Packaging and Storage

Feta cheese is packed in wooden barrels or in tin cans. Barrels were the traditional containers for Feta, and when stored in barrels, the cheese develops a stronger and spicier flavor, much appreciated by consumers. However, handling a filled barrel (weighing about 50 kg) is difficult, so today Feta cheese is packaged mostly in tin cans, which weigh 16-17 kg, making their transportation easier.

Before packaging, the surface of the cheese pieces is carefully cleaned with water or brine. In the container, each layer is usually covered by a piece of parchment paper, before the next layer is added. Finally, 1.0-1.5 kg of 6-7% brine is added in order to cover the cheese. Cheese pieces must be tightly packed, allowing little space for the brine. If the volume of brine is larger than necessary, many low-molecular-weight compounds diffuse from cheese into the brine (see Sec. V.A.1). From time to time, it is advisable to let the fermentation gases escape and to fill the container with brine if the level fails to cover the cheese. Salt concentration profiles of brined cheese are temperature dependent; salt diffusion varies with temperature according to the Arrhenius equation (15).

The barrels or tins are kept at 16-18°C until the pH of the cheese reaches 4.4-4.6 and the moisture drops to less than 56%. They are then transferred to cold rooms (4-5 °C) to complete ripening. Marketing of Feta cheese is permitted only after 2 months postmanufacture (4). Until sold to the consumer, the cheese must be kept in brine. If uncovered by brine, the surface becomes dry, changes color, and permits the growth of yeasts and molds. A good-quality Feta cheese may be stored in brine for up to 12 months at 2-4°C.

After ripening, Feta cheese slices may also be individually packed in plastic bags under vacuum for retail marketing. Once this packaging is opened, however, the cheese has to be consumed within a few days. An alternative consumer packaging is the placing of the cheese slice in a small plastic container filled with brine, permitting longer storage at home (at 4-5°C).

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