Even though this weekend marks the end of my first semester back at school, what I really want to say is: I made cheese! Not once or twice! But thrice! Don’t mean to show off or anything (I’m showing off) but I made halloumi, mascarpone and there is a camembert maturing in the cupboard under the stairs as I type. Camembert!
Making cheese is one of those elemental things like making bread – not only does it make me feel supremely capable and accomplished but tricks other people into thinking I am too (bonus!). And, apropos of nothing, that was five exclamation marks in one paragraph and I mightn’t stop there! Even though my favourite English teacher told us too many exclamation marks dilute their effectiveness and furthermore are just lazy! So hold on to your hats people, I’m on the rampage this morning.
One of the things on the long list of great things about coming home is having met my friend Marly, a cheesemaker, among other things. Her parents are German and with her pink and white complexion she fits the part perfectly – I can sort of imagine her wearing a milkmaid’s dirndl (is there such a thing? I might have made it up). She wasn’t wearing anything of the sort when when came over to make halloumi though but it turned out squeakily toothsome all the same.
Making halloumi is easier than making macaroni cheese, I kid you not. Unless you think macaroni cheese comes out of a cardboard box, to which I say “pah!” and also “I did not know you could get macaroni cheese in a box until I went to San Francisco earlier this year and spent an hour peering at all the stuff in the supermarket ‘cause that’s what I do when I go to new countries.”
So, without further ado, this is how you make friends and influence people: Make halloumi and feed it to them. That’s it. For realz. Unless they are vegan or hate cheese. In which case, they probably won’t be.
Also, between the 25th and 31st October, the Royal NZ Foundation for the Blind is organising “Bake a Difference” which involves baking some stuff and selling it to raise funds – fun way to fundraise right? Especially since I know lots of you love to bake. So, get on it people!
The only problem with making cheese is getting some of the more esoteric (can I say that here? I will anyway, like I said, I‘m on the rampage) ingredients. In New Zealand, Mad Millie sells stuff like rennet tablets and cultures but I’m not sure where you can get that stuff elsewhere – let us know in the comments if you do. I know I’ve cut the curds in a bowl but that’s because I didn’t have a pot big enough to hold all the milk and had to pour it all in together when the milk was heated.
4 litres full cream milk
1 tablet rennet diluted in 10 ml of cooled boiled water (important so the chlorine doesn’t damage the rennet I think) or 3ml of liquid rennet
Sieve or colander, probably two (I used one sieve and one colander)
Heat the milk to 45 celsius (113 fahrenheit) in a large pot, stirring constantly to ensure the milk doesn’t stick on the bottom.
Remove from heat and stir the rennet in. Put the lid on and allow to set for 45 minutes or until fairly firm, like silken tofu.
Using a long knife, cut the curd into 1 cm (1/2 inch) cubes by slicing first lengthways, then widthways and finally horizontally (don’t worry if it’s sort of on an angle).
Using the slotted spoon, gently pick up the curds and allow the whey to drain back in again, over and over for about ten minutes.
Line a sieve or colander with the cheesecloth and place in the sink or a bowl to catch the liquid unless you don’t mind it dripping all over the bench.
Scoop the curds in, and then put a plate and weights (I used some canned pineapple) on top to allow the whey to drain further. You can use the whey left in the pot for smoothies or the garden if you like.
When the cheese is firm enough (half an hour or so), cut into pieces.
Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to the boil.
Put the pieces into the water and remove with slotted spoon when they rise to the surface, about five minutes – don’t let the pieces stick to the bottom of the pot.
Dry in a cooling rack and salt generously. We used a mixture of vaguely Greek herbs on some of them (oregano was in there I think).
Cool and wrap or put in a tupperware, they will keep for 2 weeks in the fridge.
To eat, fry in oil or grill until golden on each side.