Halloumi is a firm, white cheese that is popular in Cypriot, Greek and Middle Eastern cooking. Historically it originated from the island of Cyprus during the medieval Byzantine period and is typically made from goat or sheep’s milk, but can also be made from cow’s milk as well. Like Greek Feta, Halloumi is kept in its own salted brine and its firmness and high melting-point allows it to be fried or grilled much like Greek saganaki.
I myself enjoy making cheese from scratch, I know I don’t have to make it myself but I try to spend the time whenever I can as the outcome is generally very rewarding. When I’ve searched for recipes online, however, I found that some recipes and cheese-making processes in the home looked rather clinical and complicated. Thermometers, rubber gloves, rennet tablets… Too complicated! I don’t think our foremothers and forefathers made cheese-making that complicated so I don’t intend to either. Unlike making your own Ricotta or Chèvre, however, this is a firmer cheese that’s going to take a bit more work but it’s worth it! And I assure you that the only thing hard about making this recipe is carrying the bottles of milk up the stairs!
Homemade Cypriot Halloumi
- 2 litres whole goat, sheep or cow milk
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 lemons
Mint Vinaigrette (Optional)
- 1 cup olive oil
- Juice from one lemon
- 1/4 cup fresh mint
- 1/4 vinegar
- 1 tsp honey
- 1/2 tsp salt
Boil the milk on high while whisking until the milk flares up. Don’t walk away and chat on the phone or you’ll burn the milk. Keep stirring. Once the milk froths turn the element off and squeeze in the juice of 2 lemons. Stir and leave the milk stand for 15 minutes until the milk curdles and whey separates. Line a sieve with cheesecloth and pour the curds into it straining off the whey. Leave the curds stand for one hour. Once most of the whey has drained tie the cheese cloth tight around the curds and give it a light squeeze to get rid of any excess whey. Use a metal clip or tie a strong knot with the edges of the cloth snug around the curds to prepare it for boiling. Cool and keep the whey on the side to use as brine when refrigerating the finished cheese.
Heat a pot of boiling water now with enough volume to cover the cheese, add in 2 tsp of salt and once it boils reduce to low (light rolling boil) and drop the tied cheese into the boiling water. Leave it simmer in the water for one hour turning it over at the half hour mark. Once an hour passes remove and leave it to cool in a sieve. Cut or untie the cheese cloth and place the cheese into a bowl. Let it cool to room temperature then cover and place it in the fridge over night. You’re going to end up with about 400 grams of cheese and after leaving it overnight in the fridge it should be quite firm to the touch in the morning.
Prepare side salad dishes with a handful of leafy greens, some sprigs of rocket and a sprig of mint. Lay a few pieces of halloumi on each dish with greens. Blend the ingredients for the mint vinaigrette in a food processor and dress the cheese and greens with 1 tbsp of the vinaigrette each or enjoy it’s natural flavours on its own sans vinaigrette. Store the remaining cheese in the fridge in a covered container in the whey that was drained off during the curdling process. Add a teaspoon of salt to the whey before using it to store the finished cheese.
Kali Orexi! Good eating to you…