This is the week I am following a marvelous friend into the realm of making my own feta from fine farm-fresh milk. I am using this feta recipe from Fias Co Farm (great name, don't you think?) My cheese mentor has bona fide Wisconsin cheese-making experience, and has led me out of my (entirely enjoyable) yogurt/cottage cheese/ricotta eddy and into a larger stream: cheeses made with rennet (as well as cultures, acids, and more). The most fun are cheese curds, extra squeaky and delicious with chopped fresh chives and a little Blue Moon Farm garlic.
My first feta has begun its two-day "sit around in salt at room temperature" part of the process. Still to come: up to four weeks in brine in the refrigerator. Anne Mendelson praises brined cheeses and yogurts particularly in her big new book, Milk. She asserts that these forms of milk are undervalued in our part of the milk-drinking world. More about that as I make my way through the book.
On the difficulty of making cheese - so far I can't find any. Imagine a difficulty scale of 1 - 10, with 10 being the equivalent of, say, cassoulet [note the sneak promotion for a Holly Hill Inn event]. Making feta or cheese curds ranks at about a 1.5. Considerably easier than making bread in the traditional way that requires kneading, for example. You do have to pay some attention, but you don't do all the work at once. Cheesemaking requires presence and carrying out simple tasks at specific times. Most cheeses I've made require less than 20 minutes of hand-on effort. A good thermometer, a timer, and a few inexepensive ingredients -- plus perfect milk -- and you're a cheesemaker.