Saturday, October 27, 2012


As promised, a follow up to making stuffed grape leaves, is making halloumi cheese.

Halloumi is a specialty of hot weather climates. It is relatively quick to make, and spectacular to eat. Making it requires few specialty items, and it stores well. It is mild, salty, squeaky and most notably, it fries in a pan, creating a crispy gold crust and a soft, slightly melty interior that doesn't ooze out into a gooey mess.

2 day's worth of milk
I made this cheese as part of the Cheesepalooza challenge, using the recipe from Mary Karlin's Artisan Cheese Making at Home. I modified it slightly by not using a mold, because so many friends have asked for a cheese they can make without buying any new equipment. I don't give her verbatim recipe, but rather walk you through the steps as I took them.

You will need three slightly unusual items - rennet, calcium chloride, and cheesecloth or a strainer bag - for this recipe. The first two can be purchased at home beer making shops or online at cheese making sites. Or if you are nearby, I'll give you some rennet to play with. I want more cheese makers!

Cheesecloth is available at grocery stores, usually in the kitchen utensils area. I used a mesh bag designed for produce, available at many grocery stores. Note on salt - use uniodized or it will turn weird colors.

Milk, rennet, and water to dilute

My  Halloumi recipe instructs to mold the cheese in a special press, but I used a bag instead. The shape was less perfect, but I want to make a cheese you can set out and do with minimal equipment, right now.

You really should use a dairy thermometer, too. But I include general temperatures in case you don't have one. After successfully making this cheese, treat yourself to a thermometer so you can try more challenging recipes.


1 gallons milk
1/2 t calcium chloride (optional)
1/2 t liquid rennet
1/2 c cool, filtered or aged water, divided (you can leave tap water out overnight and use that)

Scrub your hands and all the equipment.

Heat the milk to 30C/86F. I do this by putting glass jars of milk in a sink full of warm water. When it is nearly warm enough, I pour it into a large, stainless pot, which I keep in the water bath. If you don't have a thermometer, place a drop of the milk on your wrist. It should feel neither warm nor cold, but perhaps slightly cool. Cow's milk would be heated to 90 F, but goat's milk requires slightly lower temperatures.

Add the calcium chloride mixed into 1/4 cup of the water, and mix for 1 minute

Add the rennet to the water and swirl to mix. Then begin stirring the milk, and as you stir, add the rennet mixture. Stir as above -  1 minute, then stop. Cover the pot and leave it.

In 30 minutes, check your milk. It should have turned to curd - shiny, firm solids that, when you put a knife into them, break apart with clearish whey rising up. If it is still somewhat liquid, check again every 10 minutes until it gives a "clean break" as above. My whey is never the clear yellow color of cow's milk whey.

With a long knife or metal spatula, pointed straight down into the curd, cut the curd all the way through to the bottom, into a series of long strips 3/4" wide. Then rotate the pot and cut the strips into squares. Then angle the knife at 45 degrees and slide it through the squares, cutting all of them one layer at a time into diamonds. Rotate the pot 1/4 and do it again, repeating 3 times until you have cut all the curd in the pot.
Cutting curd into cubes with a long serrated knife
Wait 5 minutes. Then gently start heating the curds. Stir them gently, always lifting the ones at the bottom so they are evenly exposed to the heat. Stir and change the cooling water for hot, as the temperature gradually goes up to 104F/39C. This will feel warm on your wrist, but still not hot.

The curd pieces will shrink as you do this. They are losing whey, but keeping solids. They should all shrink at about the same speed. If not, stir carefully to bring the bigger, looser looking ones into more contact with the warmer parts of the pot.

Let the curds rest 10 minutes.

A bag of curds
Folded up and weirdly brain-like
Carefully drain the whey into a second pot, until it reaches the level of the curds. Then scoop the curds into a colander lined with cheesecloth, or into your mesh bag.

If you have a mold, transfer the curds after 15 minutes, and press under 8 # for 3 hours, then flip and press again at 8 # for another 3 hours.

Or do like I did and use either a mesh bag, or a bag made by tying up the corners of cheesecloth.

Let it drain for 10 minutes, then open the ball and retie it, doing your best to minimize wrinkles in the cloth. Place the bag in the colander, and cover it with a small plate and place the pot of whey on top of it as a weight.

After 3 hours remove the pot of whey from on top of the curds, unwrap them, and re wrap to smooth out any creases. Place the curd mass back under the weight for 3 more hours.

After a total of 6 hours heating time, unwrap the curds. Place the whey in a pot and heat to  87C/190F. If you don't have a thermometer, heat it until simmer bubbles begin to form. Lower the heat to maintain the temperature without boiling over.

Now flatter and cut into quarters
Unwrap  the curd ball and cut it into quarters. Gently lower the quarters into the hot whey. Trust an experienced lady here, you do not want to splash! Maintain the temperature in the pot for 30 minutes. At the start of this time, the curd will sink. By the end it should float.

Plunge curd into hot whey
Remove the cheese (let's stop calling it curd now) and let it cool in the colander for 45 minutes.

Then place it in brine, made by mixing 1 gallon water with 26 ounces salt - conveniently, most salt you buy comes in just that size. let the cheese soak for at least 5 days to get good and salty. An hour before use, you may soak it in plain water to remove the excess salt.

To prepare for eating

Slice the cheese into 1/2" thick slices
Pat them dry and place on towels to get even drier for 10 or 15 minutes
Dust with flour on both sides
Heat skillet to medium high, and brush lightly with oil
Place cheese slices on skillet
Cook until you see the golden crust forming, then flip and cook an additional minute or two

Serve on top of a salad of sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and arugula, as a starter to a meal of small dishes - stuffed grape leaves, lentil soup, crusty bread, and figs with honey for dessert.

Appearance: very white, dense, solid, slightly translucent, smooth, glossy
Nose (aroma): faint, milky, slightly cooked
Overall Taste:  mild - this cheese is more about texture than taste. A bit of goatiness though
Sweet to Salty: definitely salty
Mild (mellow) to Robust : mellow
Mouth Feel: squeaky, bouncy, jumpy, pert, lively. When cooked, crisp on the outside. 

Shared on: cheesepaloozafrugal days, sustainable ways, Gastronomical sovereignty

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