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Feta: Behind-the-Scenes of a Cheesemaking Class

Feta, like a pug puppy or a Reeses peanut butter cup, has always been something dear to my heart. It's reasonably priced. It's tasty in watermelon and basil salads. Roasted and doused with extra virgin olive oil and fresh ground pepper, feta is amazing straight from the oven. Need a little creamy, crumbly or salty boost to a brighten up a grain dish or salad? Feta's ready to rescue. So when 18 Reasons director Michelle and I were vetting cheesemaking classes I'd teach in the winter, and my beloved feta came up, I jumped on the chance to school.

Next Wednesday night, March 2nd, you'll find me at 18 Reasons with brine, olive oil, and feta galore. A couple spots still open for this feta cheesemaking hands-on class. 

What's it like when you're preparing to teach a feta class? Well it's super busy. And you're always full, like your fridge.

Teaching is always the best way to learn more about something you love. When something you love also happens to be cheese, it also means there's a lot of tasting involved. It also means if you're a geek like me who likes to read and study - anyone else have a note card fetish?- and experiment obsessively, your desk, bed, and kitchen are full of cheesemaking books and notes, and your fridge is packed with feta bobbing in brine. 

I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to test recipes I liked, and understood the reasoning behind why certain fetas tasted earthy, and others fresh and sweet so I could make mine exactly the way I wanted it. I wanted mine freshly tangy, creamy yet crumbly, and, salty. Because feta, well, it's salty.

Some books I found helpful for geeking out and recipe creation were:

Kitchen Creamery, Louella Hill

The Art of Natural Cheesemaking: Using Traditional, Non-Industrial Methods and Raw Ingredients to Make the World's Best Cheeses, David Asher

American Farmstead Cheese: The Complete Guide To Making and Selling Artisan Cheeses, Paul Kindstedt

Other things I did was attend classes taught by two of my favorite cheese class teachers, Louella Hill, and Sacha Laurin at the Cheese School of San Francisco to see their methods. And oh, I tasted feta's galore. If you're a reader of my book you may recall that I love Ardith Mae Feta. More than pug puppies. In fact, I'm going to New York next week and one of my planned excursions is acquiring their feta.

The recipe I ended up creating for next week's class was inspired by Ardith Mae's and the delicious fetas of the world, and was a hybrid of recipes I played around with in the first two books. I made kefir for Asher's feta, ended up using extra buttermilk in my recipe instead and pouring the kefir over granola (hungry), and falling in love with a salty, salty feta brine (helpful hint, if a feta's too salty for you, simply soak in cold, fresh water before eating).

I made all cow's milk batches, all goat's milk batches, gave away tons of feta, and ended up with a recipe that I loved, which my Turkish boyfriend said tasted like the "white cheese" of northwestern Turkey (their "feta") and made me smile all night. It almost felt like a Turkish grandmother complimented my briny, briny cheese.

If any of you feel like learning how to make your own feta and are in the bay, hop on over to the class. Spots are filling up quickly.

I'd love to see you there!