Bulgarian feta, or Serene as it is called in Bulgaria, is an ancient cheese that has been associated with Greece for several thousand years. An early form of it is even referenced it in the Odyssey.
However, many countries throughout the Baltic region make Feta-style cheeses, which they refer to as “White Cheese”. In fact, for centuries this cheese did not have a specific name. The word “feta” comes from the Italian word for slice.
It is thought that feta was originally a product of the rugged terrain and harsh climate of the region of modern day Greece and its neighboring countries. Without access to electricity or refrigeration, shepherds would have needed an easy way to preserve the milk from their herds of sheep and goats. As a heavily salted cheese, preserved in brine, Feta can be left unrefrigerated for years.
Today, Feta is a Protected Designation of Origin product. In order to qualify to be called Feta, it must be made in Greece, specifically in the areas of Thrace, Macedonia, Epirus and Thessaly, Central Greece, the Peloponnese or the island of Lesbos. It must also be made primarily of sheep’s milk with up to 30% of goat’s milk.
Although the term feta is used universally to describe this brined cheese, strictly speaking, producers that make Feta-type cheeses in other areas of the world or using a different combination of milks, have to label their products “Feta Style”.