Sunday, November 10, 2013

Tomatoes and Feta - a delicious combo!

At least ten years ago I planted some Tommy Toe tomato seeds I bought from the Diggers Club and I have never needed to buy  them again! Forever since they have popped up around the garden and occasionally one gets a real strong hold and the next thing you know I am overwhelmed with cherry tomatoes.

My rather spread out cherry tomato
growing happily under the guava
Why is it that self sown plants seem to do so well?  I guess its because they have chosen where they are happiest to grow. One big, feral tomato bush has chosen to grow under the guava tree in the orchard and as the guava doesn't seem to be suffering I have let it be. It may be that the guava is enjoying having its roots shaded by the tomato? In any case, the guava is covered in buds and flowers so it obviously doesn't mind sharing it's space too much.

I think over the years my seed stock must have adapted to this climate because the two plants that are currently producing prolifically are coming in to their third summer and show no signs of slowing down. In fact, apart from a very short spell in August, I have been picking tomatoes all year.

Some of this week's harvest
This is of course a good problem to have, after all a woman with tasty, homegrown tomatoes in the middle of winter has many friends! Right now however there are so many I am literally forcing them on all passersby that happen to call in. I was even thinking about putting some at the end of the drive with an honesty box...that thought lasted about as long as the tomatoes would sitting in the sun on a 42 degree day! Of course, one can make chutney and relish and tomato jam etc etc etc but cutting up cherry tomatoes is fiddly and time consuming and besides, eventually one runs out of vinegar and sugar.

My latest favourite snack (yes, I admit it's a pretty substantial 'snack') is  marinated feta and  cherry tomato halves on a piece of toasted homemade sour dough bread and seasoned with lots of salt and pepper. If I'm feeling particularly motivated I pop outside and pick some basil and/or mint to top it off (there's those herbs again). I have to say, it is pretty delicious.

But back to the homemade feta. During mustering back in September Shelley, a local lady who keeps a milking goat, very kindly sent me (via another friend with a car fridge) 6 litres of freshly frozen goat's milk. I didn't have time then to make cheese so I stored it in the freezer until last week when I was motivated by this blog, Eight Acres,  to pull it out and have another crack at making what is probably my favourite and most used cheese. 'Liz the Farmer' that writes Eight Acres, shared a link to The Little Green Cheese, a blog by urban 'farmer' Gavin Webber, who has written a little ebook on cheese making at home. I was pretty impressed with Gavin's simple approach to cheese making and bought and downloaded his ebook, Keep Calm and Make Cheese.

Not a great photo of my marinated feta
I've made feta before but wasn't overly pleased with the results as it was not firm enough. This time, following Gavin's recipe, it is perhaps a bit too firm but I prefer it like that than too soft. Next time I make it I think I will use the same recipe and method but with a bit less rennet.  As a side note, while I was making the cheese I checked three separate references and they all asked for  different milk temperatures and different stirring and setting times, which leads me to think that there is a lot of 'grace' in cheese making and one shouldn't get too hung up about it!

You don't need a friend with a cow or goat to make cheese, you can use shop bought milk. Non-homogenised milk is best and is even available in some supermarkets. In the past I have bought non-homogenised milk from farmers' so tempted to get a cow though! You can buy cheese making kits online.

If you've ever had the urge to make cheese but thought it was too hard, I reckon you should give it a go. If you can follow a recipe, you can make cheese.


  1. Emma, you are amazing! I don't like goat feta but I still enjoyed reading your blog. There are other blogs on gardening and cooking but the fact that you live where you live makes what you do so incredibly wonderful.

  2. Gee, that's a very nice thing to say, thank you!

    To be honest I have had my reservations about goats' milk/cheese in the past because it can taste like goats smell - which can be very unpleasant, especially when you handle feral goats, as we do. My son didn't even want to taste this feta but once I convinced him that it wasn't goaty he did and was pleasantly surprised. I have read that the goaty flavour develops when the milk is left too long, and as the milk I used went from the goat to the freezer this didn't happen. I'm sure someone more qualified than me can shed some light on this subject and I would love to know more.