Sheep’s milk feta, goat’s milk yogurt

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Several years ago I first discovered how scrumptious and creamy authentic sheep’s milk feta was compared to the overly-salty crumbly cow’s milk version more widely available.  This was at Homsy’s, a middle eastern market in Westwood that hit my senses when I stepped in with the intoxicating combined aroma of spices, barreled olives, cheeses, and pastries.  The same depth of aroma one gets when entering an authentic Jewish deli – all those meats, pickles and sides blending into a fragrance that cannot be captured in a single dish.  Both would make amazing home sprays for your kitchen.

Sadly, Homsy’s is no longer with us, but sheep’s milk feta is much more readily available now at Trader’s Joe’s – often stocked in two purchase alternatives.  A 10-ounce brick of sheep’s milk feta from Israel comes in a resealable, opaque plastic container and now sells for $6.49.  It’s far superior to the cow’s milk versions in any format – whole or crumbled – and keeps forever in its salty brine.

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More recently, though, I’ve found Pastures of Eden, priced at $7.99/lb – also from Israel (where the sheep are) and also in a plastic package with brine – but this one will need transfering into your own container, with its brine,  once opened.  I prefer it over the previous “Authentic Greek Feta” above because it is slightly creamier, and something about the name just sings to me.  It’s also a better buy, too.

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And then there’s the plethora of Greek yogurt.  Any yogurt can be turned into Greek yogurt by allowing the liquid to strain out over time in your fridge – cheesecloth or a small mesh basket over a bowl will work well.  I enjoy flavored Greek yogurt for a snack (Chobani, primarily), but when it comes to plain yogurt, it’s Redwood Hill Farm Goat Milk Yogurt only.  Nothing else will do.  It has that slightly goat-ish taste you get from chèvre, and I could eat it just plain out of the container, or blended with a touch of honey or maple syrup.  I met the family who produce this a few years ago in Baltimore at the Natural Products Expo and discovered they also have an array of cheese, but not available anywhere nearby.  They also revealed that they private label their product for TJ’s.  Same goats, same milk, same yogurt – about $1 less at $5.49/quart vs $6.49 or more at WF.  My local health foods store, Good health, actually has the Redwood brand for $6.19 – a happy medium.  When a recipe calls for Greek yogurt, I just use this, without bothering to strain it except for carefully draining off the condensation at the top.

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This reminds me that I have to run down to TJ’s for a replacement or credit on the last container I had.  With a best-by date of March 3, I opened the half-used container on March 6 and found what looked like  blueberries interspersed in there.  Oh no!  It was blue blobs of mold that surely had been growing for some time, easily before the March 3 date.  They’re so good about refunds at TJ’s – I saved the lid as proof of purchase, but they really don’t even require that.

Bottom line, if you love feta or plain yogurt – the sheep and goats are your friends. Besides tasting way better, they’re also more tolerable for those with lactose issues than the products made with cow’s milk.

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