Not all feta is created equal. In the European Union, feta is a protected term that refers to cheese made in Greece from sheep’s milk, with up to 30% goat’s milk allowed. Countries outside the EU have taken a looser stance with the term, which is why there are so many cheeses labeled as feta in the U.S. If authentic Greek feta is unavailable, look for one made from sheep’s milk. Bulgaria and Israel make very good versions that are quite different from the Greek variety.
Great feta is creamy and tangy, and offers nuances of many herbs and spices. Highlight it as the primary player in salads and savory pies. Despite its strong flavor, it pairs well with almost any fruit, vegetable, herb or spice. Many Greek seafood dishes contain feta, but the cheese is also good in recipes that ask for ricotta salata, fresh goat cheese or queso fresco.
- The word feta means “slice.”
- It’s believed that the sheep’s milk cheese mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey was a form of feta.
- Feta is one of the world’s oldest cheeses.
- Only 2% of the so-called feta consumed in the U.S. comes from Greece.
- The Guinness World Record for largest salad was a Greek salad made in Russia that weighed almost 45,000 pounds, which included around two and a half tons of feta.
“Feta has a strong character—it’s rich, salty, spicy and can be highly acidic,” says Sofia Perpera, an enologist who offers extensive wine-pairing advice in the cookbook Modern Greek Cooking, by Pano Karatassos. “It needs a wine with an equally strong personality, high acidity and good structure. My first suggestions would be a high-acid Assyrtiko from Santorini or elsewhere in Greece, or Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé.
“One of my favorite recipes is a watermelon salad with feta, which I would pair with an off-dry sparkling Xinomavro rosé from Amynteo, a dry rosato from Veneto or a French Bugey-Cerdon,” says Perpera. “Another popular Greek dish is a cheese pie made with feta. This is usually quite rich, spicy and salty and would go well with a high-acid, aromatic white wine such as a Moschofilero from Mantinia, or a dry Riesling from Alsace.”