It is said that the history of cheese-making is as old as humanity. Feta, known as the crumbly, creamy, and salty Grecian cheese dates back to Ancient Greece. The earliest records of cheese-making date back to Homer‘s ‘Odyssey’ in the eighth century. According to the myth, Cyclops Polyphemus, used to transport the milk from his sheep in skin bags, when one day, he realized that the milk had curdled and taken solid form – and actually tasted good. While that myth is impossible to verify, bibliographic and scientific references state the production of feta has been around since ancient times.
Feta cheese is first mentioned during Byzantine times and was called ‘prosphatos’ which translates to ‘recent or fresh’. It wasn’t until the 17th century that Greeks started using the name ‘feta’ which literally translates to ‘slice’. Presently, after the milk curdles, it is strained, salted, and then placed in wooden barrels or metallic tins filled with brine, where it matures for two months. During this maturation period, feta acquires its unique aromas and distinctive flavors. Interestingly, feta was originally made from sheep’s milk, but now contains a blend of both sheep’s and goat’s milk. The sheep’s and goat’s where the milk comes from graze freely in specific geographical locations in Greece known for their rich biodiversity and terroir. EU legislation dictates that up to 30% of goat’s milk may be used for a feta to still attain a ‘Protected Designation of Origin’ (P.D.O.) product classification.
Since the early 20th century, feta cheese has established itself as a staple of the Greek diet. Feta cheese is high in nutritional value while relatively low in fat and calories. Moreover, feta plays a key role in the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet incorporates natural foods, such as, vegetables, fruits, olive oil, and fresh feta cheese. This diet is recommended by countless nutritionists promoting good health and longer life expectancy.
At Nerai we incorporate this rich and creamy cheese into a variety of our dishes. Our Spicy Feta dip blends together feta and manouri cheeses, red pepper, aleppo pepper, chili flakes and yogurt into a creamy spread served with warm pita. Our Greek Salad, with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, kalamata olives, fried capers, sea bean, and rye croutons is served over a creamy tomato butter, drizzled with ladolemono and topped with a generous wedge of feta cheese. Our freshly baked Spanakopita featuring feta, manouri, and ricotta cheeses are accompanied by sauteed onions, leeks, spinach and artichoke and served on top of a sumac yogurt. Last, our juicy Filet Mignon is served with beech mushrooms, over a creamy and savory feta mash drizzled with mavrodaphne jus.
Nerai is thrilled to announce that we will be partaking in, for the second year, the Feta Event hosted by the European Union Program for PDO Authentic Feta. The event will be taking place March 8th - March 21st and Nerai will be offering unique dishes that incorporate this delicious cheese into Greek cuisine.