Feta Cheese and The Greeks

September 10, 2015
Did you know that Greeks have the highest consumption of cheese in the world? Per person the average Greek consumes about 23 kilograms of cheese a year. Yes, even more than the French. Why? The answer is feta. Feta cheese that is.


Feta is a cheese that is a Protected Designation of Origin product (P.D.O.) in the European Union. That means that only feta made in specific areas of Greece with a specific method can be called “feta”. Unlike in the U.S. where you find many cheeses called feta even if they are not Greek, or made traditionally or even with the right ingredients. For one, you often see “feta” made with cow’s milk, which is a big no-no. Feta made with cow’s milk can sour easily, develop a mushy texture and have an unpleasant aftertaste.

But what makes cheese so important to Greeks? Well, it is not an accompaniment to a dish, or consumed after the meal like the French, it is actually part of the whole meal. In the same way that bread is present at every meal, feta is also present. As the traditional Greek diet is rich in vegetable based dishes, feta served as the protein to those dishes. In addition, the freshness and tanginess of the cheese balanced out the richness of olive oil in which these vegetable dishes were cooked.

But apart from vegetable dishes, feta also accompanies legumes even in soups as well as meat dishes, particularly those cooked with tomato. It also is common in seafood dishes such as shrimp saganaki. Feta is also used as a snack: feta, bread and olives is a common snack and can even stand in as a breakfast or a light dinner. But feta is consumed with fruit as well, with the combinations of feta and watermelon or feta with cantaloupe being very popular. And let’s not forget feta as an ingredient. Anyone familiar with spanakopita, the famous Greek spinach pie cannot ignore the chunks of feta in the filling. But in Greece, we have numerous vegetable pies, and all of them use feta as their main cheese ingredient.

Feta has an intense flavor and you can use less of it with a good results, it is fairly lower in fat by weight from other cheeses because it has a high water content. It is a good source of calcium, phosphorus and protein.

How to Eat Feta

Feta is so versatile, that it tastes great almost anywhere it is added.

·  Eat along side a vegetable based dish.

·  Add it to fresh salads. Feta is a perfect accompaniment to tomato but also goes well with all sorts of greens including lettuce, fresh spinach but also beets.

·  Combine it with meats and cook it in the oven.

·  Smash it with a fork until creamy and use it as a spread in sandwiches.

·  Use it as a topping for pizza or bruschetta.

·  Make a sandwich using sliced feta, oregano and olive oil.

·  Bake feta along with some peppers for a spicy appetizer.

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