Pork Belly’s been cheese-making again – well who can resist when you’re sent a fun kit to try.
This is the third in the series from The Cheesemakers Choice – this time featuring those Mediterranean classics feta and halloumi.
Halloumi is a kind of love-me-or-hate-me cheese, with its odd effect of squeaking on your teeth, but, as we discovered when we ate at Ta Piatakia in Cyprus, freshly made, freshly grilled halloumi is heavenly – especially when wrapped in bacon – so it is well worth the effort.
The box says “moo” but as every cheese aficionado knows these Greek classics are traditionally made with either sheep or goats milk or a combination of the two – which is right up my street and down my alley, given my reaction to all things cow.
We’ve reviewed previous kits and found them quick and easy to use – especially the goats cheese one – but making halloumi is a little more complicated as it involves setting the curds with rennet.
The instructions say the actual cooking time is about an hour but you need to allow at least four hours to complete the whole process. We found it took quite a bit longer than that, especially at the pressing stage, so we’d suggest you set aside a day when you don’t have much on before you tackle it.
Equipment-wise you’ll need a big pan – stockpot size – to hold 4 litres of milk and leave enough room to stir. A colander is essential as is somewhere to put the colander to drain and still catch all the whey.
As with all cheese-making, do not waste the whey. Not only is it vital for the whole process of making halloumi, which is poached in its own whey at one stage, but the remainder can be used in baking bread, cakes, desserts – anything that might benefit from a little extra milky oomph.
So we went off piste a little and used ordinary St Helen’s Farm goats milk as it is widely available in supermarkets. We would probably have got better results using full fat sheep or goats milks from independent dairies, but for convenience the mass produced milk works fine. If you are using cows milk you will get a richer cheese and the curds will set quicker because of the higher fat content. In fact for best results use gold-top un-homogenised milk.
The process involves a lot of heating, keeping the milk at a steady temperature, reheating, poaching and plenty of setting time (preferably overnight).
The instructions provide an ingenious way to improvise a cheese press – using the bottles or cartons the milk came in. For us this was the trickiest part and pressing out all the whey took about three hours in total. It would probably be quicker if we had a set of old fashioned scale weights to make the pressure more even, or perhaps a small hand kettle-bell. (Note to Pork Belly, start doing more weight training at the gym please and smuggle one home next time we are making cheese).
And the end product?
We’re pretty pleased with how it turned out. As you can see from the picture the texture wasn’t quite as smooth as we would have liked – probably because we used lower fat goats milk – but it definitely had the trade-mark halloumi squeak. The flavour was enhanced by the second day and it kept well in the fridge.
Best taste of all was having it lightly fried in a bit of goats butter – absolutely delicious. The next challenge will be the feta, which takes 3 days to complete. Think we’ll wait for the Christmas holidays before we tackle that one!
Disclaimer: We were sent a Mediterranean cheese kit to try free of charge. The opinions above are our own, genuine and unbiased thoughts.