A staple in Greek Cypriot cuisine for centuries, Halloumi is a favorite on Greek tables. It tastes great raw, but the stringy, tough consistency is at its flavorful peak when it is grilled, and drizzled with a bit of lemon. Because of the cheese’s high melting point, it’s also a great alternative for saganaki, fried in olive oil and served with a dash of brandy (Metaxa, what else?) and lemon.
Often hard to find in your neighborhood cheese shop or grocery market, the blog cheesemaking.com has shared a great recipe with step by step photos so you can try your own Halloumi at home.
Although Halloumi is traditionally made with ewe’s milk and added cow’s milk, the recipe below uses 100% cow’s milk. You can easily substitute your own mix of milk if you like.
Although the photos show the recipe breakdown using 3 gallons of milk, the recipe below is for a 1 gallon batch to make your first trial easier. If you’re feeling ambitious, the ingredients can all be increased proportionately for larger batches.
Before you begin you will need:
1 gallon of milk (not ultrapasturized). You may use pasteurized or raw milk – goat, cow, or ewe may be used in any combo.
No culture is traditionally added for this cheese (surprising isn’t it?)
BUT: If using pasteurized milk 1 pack of buttermilk or 1/4 tsp MA4001 can be used if desired (optional). No culture is used for raw milk.
Optional: Lipase can also be added if using cow’s milk or pasteurized milk – 1/8-tsp per gallon and can be adjusted in successive batches. Re-hydrate in 1/4 cup water before heating milk and then add when milk is at the proper temperature.
Calcium chloride for pasteurized cold stored milk – 3/8 tsp per gallon. Usually none needed if using fresh raw milk
Liquid rennet (1/8 tsp for raw milk up to 1/4 tsp for pasteurized)
Salt – about 1/2 oz. for 1 lb. of cheese
Dried mint is also optional for this cheese
A knife to cut the curds, and a spoon or ladle to stir the curds
A colander and butter muslin to drain the curds
Draining mats to allow the whey to run off from the molded curds
No cheese press is needed for this cheese
Everything needs to be clean and sanitized
Ready to go?
(1) Let’s begin by heating the milk
Begin by heating the milk to 86-88F (30-31C). You do this by placing the milk in a pot or sink of very warm water. If you do this in a pot on the stove, make sure you heat the milk slowly and stir it well as it heats.
Once the milk is at your target temperature, the optional culture can be added. The culture will quickly be destroyed as the milk and curds are heated to the higher temperature but they will then provide special enzymes for ripening if the cheese is preserved for a short time.
If adding lipase and/or calcium chloride, these can be added now.
Stir briefly to incorporate well into the milk.
(2) Coagulation with rennet
Now add about 1/4 tsp. of single strength liquid rennet diluted in 1/4 cup of water.
Total coagulation time is 30-40 minutes but you will begin to notice the milk beginning to thicken in 15-20 minutes. Since there is little to no ripening time and acid development for this cheese, more rennet than normal is being used. It is OK if the temperature drops a few degrees during this time.
As with most cheeses, a firm curd is essential to the rest of the cheese making process. In the photos below a long knife is used to start the break and then slowly lifted to see the curd split naturally. What you are looking for here is a nice smooth split. No small pieces should be evident.
The whey should not show as too clear (cutting too late) or too cloudy or droopy (cutting too early). The last photo shows what the fresh break should look like. Always look at the fresh whey collecting in this fresh break.
(3) Cutting curds and releasing the whey
The curd can now be cut to .75-1.5 inch squares in a vertical manner. Allow it to rest 3-5 minutes to heal and then using a long spoon or ladle, cut horizontally into even sized cubes.
(4) Cooking the curds
Stir gently, increasing the heat slowly to 100 to 106°F (38–40°C) during 20 to 30 minutes (higher temp for a drier cheese).
Then keep at this temp for another 20-30 minutes with intermittent stirring (every 3-5 minutes).
When this point is reached, the curds can be allowed to settle for about 5 minutes under the whey.
(5) Removing the whey
The cooking of the final cheese in hot whey is integral to the making of Halloumi, so we will begin by filtering off the whey from the curds until you can see the curds below. You can do this using a sanitized colander and just scooping the whey out with another ladle, bowl, or cup.
When the whey has been separated and transferred, you can begin slowly heating it to 185-195F (do not boil the whey).
(6) Draining and forming the curds
The dry curds can now be transferred to their form for draining. A light hand pressure will help the consolidation of curd and, if making more than 1 form, they can be stacked and reversed for a little weight. While the whey is heating, the curds may continue to rest with a little weight. Either stacking of the forms or a 1-2 lb. weight for a single cheese will do. Make sure you turn them at 15-20 minute intervals to form a well consolidated cheese.
By the time the whey has been heated, the cheese should be well formed into nice rounds about 1.5-2 inches thick as you see in the picture below.
The whey should be stirred gently while heating and as the temperature increases to 150F, add 1/8 tsp. of citric acid per gallon of milk to the whey. Then as the temp reaches about 165-170F add about a tsp of salt and a pint of milk to the whey.
As your whey reaches 185-195F, stop the stirring and allow the curds to rise to the top for about 10 min. This can then be scooped off into another draining mold and you are left with a nice batch of Ricotta style cheese on the left below and a clear whey to be used for heating the Halloumi.
Finally, you are ready to give the Halloumi its true character by heating it in the whey for 30-40 minutes. Keep the whey temp at 190-195F for the time it takes to cook all of the pieces of Halloumi.
Using a ladle or basket to keep the cheese off of the bottom of the heating pot (to prevent sticking), lower the cheese into the whey. The cheese will initially sink to the bottom but as the cheese cooks, it will eventually float to the surface.
When the cheese floats, it is ready to be removed. Cool the cheese for a few seconds in cold water and then lay it on a draining mat to drain and cool a bit more.
(7) Finishing the cheese and salting
As the cheese cools and while it is still warm, flatten it with slight hand pressure to form a larger and flatter disc of cheese.
To finish the cheese sprinkle salt – about 1/2 oz. of cheese salt sprinkled over one side of the cheese disc is fine. Sprinkle some mint on the cheese surface. This is traditionally dried but you can use fresh mint if the cheese will be consumed fresh or even if you are adding other herbs to taste. The cheese can then be folded into a crescent and pressed slightly as it cools.
When finished your yield should be about 1 pound of cheese and 1/4-1/2 pounds of Ricotta/Anari per gallon of milk that you skimmed while preparing the Halloumi.
(8) Use fresh or age
At this point you will have your finished cheese and after 3-5 days, it is ready to be used. It should be kept refrigerated due to the lighter salting.
Another more traditional method of storing is to pack cheeses tightly in covered jars or containers, and cover with 8 to 12 percent brine. They can then be aged for a few weeks up to several months.
*Recipe and photos from Cheesemaking.com