Feta is the queen of Greek cheese. Greeks combine it with every food possible. It can be eaten with far many more dishes than our well known Greek Salad, and seldom will you find a Greek kitchen without feta in the fridge. We eat it as a dip, ‘Htipiti’ and it’s the perfect accompaniment to ‘ladera’ and ‘gemista’. It’s baked with tomatoes and chilies, it’s used to stuff courgette flowers to make our famous ‘tiropita’ cheese pies, and even eaten with fruit – watermelon and feta is our favourite – the perfect after-dinner combo in the summer!
According to Greek mythology, cheese making was a craft gifted to mortals from the gods of Olympus. Aristaios, son of Apollo, was sent to teach us how to make it.
References to feta can be found in the Odyssey, where Homer writes that the cyclops Polyphemus was the first cheese maker. He would transport milk in skin bags made of the stomachs of young animals, and the curdling milk one day produced cheese. He also had a special area in his cave full of wicker baskets filled with cheese – way ahead of his time!
If olive oil is known as Greek gold, feta is our white gold. Our national cheese is soft, compact, made out of sheep and goat milk, aged in brine in special round wooden vessels. It has no skin or rind, it’s usually formed in large blocks that are sliced into smaller ones, which are then placed in large barrels – thus the name ‘feta’ which means ‘slice’.
The mass 20thcentury immigration of Greeks to different countries created numerous Greek communities who maintained their dietary habits. Over the years, this resulted in feta becoming popular to new markets. Today, more than 120,000 tonnes of feta are produced yearly in Greece, with over 40,000 tonnes being exported.
Feta is a PDO product – “Protected Designation of Origin” – and we can proudly say it can only be made in specific regions of Greece, using exclusively sheep and goat milk from local animal breeds.
Greece has a large tradition of sheep and goat herding, with Epiros being the most developed livestock area, thus producing the best feta. One of the reasons it is so flavourful is the diversity of vegetation that the animals feed on. Just think: a lamb in the UK has access to 6 types of endemic herbs, whereas a lamb in Greece to more than 160.
Wanting to give all the people who chose to eat with us a taste of the most authentic feta, we’ve chosen to use Epiros feta in all of our restaurants.
Epiros feta has a unique flavour and personality, rich in nutritional ingredients and has won multiple awards and distinctions in several European competitions and festivals, making it the most awarded feta cheese in the world! In 2018 alone, Epiros Feta has won so far 8 awards for its superior taste and premium quality, among which are the “GOLD award from Monde Selection Institute” and the “3 stars award from iTQi institute” in Brussels. They can proudly say they produce the most award-winning feta in the world.
The Epiros company always strive for more when it comes to their cheese. They have been investing in creating a state-of-the-art organic farm of 2,000 sheep. Their objective with this is not to produce their own milk – it would only cover 3% of their needs – but for it to be used for training purposes of the sheepherders of Epiros to ensure the best hygiene and feeding practices. This farm will be a huge contribution to the country’s stockbreeding methods.
The vision of the Epiros manufacturers is to be the best cheese producers in Greece, with products acknowledged all over the globe as the best Greece has to offer. To us here at The Real Greek, the Epiros original feta is the feta that reminds us most of home with its authentic flavour, just like the feta we grew up on.
We know you love it too, as customers always ask for extra feta on the table, we cannot help but feel a little proud to have been the ones to get you into the right Greek eating habit!