feta-cheese

VIOS FETA P.D.O.

Feta (Greek: φέτα, féta, “slice”) is a brined curd white cheese made in Greece from sheep’s milk, or from a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk. Similar brined white cheeses produced outside the European Union are often made partly or wholly of cow’s milk, and they are also sometimes called feta. It is a crumbly aged cheese, commonly produced in blocks, and has a slightly grainy texture. Feta is used as a table cheese, as well as in salads (e.g. the Greek salad) and pastries. Most notable is its use in the popular phyllo-based dishes spanakopita (“spinach pie”) and tyropita (“cheese pie”), or served with some olive oil or olives and sprinkled with aromatic herbs such as oregano. It can also be served cooked or grilled, as part of a sandwich, in omelettes, or as a salty alternative to other cheeses in a variety of dishes.

Since 2002, “feta” has been a protected designation of origin product in the European Union (PDO). According to the relevant EU legislation, only those cheeses produced in a traditional way in particular areas of Greece, which are made from sheep’s milk, or from a mixture of sheep’s and up to 30% of goat’s milk from the same area, can be called “feta”. However, similar white-brined cheeses (often called “white cheese” in various languages) are found in the Eastern Mediterranean and around the Black Sea.

Greek Feta History

The earliest references to cheese production in Greece are dated back to the 8th century BC and the production methods used to make cheese from sheep’s or goat’s milk, as described in Homer’s Odyssey involving the contents of Polyphemus’s cave, are similar to the methods used by Greek shepherds today to produce feta. Cheese made from sheep’s/goat’s milk was a common food in ancient Greece and an integral component of later Greek gastronomy. Feta cheese, specifically, is first recorded in the Byzantine Empire (Poem on Medicine 1.209) under the name prósphatos (Greek: πρόσφατος, “recent” or “fresh”), and was produced by the Cretans and the Vlachs of Thessaly. In the late 15th century, an Italian visitor to Candia, Pietro Casola, describes the marketing of feta, as well as its storage in brine.

The Greek word feta (φέτα) comes from the Italian word fetta (“slice”), which in turn is derived from the Latin word offa (“a morsel”, “piece”).It was introduced into the Greek language in the 17th century, became a widespread term in the 19th century, and probably refers to the practice of slicing cheese in order to place the slices into barrels.