Published September 1, 2010. From Cook's Illustrated.
Can French and American cheeses really hold a candle to authentic Greek feta cheese?
In Greece, salty, crumbly curds of feta are still made with methods dating back to the Trojan War. Countries including France and Denmark also make versions, but in 2005, in light of Greece’s longstanding tradition, the European Union ruled that only cheese produced in that country from at least 70 percent sheep’s milk can rightfully bear the label “feta.” Here in the United States, where these stipulations don’t apply, domestic and imported imitators abound. How do the upstarts compare? We tasted five brands—two Greek fetas, one French version, and two American cheeses—both plain and in our Greek-Style Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta. Tasters lamented the lack of “funky,” “grassy” tang in the domestic cheeses, all of which were made with 100 percent cow’s milk, preferring the “barnyard” taste of the sheep and goat’s-milk imports. The difference was especially apparent in the heady shrimp sauté, where the milder American samples paled against the dish’s other bold flavors. In the end, our winner was the real deal: Mt. Vikos Traditional Feta, made with 80 percent sheep’s milk, hails from the mother country and balances plenty of tang with just enough salt.