QA2 – Why Does My Feta Melt When I Store It In Brine?

By on 01/06/2011

Feta In Brine

You’ve made a lovely batch of Feta. It’s been salted and aged and now you want to store it for use later on. You’ve followed the instructions and put it in a salty brine. A few days later, it starts to soften, go slimy and ‘melt’ in the solution.

What’s happening to make your Feta melt?

When your Feta melts in it’s brine during storage, it is often due to either the brine having a lower calcium level, which causes the calcium to leech out of the cheese and change the structure or the pH level of the cheese is too high which means you basically don’t have enough acidity and again, calcium leeches and the cheese goes slimy and melts.

How do you prevent your Feta from melting?

  • Use your whey, with the salt added, instead of water to make your brine. Your whey should have the correct pH and calcium balance for your cheese.
  • Add a little Calcium Chloride (CaCI2) to your brine to balance the calcium levels.
  • Add vinegar or citric acid to your brine, but not too much!
  • Age your cheese at room temperature for at least 3 days after dry salting so that the surface of the cheese toughens and the acidity is high enough to withstand the brine.

If you really can’t get your brine balance right and your Feta melts every time don’t get too stressed about it. Simply change your storage method and keep it in Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a mason jar instead. I sometimes do this for a change anyway and add a mixture of Garlic and Rosemary, which is lovely! I then reuse the oil for salads or cooking afterwards.

This is also a good storage method for those who don’t like their Feta too salty since there is obviously no extra salt take up from the Olive Oil.

Do you have a question about cheese making? Post it in the comments below and Curd-Nerd will answer your question in a new post as soon as possible.

23 Comments

  1. kathy

    14/07/2011 at 1:30 pm

    Hi, I have had this same problem making fresh mozzarella. for ages it was fine, i’d put it in salted cold water and then store it in that same cold water in deli containers, selling them at farm markets, and they lasted 2-4 weeks. Then all of a sudden lately, they started getting slimy on the outside. Talking to the curd supplier, I started putting it in clean cold water that it hadn’t already soaked in and had milky look to it. And it’s still happening. Help! If you don’t put in salt, it doean’t last more than a week, I don’t think. Again, any help you can give will be greatly appreciated!

    • curdnerd

      18/07/2011 at 10:43 pm

      Hi Kathy

      Thanks for dropping by! It sounds to me like your preserving fluid has a lower pH than your Mozzarella, which causes your cheese to start to melt and go slimy. Do you buy your curds and then make your Mozzarella? One way to preserve without this concern is to use vacuum sealing which keeps the cheese fresh but doesn’t look quite as nice and authentic. You can also add some Calcium Chloride to your preserving fluid to correct the pH level as well.

      If you have any further questions just let me know! I’ll do what I can to help.

  2. Helen

    28/08/2011 at 11:26 am

    “the pH level of the cheese is too low which means you basically don’t have enough acidity ”

    Low pH is acid, not alkaline. Do you mean that the pH is too high, i.e. not acid enough ?

    I am having a problem with slimy mozzarella and am confused by all the different recommendations. How long would mozzarella keep if I just wrap it in cling film?

    • curdnerd

      28/08/2011 at 7:10 pm

      You’re absolutely correct Helen! Thanks for spotting that typo. I have made the correction.

      Your Mozzarella will last about a week in cling film, not much longer, as cling film is breathable and not air tight. I vacuum pack mine to get a bit longer but it can also be frozen in containers if you are just using for pizzas etc.

      Which version of Mozzarella are you making (30 minute or traditional)? And how long are you brining your Mozzarella? I normally only put mine in brine for 1 day and then store in the fridge. It tends to soften (and can start going slimy) after any longer than that due to the acidity differential between the cheese and the brine. Mozzarella really is best eaten fresh but again, if you want to store it for longer you can freeze it.

      • Helen

        29/08/2011 at 10:27 am

        I’m making the Mad Millie version, which uses a mesophilic culture, lipase and rennet, and a 30 min gelling period. I brined the cheeses for 20 minutes (iced 15% brine) then stored some of them in plain water for two days.

        A thought – I used water from the tap, which would have traces of chlorine. Would that have an effect?

        • curdnerd

          20/09/2011 at 9:28 pm

          Hi again Helen. A lot of people find that the 30 Minute Mozzarella suffers when stored in brine because the pH levels are higher after a very short ripening period. 30 Minute Mozzarella is best eaten fresh. I leave my Mozzarella overnight at least and it definitely holds up in the brine better as the acidity rises. It also stretches really well at that point.

  3. Ron

    28/10/2011 at 6:27 am

    Wow,

    What a great site! I am just starting to get into this cheese making thing and finding a site that actually discusses things that go bump in the jar/pot/brine/fridge is great. Thank you for keeping this running. Please keep up the great job.

    Ron

    • curdnerd

      12/11/2011 at 10:58 am

      Thank you Ron! I really appreciate you visiting. If there is anything you need to know on your cheese making journey, please let me know and I will do what I can to help you.

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  5. Robyn

    17/11/2012 at 12:35 pm

    Hi
    I use un pasturised milk when I make cheese.
    some times..but not always my fetta goes frothy…whilst it waiting to set, or after I slice up the curds.
    The result looks like a sponge.
    What’s going on.
    Is this some kind of yeast contamination and can I still eat this weired looking cheese/sponge. It seems to taste OK (sort of) and I have eaten a bit to try it without becoming sick.
    If I pasturise the milk it takes ages to kool back down and I thought raw cheese would be healthier. Perhaps not.
    cheers Robyn

    • curdnerd

      17/11/2012 at 1:59 pm

      Hi Robyn

      I have had exactly the same problem and it’s due to contamination of some kind.

      As always, it is important to make sure that your area and equipment is clean and sterile. Also, are you making any kind of bread product, beer or the likes in the same area? These can contribute to your problem.

      Otherwise, if it is none of the above, you should check your milk source and make sure you are happy with where the milk is coming from (it may be your own and if so, you’ll know it’s quality) and check the containers you are storing it in.

      There is definitely something reacting with the milk so double check everything about your process.

      Whether it’s ok to eat or not, I haven’t ever eaten mine but I can’t see why not.

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  7. Carolyn

    17/03/2013 at 3:58 pm

    Hi there, thanks for the great tips! I’m wondering if you could answer another feta question?

    I followed the Mad Millie method of feta making, which didn’t include any drying time (apart from overnight in the molds) at all. I then brined my feta, and it is both melting a bit and simply the wrong texture – it’s quite soft and a little bit rubbery, a bit similar in texture to halloumi. There’s nothing crumbly about it, and it’s nothing like the texture of any feta I’ve had before (Soft creamy Danish style or the crumbly Greek style, for example). I’m pretty frustrated, and I think it’s possible that it just didn’t dry enough (or something else, do you have any idea?). Is there any way of salvaging my feta? Is it worth taking it out of the brine (I only brined it yesterday) and drying it out some more?

    Thanks in advance for your help! 🙂

    • Curd-Nerd

      03/02/2014 at 7:00 pm

      I leave my Feta out to dry for a day or two before salting, then brining for storage. For me, this produces a creamy, but crumbly texture as a whole.

      Unfortunately once you brine your Feta it normally creates a hardened surface so drying it now would probably not change the texture at all. I’m sure it’s perfectly eatable though so perhaps use it chopped into small pieces in salads and start again.

  8. Serge

    29/06/2013 at 8:04 am

    Hi

    If you like Feta a bit less salty try this; stored it in milk an haour or two instead of plain water it won’t get spongy

    • Curd-Nerd

      16/07/2013 at 11:42 am

      Hi Serge

      Thanks for the feedback. Washing or soaking salty Feta in milk is a great way to get it back to a more palatable taste.

  9. Tania

    01/07/2013 at 7:15 pm

    Hi,
    Firstly thank you so much for this wonderful site, full of such great information.

    I am very new to making feta cheese and I have had a problem with the cheese melting after my first batch. I read your comments about this but I have a couple of question I hope you can answer please.

    I have used raw goats milk (so didn’t use calcium when making) then placed it in whey (5 1/2 tbsp per 20fl oz, the Greek recommendation is 6-8%) after salting at room temperature for 3 days. The feta melted and I’m not sure why?

    You say the ph of the whey needs to be right for the feta. How do you test this? Do you mean you check the ph level of the cheese and then the whey has to be the same?

    Would you also suggest using calcium in the whey even if the milk was unpasteurized?

    Any advice would be really appreciated as I am hoping to use the feta in my catering business eventually.

    Many thanks
    Tania

    • Curd-Nerd

      17/07/2013 at 4:42 pm

      Hi Tania

      When your Feta melts like that it is almost always because of a difference between your Feta and the whey. Essentially the whey pulls from the cheese, and causes it to melt. Was your salting sufficient during the 3 day aging? Did you notice additional whey extracting and the surface of the cheese firming up? Calcium is obviously present even in unpasteurised milk so adding calcium to your whey may help. Your other option is to increase the salt levels in the brine to see if that helps. A saturated brine is up to 26% salt so 6-8% could still be too low. I usually use a brine of 12-14% for my Feta, and this seems to work well.

      • Tania

        18/07/2013 at 2:09 am

        Hello,
        Many thanks for your advice. I did notice whey extracting and the surface firming up that is why I was so surprised it melted.

        Please can you explain what you mean by aging the feta at room temp for 3 days after dry salting? Do you mean in the brine?

        Thanks again
        Tania

        • Curd-Nerd

          29/09/2013 at 1:46 pm

          Hi Tania

          No, aging at room temperature is done before you put your cheese in the brine. It should be done in a covered container of some sort.

  10. Johnny

    10/07/2013 at 7:36 pm

    Hi Mrs. Curd Nerd, I made some raw feta and the next day after draining I cut it, salted it, sprinkled Italian herbs and chili flakes then put it in a glass jar and topped it with EVOO, but I believe I put a tad bit too much salt so I guess my question is “Do I really have to add so much salt if I’m drowning it in EVOO? And do I have to age it for 2weeks before marinating or can I go straight to the jar/oil the day it’s done draining? Thanx

    • Curd-Nerd

      17/07/2013 at 4:03 pm

      Hi Johnny

      The salt, and the aging period, is what will help you to create that wonderful Feta taste and texture. By bypassing either of these steps you will likely end up with a cheese that is less characteristic and possibly even a bland, soft cheese. The olive oil is a preservative, not an aging medium, and the salt is required to add to the taste and texture, but also to balance the cheese out. Feta will still melt in olive oil if it is not in the right state when it is put into the oil. My recommendation is to do your salting, and aging, and see what you get at the end. If you don’t like the results, you can also tweak things but it’s not worth missing steps out at the risk of ending up with a bad cheese. Good luck : )

  11. Astrid

    23/08/2013 at 4:09 pm

    Thanks so much for this article! I’m a novice cheesemaker, and I’ve only ever managed to make slimy melty feta and mozzarella. Hopefully this knowledge will change my cheeses for the better.
    I’m going to try dry-brining my feta for a few extra days (my recipe says one day (or overnight) before it goes into a lightly brined whey, and thence the olive oil.

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