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Greek Islands Travel

Fine facts about Feta

Feta cheese board

Feta is the best known of Greek cheeses and considered a healthy option when it comes to choosing cheese.

Feta dominates the Greek cheese market, accounting for 70% of all sales and the name is now protected by EU law.

If it says Greek feta, then it must be made in one of the Greek regions of Macedonia, Thrace, Thessaly, Peloponnese or the Greek island of Lesvos.

Most Feta is made from a mix of goat and sheep milk, is easy to digest and a healthy alternative to cheese made from cow's milk.

Not only is it rich in nutrients it tastes pretty good too, though some don't like the nutty, salty flavour.

The flavour comes from the pickling process with the tangy taste enhanced by the brine solution which helps to preserve it.

Texture depends on age with young cheese more creamy and older having a more crumbly texture.

The firmness, texture and flavour vary with the region of manufacture with Feta from Macedonia and Thrace more mild and creamy while that from Thessaly and Central Greece is stronger and more robust. Feta from the Peloponnese is dry, crumbly and strongly flavoured.

The texture, flavour and smell of Feta depend mostly on the local sheep and goat breeds as well as the crops on which they feed.

The best Feta cheese is aged for four to six weeks and cured in a salty whey and brine. The typical Feta flavour gets sharper and stronger with age. It is creamy white and dotted with small holes.

Barrel-aged Feta is considered the best of all with the cheese aged in huge oak barrels for a medium texture and sweeter taste.

Feta is kept in brine until sold, and packaged feta will usually include some brine.

Store it in the liquid to keep it fresher for longer, and it could last up to three months in the fridge, but it's best enjoyed while fresh and turns sour and yellow if exposed to the air.

Usually used as a table cheese, Feta is popular in traditional Greek salads of onion, tomato, cucumber, peppers and olives.

Greek also use it liberally in spinach pie (spanakopita) and it delicious with roasted red peppers and pine nuts.

If you don't like the salty taste Feta can be washed in cold water to remove the brine but the salty tang can improve the taste of a cold beer or white wine.

Health experts point to Feta as a rich source of calcium and potassium and its lower in fat than cheeses made from cow's milk.

Feta is also rich in vitamins A, B2 and B6 and an excellent probiotic which is good for overall gut health.

But it's not all good. Fetas can also be high in saturated fat and sodium. Eating saturated fats can raise cholesterol and sodium can increase the risks of heart disease.

Fortunately, as Feta, is such a strong tasting cheese a little goes a long way or you could opt for low-fat Feta which has about a third of the fat of the standard product.

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