factory-produced cows' milk feta not only has different origins, it is made using an ultra-filtration method that speeds up the maturation process and increases yield by adding whey to the curd. Traditional Greek-made feta separates curd from whey at the start of the process, discarding the whey. This makes for a more concentrated, firm cheese.
Unfortunately there is no law that insists manufacturers label the production method used to make their cheese. They are not even required to label whether the cheese is from cows' or sheep's milk. Many labels simply say "100% dairy". The only way of ensuring a feta cheese is made in the traditional way is to buy Greek feta, because laws govern the products used, manufacturing process and lack of additives.
True feta is matured, as a wine, and continues to develop and deepen in complexity as it ages. It is a natural product made in an authentic, traditional way that has remained essentially unchanged for thousands of years.
If you want to enjoy authentic Mediterranean feta cheese, insist on the Greek original. Anything else is a fake.