Thursday, April 11, 2013

Halloumi Cheese

I was in Von's the other day and saw a cheese I'd never heard of before. I bought it and found that it is one of the 1001 Foods You Must Taste Before You Die (Frances Case, p. 311). The package identifies itself as "sheep's milk cheese" and "the grilling cheese of Cyprus." Cyprus is an island located in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and is the third largest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily and Sardinia.
The label indicates it is a product of Cyprus, imported by Mt. Vikos, Inc. and that it is made from pasteurized sheep's milk, salt, microbial rennet, and mint. Wikipedia notes that it is unusual that no acid or acid-producing bacterium is used to set the cheese, it is all done by rennet (enzymes produced in a mammal stomach that coagulate milk and cause it to separate into solids (curds) and liquid (whey). Mint leaves were traditionally used as a preservative and to maintain tradition, it is often now packaged with fragments of mint leaves on the surface. Other brands of halloumi may also include goat and sometimes even cow milk. 

Part of what attracted me to the cheese was the wonderful packaging: a Greek Orthodox looking building with a mountain in the background.
I'm not finding an actual Mount Vikos, other than the name of the company, but there is a Vikos Gorge in the Pindus Mountains of northern Greece and a village of Vikos which is nearby. 

1001 indicates that halloumi cheese was "originally made by Bedouin in the Middle East, as its good keeping qualities made it ideal for their nomadic lifestyle." Production then spread to Greece and Cyprus. Halloumi is now made in "Cyprus using centuries-old methods." There, halloumi "'police' visit stores and dairies to ensure that the time-honored mehtods are being upheld." 

1001 describes it as "creamy white soft to semihard...with a fibrous, springy texture." It notes that it "can be sliced but not crumbled, and it is at its best when cooked.
In Cyprus, thin slices...are cooked in a hot pan until the outside is crisp and golden and the inside is soft. Or it is grilled and drizzled with olive oil, and then served with salad and pita bread." Wikipedia notes that it has a high melting point due to fresh curd being heated before being shaped and placed in brine. It can be fried brown without melting. 
Compared to feta, which would be the cheese most like it, at least that I have had, halloumi is saltier and  more rubbery. I'm finding browned pictures of fried halloumi on the internet which makes me determined to get more and try frying or roasting it. 

1 comment:

  1. I think it had the texture and squeak of fresh cheese curds. Definitely one to buy and try again.