Halloumi cheese or Haloumi is a traditional Cypriot cheese that is also popular in the rest of the Middle East and Greece, and is now made in many countries and regions around the world. Traditional artisan Halloumi cheese is made from unpasteurised goats milk, sheep milk or a combination of the two. Traditionally, the mint leaves were used as a preservative. The cheese is white, with a distinctive layered texture, similar to Mozzarella, and has a salty flavor. But, today, Halloumi is often garnished with mint to add to the taste. Many people also like Halloumi that has been aged; it is much drier, much stronger and much saltier.
With its ability to withstand high temperatures without melting, Halloumi cheese can add variety and interest to cooked dishes and salads. In fact, Halloumi slices can be grilled or fried on its own. The cheese is very easy to make. Its heat resistant property comes from the fact that the fresh curds are boiled in whey and then placed in a brine solution for storage. The brine solution also makes this a long-lasting, but naturally salty cheese, and the brine is often rinsed off before the cheese is cooked or eaten.
The Halloumi cheese is made with only two ingredients: goat milk and rennet. The lack of cultures causes this cheese to be rather bland, and mint leaves are used to impart flavor to it. Some modern recipes also call for the addition of a mesophilic starter culture to add more flavor.
- 1/2 gallon whole goat milk
- 1/8 tsp. rennet
- 1/8 cup water
- 1/2 tsp. chopped mint (optional)
- cheese cloth -lined colander
Warm the milk to 90°F. Add the rennet to the water, and stir into the milk. Continue to stir for 30-60 seconds to be sure the rennet is evenly distributed.
Let the milk rest until the surface has gelled, usually about 10-15 minutes. You can check for gelling by lightly touching the surface of the milk with the flat side of a small spoon. If the spoon leaves an indent, the milk has gelled.
Multiply the amount of time until surface gelling by 2, and wait that much longer before cutting the curd into 2″ pieces with a long knife.
For example, if it was 10 minutes before the surface gelled, wait 20 more minutes to cut the curd – cutting horizontally, vertically and diagonally across the depth of the curd.
Let the curd pieces rest for about 10 minutes, then cut them into smaller, 1/2″ pieces. Let the smaller pieces rest for 10 more minutes.
Now, stir the curds gently for 10-15 minutes to encourage the whey to separate.
Pour the curds into a cheese cloth-lined colander placed over a pot (you will be using this pot of whey later), and let drain for several hours until no whey is left standing with the curds.
* Optional – At this point, you can add about 1/2 tsp. chopped mint into the curds, or wait and place mint inside the folded pieces of cheese at the end of the process.
Fold the cheese cloth over the curds and press with your hands to remove more whey and to fuse the curds together. If the curds are still very loose and moist, place a weight on top (a gallon of water works fine), and continue to let drain.
When the curds are dry enough to stick together well, cut them into approximately 2″ wide strips. Bring the pot of drained whey almost to a boil (around 195°F), and drop in the cheese strips.
Let cook for about 10-15 minutes, or until the strips float to the surface. Remove the strips from the whey, lightly salt each side, and let cool for 1-2 hours.
How to store Halloumi?
To store the Halloumi, you can make a brine solution of 1/2 cup salt dissolved in 1 quart water. It is traditional to fold the cheese slices in half, making a “U” shape (* Optional – with mint leaves inside the folded portion), before storing in the brine.
The brine will keep your Halloumi good for several months, and the flavor will increase with storage time.
You can grill or fry your Halloumi, or use it to top salads and stir-fries. The thick, chewy texture of this cheese makes it a great protein substitute for meat in main dishes.