A Greek Specialty
Feta cheese is a Greek specialty and its origin goes back a long way in history, it is considered to be one of the oldest cheeses in the world.
The earliest record of feta cheese dates back to the Byzantine Empire. It has been associated closely with Crete, located in present day Greece. An Italian traveler to the city of Candia makes express mention of the curing processes in brine cellars in his writings, dated 1494.
The word "feta" has an interesting genealogy. It comes from the Italian word fetta (meaning slice). Fetta, in turn, is of Latin origin from offa (meaning bite or morsel). It first appeared in Greek language in the 17th century, possibly referring to the process of serving the cheese by cutting it in thin slices. Many, however, attribute a Classical Greek origin to feta cheese. According to myth, the Cyclops Polyfimos was the first to have prepared it. In the museum of Delphi, 6th century BC artifacts also make references to the process of feta cheese-making.
Traditionally Made with Sheep's Milk
Feta cheese in 2005 secured a protected designation of origin in the European Union, and is defined as having a minimum of 70% sheep's milk, with the rest being goat's milk. Greece had to fight a protracted legal battle to secure the same, as a variety of pasteurized cow's milk cheese was in circulation in Denmark under the same name.
Varieties to the Greek feta cheese are to be found in many of the Balkan countries as well as the Mediterranean region.
Feta is an aged brine curd cheese, which is usually made from ewe's or goat's milk. Usually formed in square-shaped blocks, it is known to have a somewhat grainy consistency. However, in today's world there is an abundance of "Feta Style" cheese made with cow milk. Feta is usually white in color, with a tangy and salty flavor and a hardness that can range from soft to semi-hard.