Friday, April 16, 2010

Free Cheese Pairing Guide

Free Cheese Pairing Guide from Beemster! I received this cool offer via email...looks like anyone can order a free one!  Click HERE!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Are Your Ready for April's Cheesy Challenge? Halloumi!

Photo of Grilled Halloumi Cheese -

After exploring lots of easy and delicious fresh cheeses lately, we have stepped up the challenge this month - and are making Halloumi!

Halloumi - Wiki

Halloumi or haloumi (Greek χαλούμι, Turkish hellim, Arabic حلوم ḥallūm) is a traditional Cypriot cheese that is also popular in the rest of the Middle East and Greece, and is now made the world over. It is made from a mixture of goat's and sheep milk, although some halloumi can be bought that also contains cow's milk. It has a high melting point, and so can easily be fried or grilled. Halloumi is set with rennet, and is unusual in that no acid or acid-producing bacterium is used in its preparation.

Cypriot halloumi

Halloumi cheese originated in Cyprus and was initially made during the Medieval Byzantine period, subsequently gaining popularity throughout the rest of the Middle East region. Industrial halloumi contains more cow's milk than goat and sheep milk. This reduces the cost but changes the taste and the grilling properties.

The cheese is white, with a distinctive layered texture, similar to mozzarella, and has a salty flavour. It is stored in its natural juices with salt-water, and can keep for up to a year if frozen below −18 °C (0 °F) and defrosted to +4 °C (39 °F) for sale at supermarkets. It is often garnished with mint to add to the taste. Traditionally, the mint leaves were used as a preservative, the use serendipitously discovered when the fresh Halloumi was kept wrapped for freshness and flavour from the mint leaves. Hence, if you look closely, many packaged Halloumi will have bits of mint leaf on the surface of the cheese.

It is used in cooking, as it can be fried until brown without melting due to its higher-than-normal melting point, making it a good cheese for frying or grilling (such as in saganaki), as an ingredient in salads, or fried and served with vegetables. Cypriots like eating halloumi with watermelon in the warm months, and as halloumi and lountza - a combination of halloumi cheese and either a slice of smoked pork, or a soft lamb sausage.

The resistance to melting comes from the fresh curd being heated before being shaped and placed in brine.Traditional halloumi is a semicircular shape, about the size of a large wallet, weighing 220-270 g. The fat content is approximately 25% wet weight, 47% dry weight with about 17% protein. Its firm texture when cooked causes it to squeak on the teeth when being consumed.

Traditional artisan halloumi is made from unpasteurised sheep and goats milk. Many people also like halloumi that has been aged; it is much drier, much stronger and much saltier. It is easy to find this traditional product in shops. It is kept in its own brine. This cheese is very different from the milder halloumi that Western chefs use as an ingredient.

Although it is made worldwide and is of rather disputed origin due to the mixed cultures in the Levant and East Mediterranean, halloumi is currently registered as a protected Cypriot product within the US (since the 1990s) but not the EU. The delay in registering the name halloumi with the EU has been largely due to a conflict between dairy producers and sheep and goat farmers as to whether registered halloumi will contain cow’s milk or not and if so, at what ratios with sheep and goat’s milk. If it is registered as a PDO (Protected designation of origin) it will enjoy the same safeguard as 600 or so other agricultural products such as feta and parmesan cheese.

- Making Artisan Cheese, Tim Smith

2 gallons whole milk
1/4 tsp mesophilic direct-set culture
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
Brine solution*
1 tsp dried mint, rehydrated in 1/2 cup boiling water


Heat the milk in a double boiler to 86F (31C), then add the starter culture and blend for two minutes.

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. 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.

Yield - 2 pounds (900g)

Use this or any recipe that you like for halloumi
Leave milk out of fridge for a couple of hours before starting the cheese-making.

Brine Solution
A brine is a supesaturated 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.

This is a big one, lots of luck to all of us for mastering Halloumi!!


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Brousse Round-Up!

The verdict is in - we all had a good time making Brousse!

Three brave souls played with goat's and sheep's milk this month and created mild and delicate Brousse, perfect for pairing with stronger flavours to complement it.

Andreas of Delta Kitchen found some groovy new cheese moulds online,

and used his sheep's milk Brousse to make a delicious potato cake from a Nigel Slater recipe, which were like chunky rösti with a polenta crust and oozy cheese inside. Yum!

Foodycat, from the blog of the same name, used her unique and trusty egg ring, bamboo steamer and cheesecloth contraption as a mould.

"Over a couple of days I ate it drizzled with truffle honey, on toast (with more honey), alongside pears poached in red wine with peppercorns and thyme, on wholewheat crackers with fig and fennel paste, and a sprinkling of red-wine infused salt, on crackers with chopped raw garlic and a sprinkling of Maldon salt."

I made my Brousse, over at Living in the Kitchen with Puppies, in in my small coeur a la creme moulds, lined with cheesecloth.

I served it with lots of fresh herbs, which were very nice with the delicate goat's cheese, and a sprinkling of Maldon sea salt. I found the cheese, like all cheese, definitely needed salt - next time I'll add salt whether it is the recipe or not.

There we go - three great versions of this fun, delicate, and easy cheese.

Thanks everyone for participating!