Greek style Cheese: Does this only mean Feta?
When anyone mentions the words ‘Greek’ and ‘cheese’ in the same sentence the first, in fact the only cheese that comes to mind, is Feta, yet Greece produces many other good cheeses.
Perhaps Feta cheese is believed to be ‘the only Greek cheese that counts’, because it is one of the oldest cheeses known to man. In his Odyssey, written around 800 BCE, Homer wrote about carrying milk in an animal skin and this turning solid. It is believed this was the first Feta. A record of a cheese believed to be Feta and stored in brine exists from 1494.
The name Feta comes from the Italian word ‘fetta’ which means a slice and this can be traced back to the 17th century when cheese was sliced to store it in barrels. However, it was also sliced to serve, so this may be the reason behind the name too.
Another reason Feta is synonymous with Greek cheese may be because Greeks eat so much of it. It is reported an average Greek person eats 12 kg of feta cheese every year, and of all the cheese consumed in Greece, Feta makes up 70% of the total. If they think it is so good, who are we to argue!
Feta is the only Greek cheese readily available outside of Greece, (unless you go to specialised shops), and again this contributes to the image of Feta being the only Greek cheese that matteres. A Greek cheese that is popular in its own country is Kasseri, a medium-hard pale yellow cheese made from unpasteurized sheep milk, and maybe it and others will start to appear in shops around the world soon.
Traditionally Feta is a mixture of goat and sheep’s milk with a soft, creamy and salty flavour. The salt comes from being stored in brine for a few months to cure and mature it.
Whatever the reason for seeing Feta as being the only Greek cheese, it is so wonderful and tasty you end up wondering, ‘Who cares’, as you reach for some more.
The height of luxury has to be a Greek salad with Feta and olives, and if you close your eyes maybe you can pretend you are sitting in Greece with the sun shining down.
Feta became a Protected Denomination of Origin food a few years ago, that is why you can find ‘Greek Style Cheese’ for sale. It is not Greek, but similar.