Feta Cheese Making Recipe (Bulgarian) Instructions
A Recipe for Bulgarian Feta (White Brined Cheese)
The recipe below is for a white brined cheese made from cows milk "in the style of" what is produced in Bulgaria. Bulgarian style Feta if you will.
Acidify & Heat Milk
Begin by heating the milk to 86-88°F (30-31°C). Best to do this by placing the milk in a pot or sink of very warm water. If you do this in a pot on the stove make sure you heat the milk slowly and stir it well as it heats
Once the milk is at the proper temperature add 1 packet Buttermilk (C21) and 3.5-4 oz prepared Bulgarian Yogurt (Y1).
To prevent the powder from caking and sinking in clumps sprinkle the powder over the surface of the milk and then allow about 2 minutes for the powder to re-hydrate before stirring it in.
Next, cover the pot and while keeping it at the above temperature allow it to sit quietly for 30-40 minutes to allow the bacteria to begin working. This is a shorter time than the process for Greek Feta because we are looking for a little less acid when the curds are molded later. More time = More Acid. This will show later as a difference in texture in the ripened cheese.
Coagulate with Rennet
Then add about 1/4 tsp or 1.25 ml of single strength liquid rennet.
The milk now needs to sit quiet for 60 minutes while the culture works and the rennet coagulates the curd . This is longer than the Greek Feta and functionally will result in more moisture and a creamier cheese.
The thermal mass of this milk should keep it warm during this period. It is OK if the temp drops a few degrees during this time.
During this time sanitize prepare your colander or draining tray and draining cloth (butter muslin).
Cut Curd & Release Whey
Once a firm curd has formed the cutting begins as a very minimal release of whey before transferring to the molds.
The cut will be a series of vertical cuts made about 2-3 inches apart and again at right angles. Leaving a checkerboard pattern as shown in the photos. Then allow the curd to sit quietly for about 10-15 minutes while a small amount of whey is released and rises to the surface.
There will be no stirring or cooking of the curds. This will preserve the moisture and allow for a slow steady acid production with the final acid at molding much less than in the Greek Feta.
Separate Curds & Whey
The curds can now be transferred by using the ladle and making about 1/2-3/4 inch cuts across the previous cuts .
The larger these pieces the moister the final cheese.
Yes, you can customize this to suit your own preference but try to stay close to these guidelines for the first batch).
The whey should be allowed to drain well as you do this and should be quite sweet and suitable for ricotta if you use it within a few hours (bacteria is still working and eventually will produce enough acid to make good ricotta unlikely).
The following is actually the predraining of the curds and not the final form so do not worry about shape here. Once all of the curds have been transferred for draining the cloth should be folded over the curd mass and a weight of about 4 lbs (1/2 gallon of warm water works well for this) placed on top to encourage whey to run off.
The whey should be running off as a steady light stream for about the first hour.
Separate Curds & Whey (cont.)
Allow this to drain for 1-1.5 hrs, then open the cloth , cut or break the curds up into 2-3" pieces and draw the cloth together forming a knotting with one of the cloth ends as shown below. This is very similar to what has been done for hundreds of years and is still done today, shown in the photo above.
Allow this to rest for another 1-1.5 hours, then repeat the breaking or cutting and retie the curd pack. Make sure the cloth is brought up snug before retieing. Then flip the curd over onto its knot for another 1-2 hrs depending on final moisture. Weight the curd mass the same way as before.
Form the Cheese
At about 4-5.5 hours the curds should be ready to be broken again and placed in the draining baskets as seen below. The time will depend on the milk you are using and the level of moisture you want in your final cheese. Longer draining under the light weight will create a drier cheese.
You can now transfer the pieces to the basket mold. Use a firm hand pressure to consolidate the curds as you go but do not break them too much. They will eventually consolidate under a little weight in the forms as they continue producing acid and releasing more whey
This needs to be kept warm (70-80°F) to make for happy cultures as they continue to convert lactose to lactic acid, release more whey, and cause the curds to consolidate into a firm cheese. About 1.5-2 lbs of weight will help consolidation or if making a larger batches stacking the cheese on one another is sufficient.
At about 8-10 hours from the start of cheese making the weight can be removed and allowed to cool slowly overnight as the final acid is produced. The next morning the whey from the cheese should taste somewhat sharp or acidic or if you have a pH meter the cheese would read 4.8-4.9. A true Greek Feta would be 4.6-4.8 at this point.
The Cheese is now ready to be cut into smaller blocks for aging.
Now ready for salting and maturation. The final yield from 1 gallon of milk will be about 1.25-1.5 lbs of cheese. I prefer to dry salt this cheese over 2-3 days using 5% by weight of cheese to salt. 1.25lbs= 20 oz. -- 5% of that is 1oz. of salt.
Note: That 5% salt will eventually be about 3-3.5% in the finished cheese because it will pull more moisture from the cheese and run off as brine.(the weight shown on scale in photo was for a larger batch than 1 gal)
I then measure this out, layout the cut pieces of curd on a draining pan and sprinkle about 1/4-1/3 of the salt evenly over all surfaces. Over the next 2 days, apply the rest turning the cheese to a new surface each time.
The salting should take place at about 52-54°F (same as brining) and about 70-75% humidity.
Once the salting is complete, the cheese needs to rest for another 4 days while the salt is absorbed and the initial maturing begins. This should be done in same room as dry salting.
The changes that take place to the cheese during this time will help the cheese remain firm during the light brine aging phase.
Brine Storage for Feta
Finally prepare a storage salt brine of 6-8% (6-8 oz. of salt in 3 quarts of water will fill a 1 gallon jar to hold this batch), place Feta into a large container with lid and fill with the brine. Make sure the container has minimal head-space to avoid mold development. The Cheese can be aged in this brine for just a few weeks or up to a year or more at 45-55°F. Younger cheese will be milder in flavor.
This tends to be a high salt cheese and if the salt is too high for your taste simply soak for several hours (up to a day) in milk before using.
Add sufficient brine to cover the cheese, and ripen at 48-50°F for up to 30 days. Subsequently store at 46-42°F until consumed.
Commercially they are packed in tins, filled with brine and sealed for maturation.