Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Further Adventures in Cheese - Halloumi!

This month's cheesy challenge at Forging Fromage was Halloumi! A step up in difficulty level for us, to be sure, but with very satisfying results. Halloumi is a Greek cheese, semi-firm and great for grilling or frying as it doesn't melt easily.

My experience was a bit of a comedy of errors, but my cheese turned out wonderfully regardless. To weight the cheese I used bricks, washed, from next door. They fell. Twice. Five bricks in a tower for the 30 pound pressing, 7 for the forty. I finally rigged up a buttress system on the floor, with the cupboards, door, and stool supporting the tower of bricks. Success.

My little bundle of curds, wrapped in cheesecloth and placed in an up-until-now unused plastic steaming insert from my rice cooker, layered with a small plate and then a tea towel to protect it from dust, firmed up perfectly under my sometimes falling tower of bricks.
The cheese was then brined, refrigerated, and then sliced and fried and marinated with lots of goodies, below.
I wonder what we will make next month?

Halloumi - Making Artisan Cheese, Tim Smith
(I made a half batch and got just over a pound)

2 gallons whole milk
1/4 tsp mesophilic direct-set culture (Not sure if my culture was mesophilic or thermophilic but it worked fine anyway)
1/8 tsp calcium chloride, diluted in 1/4 cup cool, unchlorinated water
1/2 tsp liquid rennet, or 1/4 tab dry rennet diluted in 1/4 cup cool, unchlorinated water
1/2 cup cheese salt (I used pickling salt)
Brine solution*
1 tsp dried mint, rehydrated in 1/2 cup boiling water (I used a handful)


Heat the milk in a double boiler to 86F (31C), then add the starter culture and blend for two minutes. (I use my slow cooker, on high with a thermometer in it set to alarm)

Maintaining the target temperature of 86F, add the rennet & calcium chloride, stir for one minute, and let rest for forty minutes, or until a clean break. To test for a clean break, use a curd knife to make one cut through the curds.

Cut curds into 1/2" (about 1cm) cubes, trying to keep them as uniform as possible.
Slowly heat curds to 104F (40C); this should take forty-five minutes. Continually stir the curds to keep them from matting. Once the curds reach target temperature, maintain the curds at that temperature for an additional twenty minutes while continuing to stir.

Drain the whey off curds into a cheese cloth-lined colander that is set in a catch bowl. Reserve the whey.

Blend mint into the drained curds with a spoon. (I blended the mint in before straining, easier that way) Pour the curds into a 2-pound (900g) cheese cloth-lined mould. Fold a corner of the cheese cloth over the curds, and press at thirty pounds for one hour. Remove the cheese from the mould, and unwrap the cheese cloth. Turn over the cheese, and rewrap it with the cheese cloth. Press at forty pounds for one hour. The cheese should be firm with a spongy consistency.

Heat the reserved whey in a pan to 190F (88C). Take the cheese out of the mould, and cut it into 2" (5cm) thick strips. Put the strips into the heated whey, maintaining the target temperature for one hour.

The cheese should have a thick consistency. Drain it into the cheese cloth-lined colander, and let it rest at room temperature for twenty minutes.

Coat the cheese with 1/2 cup (145g) of cheese salt, and let it rest for two hours at room temperature. (?) I just strained some of the hot whey, threw in some pickling salt and let it sit in there for a bit - then I drained it and wrapped it in wet cheesecloth and put it into tupperware and refrigerated overnight - turned out salty and delicious and perfect.

Yield - 2 pounds (900g) (for the full batch)

The recipe got vague in parts, we had to fill in the blanks, but the results were excellent so I'm not complaining.

Brine Solution
A brine is a supersaturated solution of salt and water, in which cheeses are literally bathed. (Brine solution consists of 2 pounds (905g) of salt stirred into and dissolved in 1 gallon (4.5 l) of water, heated to 190F (88C).
The types of cheeses that are usually brined are hard cheeses, such as Gouda and Emmental.
Brining occurs directly after a cheese is removed from the press. The cheese is literally dunked into this salty bath. Once in a the brine, the cheese begins to absorb salt, and the proteins begin to harden and form the rind.

Serving the cheese - I sliced the halloumi, pan-fried it, and tossed it in a bowl with olive oil, harissa, minced preserved lemon, diced roasted red peppers, minced garlic and fresh thyme. Delicious on a little crusty bread.

Feel free to join us in our cheesy adventures!