Happy Cheese Makers Since 1978

FREE SHIPPING | orders over $65 within the USA, applies at checkout

Halloumi ... ? Never heard of it you say... ?

Well, as we are well into summer now and our thoughts have turned to being outdoors more, what better cheese for this month than one to throw on your barbeque?

I know you're all thinking "Wow.. What a mess!"
But not to worry, this is a cheese that won't melt and will retain its texture and shape. The surface will caramelize a bit and the inside will soften a bit but the flavor is incredible, especially when still warm .... AND it's a really cool cheese to grill.

Unusual yes!.. but very yummy!

A Bit of History :

Halloumi cheese has been around for many centuries and the name Halloumi is automatically associated with Cyprus but it is also popular in Greece, the Middle East and is now made around the world.
Halloumi may have its origins in the Beduin tribes of the Middle East who probably found its long keeping attributes ideal for their particular way of life. Its presence in Cyprus is lost in time, but it was definitely produced on the island before the Turkish invasion of 1571. In older times, Halloumi in brine was an essential part of the peoples diet, especially so in the absence of any refrigeration facilities.

What is Halloumi? :

Halloumi is from the island of Cyprus and is characterized as a semi-hard, unripened, and brined cheese made traditionally from mostly sheep's milk with the addition of a smaller amount of goat's milk. Modern Halloumi is made from a mix of goat's and sheep's milk, and sometimes cow's milk is added *(we will be making ours with only cow's milk).

The cheese is set with rennet and is very unusual in that no acid or acid-producing bacteria are used in its preparation. Some recipes though, do call for the addition of starter culture but this is traditionally not done. When made with raw milk, certain bacteria naturally present in the milk and environment will influence the flavor during aging. These bacteria will leave behind enzymes that will assist flavor during aging.

    Halloumi is also unique in having a high melting point and so can easily be fried or grilled. It is the high pH (low acid) of the cheese that causes this non-melting characteristic. Although the cheese keeps its shape, its outward appearance turns into a crispy, golden-brown color when fried or browned and with grill marks when grilled, it softens significantly but it does not melt.

    The other factor contributing to the non-melting character and texture of this cheese is that the whey used for scalding must first be heated to about 195°F (91°C) to bring out the whey proteins from the liquid. This whey curd is then skimmed off and drained in baskets. If you were in Cyprus, you could call this whey cheese “Anari” and it looks just like Ricotta. The Halloumi is then boiled in this clarified hot whey until it floats.

    Halloumi is often garnished with mint to add to the taste. Traditionally, the mint leaves were used as a preservative. This practice came about when it was considered that Halloumi kept better and was fresher and more flavorful when wrapped with mint leaves.
    Many people prefer Halloumi when it has been kept in its own brine, it is much drier, much stronger and much saltier. This cheese is very different from the milder Halloumi that Western chefs use as an ingredient.

A Recipe for Making Halloumi

Although Halloumi is traditionally made with ewe's milk and added cow's milk, I will be making it in this recipe with 100% cow's milk. You can easily substitute your own mix of milk if you like.
I will also be making the cheese with 3 gallons of milk for the photos (because we like it so much) but will give the recipe for a 1 gallon batch below to make your first trial easier. 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 MA4002 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 good thermometer
  • A knife to cut the curds, and a spoon or ladle to stir the curds
  • A colander and butter muslin to drain the curds
  • One of our basket molds will work just fine.
  • 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.

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.

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 temp drops a few degrees during this time.

A firm curd and how to tell if it's too soon to cut (or too late)

As with most cheeses, a firm curd is essential to the rest of the cheese making process. In the photos above 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.

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.

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.

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. I 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).

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 pictures above.

The whey should be stirred gently while heating and as the temperature increases to150F, add 1/8 tsp. of citric acid per gallon of milk to the whey. This will increase the yield of Anari/Ricotta. Then as the temp reaches about 165-170F add about a tsp of salt and a pint of milk to the whey. The milk will increase the richness of the Anari/Ricotta you skim off.

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. I 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.

Finishing the cheese and salting:

As the cheese cools and while it is still warm, I flatten with a slight hand pressure to form a larger and flatter disc of cheese.

To finish the cheese I sprinkle :

  1. Salt - about 1/2 oz. of cheese salt sprinkled over one side of the cheese disc.
    .. this equates to only about 3% salt addition but traditionally up to 5% and more would be added for preservation in the hot Mediterranean climate.
  2. Mint - enough mint to cover the cheese surface. This is traditionally dried but I see no reason not to use fresh 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

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 I have applied here or if you are looking for a more traditional "Mediterranean Style" cheese with higher salt, then increase the salt to about 5%. The higher salt will keep well at room temperature for several days.

To use the cheese, our favorite way is to "GRILL" the cheese and caramelize the surface for a really rich flavor with a soft and warm interior. The cheese will take a very high heat without melting and will acquire a wonderful texture and flavor. It will withstand several minutes on each side. This can be done on the outdoor grill or in a pan on the stove.

You can also use this cheese by stuffing with other wonderful things such as peppers and grilled vegetables or cut into cubes and used in kababs etc as well as cold in salads.

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. These cheeses will be rather high in salt but can be used much like Feta in dishes that would normally be salted (but just omit the salt).

For a printable version click here

Share With Friends:

You May Also Like: