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Feta

Overview

Feta cheese is a salty, pickled cheese that has traditionally been made from sheep’s or goat’s milk but is now commonly made from cow’s milk.  Manufacture of feta from cow’s milk involves the use of rennet and acid to form a curd.  In the first step of the process, the milk used is first adjusted to 5% fat content by the addition of an appropriate amount of cream and then pasteurized.  Starter culture and lipolytic enzymes (breakdown fat and help develop flavour) are added.  Once the appropriate acidity is reached, rennet is added and a curd is formed.  The curds are cut and the whey is drained off.  Note that the curds are not cooked, but allowed to mat.  The matted curds are then cubed and sealed under a salt brine.  The cheese is then allowed to ripen for 2 to 3 months.  Ripening under brine gives the cheese a characteristic flavour and texture.  

Ultrafiltration methods have also been developed for the production of feta cheese.  Basically the cheesemilk is concentrated by ultrafiltration prior to the addition of starter, rennet and lipase.  A heat treatment of 80°C is applied to the concentrated milk to denature whey proteins and discourage their solubilization in the brine.  By incorporating the whey proteins, ultrafiltration methods give a better yield of feta cheese compared to the traditional method.

A typical serving (55g) of feta cheese is an excellent source of riboflavin and vitamin B12, a good source of calcium, phosphorus and zinc and a source of protein, thiamin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin A and folate.


Features

Feta cheese can be eaten on its own but has traditionally been used in Greek or Mediterranean dishes/products.  Today feta cheese is enjoying increased popularity in a wide range of applications.  Feta cheese is typically found in blocks or in chunks.  The cheese has a white colour and a salty, pickled flavour arising from the brine processing.  Feta cheese melts well when heated. 


Composition

The maximum allowable moisture content for feta cheese according to Canadian law is 55%.  The minimum level of fat is 22%.  

Typical composition of feta cheese

Moisture

 55%

Protein

 14%

Fat

 22%

Carbohydrate

 4%

Ash

 5%



Lipid profile of feta cheese (g/100g of cheese)

Saturated fatty acids

14.9

Monounsaturated fatty acids

4.6

Polyunsaturated fatty acids

0.6

Cholesterol

0.089



Vitamin and Mineral content of feta cheese (mg/100 g)

Sodium

1116

Potassium

62

Calcium

493

Phosphorus

337

Magnesium

19

Zinc

2.88

Iron

0.65

Copper

0.032

Manganese

0.028

Selenium

0.015

Vitamin A

0.125

Thiamin

0.154

Riboflavin

0.844

Niacin

0.991

Vitamin B6

0.424

Folate

0.032

Vitamin B12

0.0017

Pantothenic Acid

0.967

Vitamin C

0

Vitamin E

0.03


Cheese is of high nutritional value due to its high concentration of proteins.  Casein contains various levels of all the essential amino acids, although it is relatively low in sulfur containing amino acids.  Feta cheese made by the ultrafiltration method would have a slightly higher protein quality than traditionally made feta because the ultrafiltration process retains some of the sulfur rich whey proteins.

In terms of microbiological standards, all cheeses made from pasteurized milk must contain fewer than 100 Escherichia coli per gram and fewer than 100 Staphylococcus aureus per gram.  


Application Based on End Use

  • The flavour and texture of feta cheese will enhance salads, Greek salad being the most famous example.
  • The flavour and texture of feta cheese goes well with eggs in dishes such as quiches, omelets or frittatas.
  • Feta cheese can be blended into dips and spreads to provide flavour and viscosity.
  • Feta cheese can be crumbled into dips and spread to provide flavour and visual appeal.
  • Feta cheese can be used as a pizza topping given its flavour and good melting ability.
  • The flavour of feta cheese can be used to complement seafood and poultry in baked dishes.
  • Feta and spinach make an excellent flavour combination as a filling in baked goods.
  • Feta cheese can be melted on top of soups, stews and sauces or baked potatoes to provide an attractive topping with a distinct flavour.
  • Feta cheese can be blended into rice and pasta dishes to provide flavour.


Functional Properties

  • Feta cheese has a strong, salty flavour that compliments many other ingredients.  The strong flavour of feta arises from the presence of short chain free fatty acids and peptides formed by the action of lipolytic and proteolytic enzymes respectively.  The salty flavour results from aging the cheese in a salt brine.

  • Melted feta cheese on the surface of a product improves its sensory appeal.  Feta can undergo some browning when cooked.

  • Feta cheese can be blended into dips and sauces to provide viscosity.

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