Basic Cheesemaking (Part 4) – Halloumi

Our final cheese is a simple halloumi. A cheese that is a step up from what we’ve been doing already, but not massively. It has the same basic component: heat milk, add rennet, wait for it to do its thing, drain the curds. But then there’s another step, and that’s to cook the curds in the whey. This makes the cheese you produce spoingy and springy, and so lovely when it’s fried.

You can scale up the ingredients to make large quantities, but the basic requirements are:

  • 1 litre milk, as fatty as you can find, and as fresh as you can find
  • 5 drops of rennet
  • salt 
  • optional: herbs

In terms of hardware, you’ll need

  • heavy-bottomed saucepan or pot with lid
  • cheesecloth or muslin
  • colander
  • jam thermometer
  • chopping board and knife

So, let’s make cheese!

This is our basic setup of ingredients and hardware. Our (veggie) rennet is slightly out of date, so I’m using more drops than the recipe calls for. I don’t normally use this gold-top milk but thought I’d give it a go.

Step 1 – heating the milk

Pour the milk into your pot, and heat it to c. 30C. 28, 32 – these are all good numbers. Once it has reached the temperature, take it off the heat and quickly but gently stir in the rennet – step 2.

Step 2 – stir in the rennet

Dilute your rennet in 1/4 cup water. 5 drops are normally fine for this amount of milk. Gentle pour it into your milk and…

… stir it in very gently for 30 seconds. Here, you’re trying to mix in the rennet without agitating your milk – try and avoid bubbles and foam.

Step 3 – leave for 30 mins

Then cover your pot with a lid and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes. This is usually enough, though sometimes the process takes longer. You are looking for the milk to form into a solid mass that you can cut easily, and that comes away from the side of the pot. If this doesn’t quite work when you try it, leave it for a bit longer and try again. If this still isn’t working after 1 hour you’ll need to experiment with slightly more rennet next time you make this.

Step 4 – cut the curd

Take your knife and make long smooth cuts c. 1cm distant throughout your cheese. Cut the cheese both vertically and horizontally – you’re looking to end up with a ‘grid’, if you’re looking at the pot from the top. Also cut around the edge, where the cheese meets your pot. Be sure to cut to the bottom of the pot. Then do the third cut – this one is trickier, but you’re basically trying to slice the cheese along the height of the pot so that you end up with cubes. To do this, put your knife in at an angle and make shallow sideways cuts as best as you can. The first part of this youtube video shows you how to do this. It also shows you the process of cooking the cheese curd, which we’ll do later in our process.

This is what my curds look like once they’ve been cut.

Rest your curds in the post for 5 minutes before moving on to the next step.

Step 5 – drain and rest

Put your colander in a large bowl (to catch the whey) and line it with your cheesecloth or muslin. Ladle or spoon the curds you have cut into this, and be sure to hold on to the whey – both the whey than drains through your colander, and what is left in your pot. 

I often put the colander back on the pot to drain – this works quite well because of their respective sizes. 

Leave to drain for 20 minutes. I usually squeeze out some whey by hand at this point, too. Just grab the for corners of the cheesecloth and hold it up, and then squeeze it gently to release more liquid.

Then place your curds onto a chopping board to rest. Cover them (I tend to use the cheesecloth), and leave them for 2 hours.

Step 6 – slice the curd and cook it

Slice your curd into 1cm thick pieces. Bring the whey to the boil, and gently add your curd pieces into this. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook your curd until the pieces float to the surface. This normally takes 5-10 minutes, but sometimes takes a bit longer. Don’t worry about this – just wait until they float. Remove the floating pieces and set aside.

If you don’t end up with enough whey to cook your cheese in, simply add in water to stretch what you have. The goal is to give your cheese curds room to float.

Step 7 – rest and salt

Place your cheese pieces in a plastic dish or jar, with a little whey added (like when you buy feta). Before you add the whey, salt your cheese and add any herbs you like. The amount is really up to you. I like my halloumi quite salty and will add a good 10-15g of salt.

To eat, fry your slices until they’re brown and melty. You can store this cheese in a cool place for up the six weeks, but I can’t imagine you’ll resist eating it for more than a couple of days!

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