All cheese begins with milk, and employs a process of fermentation that is, in essence, simple enough to master so that you can produce fresh cheese and cultured dairy products at home. While making haloumi involves a number of technical aspects, if you follow these steps precisely, you'll soon be enjoying the best cheese you've tasted outside of Cyprus. The recipe below takes around five hours from start to finish and makes 480gm haloumi.
What you'll need
Cheese making relies on precision, in particular temperature, therefore a digital thermometer is a great investment and is easier to read than a regular cooking thermometer. For this recipe, you will also require a small jug, metal spoon and slotted spoon, small syringe (see note), muslin and a 3¼-cup square cake pan.
Vegetarian rennet is available from specialist food shops and cheesemaking suppliers. To measure rennet you will need a small (1ml or 5ml) syringe; these are available from pharmacies.
A note on sterilising
Cleanliness is one of the most important aspects of cheese making to guarantee the best shelf life. Firstly, ensure that your kitchen is spotlessly clean. Do this by washing it down with hot, soapy water then wiping with white vinegar. Sterilise all utensils by boiling them for 15 minutes before use, then allow them to air dry. Any items that can't be boiled can be sprayed with white vinegar, which will kill any wild mould spores that could potentially contaminate the cheese.
How to make haloumi, step by step
1 Place 4 litres organic pasteurised, unhomogenised milk in a large saucepan fitted with a cooking thermometer over low heat and slowly heat the milk to 38°C. Meanwhile, combine 8ml liquid vegetarian rennet (see note) and 3 tsp boiled, cooled water in a sterilised jug. When the milk reaches 38°C, remove the thermometer and turn off the heat. Stir in rennet mixture with a sterilised metal spoon until well combined (2 minutes).
2 Cover pan with a lid and set aside until milk has coagulated and curds form (1 hour). During this time, keep the temperature at 38°C; to do this, turn the heat on to medium for 30 seconds every 15 minutes.
3 When the curds have set, use a large, sterilised knife to cut a cross-hatch pattern into the curds to create 3cm pieces. Maintaining the temperature at 38°C, stand for 5 minutes, then stir the curds every 5 minutes for 30 minutes to release the whey.
4 Line a colander with muslin (leaving plenty of excess cloth overhanging the sides) and place over a bowl. Using a sterilised mesh spoon, transfer curds to a colander, reserving the whey.
For a flavoured version, stir 2 tsp chopped fresh herbs, such as rosemary, into the curds, then cover top with overhanging muslin and weigh down with a heavy weight. Set aside at room temperature to drain (2 hours).
5 Transfer haloumi in muslin to a 9½cm (3¼-cup) square cake pan, pressing down firmly to fit. Weigh down with a heavy object similar in shape to the tin and refrigerate until set (1 hour).
6 Meanwhile, make a brine solution by combining 40gm sea salt flakes with 1.5 litres cold water in a large lidded container.
7 Heat reserved whey to 85°C. Remove haloumi from pan and cut into six pieces. Working in batches, cook haloumi in whey for 10 minutes or until it floats to the surface. Remove then place in the brine until ready to eat.
You can pan-fry the haloumi immediately in a little olive oil until golden, or keep it refrigerated in the brine for up to a month. The longer you keep the haloumi, the firmer the texture becomes and the saltier it will be. Pat the haloumi dry before pan-frying.
Now you have haloumi, here are recipes to cook with it.