I love halloumi and I could happily eat freshly grilled slabs of this this squeaky, salty Cypriot cheese everyday of the week. When I read that making it from scratch was fairly easy, I was keen to give it a go. The only downside was that most of the recipes for homemade halloumi required some sort of special milk (translate: hard to find and expensive). I dug a little deeper and finally found a recipe that catered for plain, store bought cow's milk. φοβερός!! 🐮
If you've ever made any other fresh cheese from scratch, such as mozzarella, you'll find the process quite familiar. Milk + rennet + heat = cheese.
What's rennet? I'm glad you asked. It's the enzyme that occurs naturally in the stomach of ruminant mammals and in some plants, like wild thistle or fig leaves. When it comes into contact with milk, it thickens and separates it into curds and whey. They say that animal rennet was first discovered when an Arabian merchant transported his milk supply in the stomach of a sheep, and when he arrived at his destination, the combination of the enzyme and the sun's heat had turned it into curds and whey. Presumably, the plant rennet was discovered in a similar way (someone decided to cook wild thistles in milk? Perhaps.). Anyway, these days rennet comes in either tablet or liquid form and is more often than not vegetarian.
Here's my recipe for homemade halloumi from scratch:
4L full-cream milk
3/4 teaspoon of calcium chloride*
1/4 teaspoon of liquid rennet (in 1 cup of non-chlorinated water)
(You'll need cheesecloth and a cooking thermometer for this recipe).
1. Combine milk and calcium chloride in a saucepan and warm over a slow heat to 36 degrees Celcius
2. Add rennet mixture and stir for 3 seconds then put the lid on and leave for an hour. Keep it somewhere warm (Important! Otherwise it won't set). **
3. After an hour, using a large knife or slicer, 'chop' the curds into chunks (they'll separate from the whey).
4. Return saucepan to heat, and warm the contents to 40 degrees Celcius, stirring it very gently.
5. Strain curds in a cheesecloth (you can keep the whey for smoothies etc. - it's high in protein) and position it somewhere that it'll be able to drain completely (hang it or press it in a strainer.)
6. When the curds are fully drained (around an hour), slice them into slabs and poach them in simmering water for about 10 minutes.
7. Remove from the water and place them on a cake rack (or similar) then sprinkle generously with salt.
8. You can now store this cheese in the fridge or cook it straight away. If you're cooking it, slice the slabs into smaller strips, fry with a little olive oil and serve with lemon zest, mint and anything else you fancy (goes nicely with peach or watermelon). απολαμβάνω!
Below is the final result. Not the sexiest of food styling, but I was too excited to eat it so I quickly threw it together on a plate.
*We use calcium chloride in this recipe to ensure a firmer curd. The heat-treating process used to produce your typical store-bought commercial cow's milk (the stuff we're using in this recipe) decreases the amount of calcium, which leads to a less firm curd. Hence the calcium chloride substitute.
** Troubleshooting: The second time I made halloumi I found that my curds didn't set at all. I was devastated. In a mildly pissed off manner I cranked up the heat and decided to turn it into homemade ricotta instead. As soon as I added that extra warmth the curds formed and I was back on track. Heat is important. Don't give up. ✌🏽