What is Haloumi Cheese?

 

Haloumi Souvlaki

Grilled Haloumi Souvlaki

Haloumi (ha-LOO-mee) is the national cheese of Cyprus but is also popular in Turkey and the Arab world. Haloumi traditionally is made with sheep’s milk, but nowadays is also produced with a combination of sheep’s and cow’s milk. The cheese has two distinct characteristics: its square or rectangular, relatively flat, folded shape and its strong mint flavor, derived from the shreds of fresh mint leaves that are encased in between the folded layers of the cheese when it is produced. It falls into the category of cheeses, like kashkeval and kasseri, whose set curds are dipped in boiling water or whey so that the cheese attains its semifirm, almost squeaky texture. Haloumi is usually sold vacuum-packed in pieces about a half pound each. It is a mild cheese, yet it can be salty, and some commercially made haloumi is exceedingly so. The cheese is eaten as a table cheese in Cyprus but is also widely consumed as a snack and meze, especially grilled in a dry skillet or over a barbecue. It goes very well with warm pita bread and dried fruit.

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