Thursday, October 10, 2013

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Halloumi

     Halloumi is yet another example of my favorite food, cheese.  This exotic hails from the Mediterranean island of Cyprus.  The Cypriots have been making it for 800-1600 years (I know this date range is longishly vague, but it’s all I could determine from half-assed research).  It has spread a bit, though—it’s now also enjoyed in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, Greece, Southern Turkey, and recently, the U.K.  Traditionally it’s made from a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk, but of late cow’s milk (being cheaper) is sometimes substituted or added.  Cheesewise it’s semi-hard, unripened, and soaked in brine.  Because of its high melting point it’s often cooked—either grilled or fried.  It’s also often wrapped in mint, which acts both as a preservative and a flavoring agent.  In summer it’s sometimes eaten with watermelon, and it’s also commonly eaten with pork or lamb sausage.
     I found halloumi in the Cypriot aisle of my local supermarket (I’m kidding, of course.  I’ve never seen any such aisle in all my travels.  It was located in the international cheese section).  I have a strong aversion to cooking, so unless it’s absolutely necessary, to avoid getting sick or riddled with worms, like with fresh meat, I usually don’t.  Therefore, I just had the halloumi cold, both plain and on crackers.  I thought it was very tasty either way.  It was slightly salty (no doubt due to the brine-soaking), but not overwhelmingly or unpleasantly so.  Its texture and flavor were reminiscent of both mozzarella and feta, I thought.  I would certainly buy it again, and maybe will even consider cooking it next time.
     I was, however, disappointed in one way.  Halloumi is also known as Cypriot Squeaky Cheese.  And it did, on several bites, but only slightly.  At the very real risk of starting a bizarre dairy-based war between Finland and Cyprus, I thought the former’s squeaky cheese version (Leipajuusto, see earlier post) won the squeak contest.  Granted, I’m relying on my memory—I didn’t measure these noises on the decibel scale or anything, or record them for more accurate comparisons, but still, I remain confident of this conclusion.

     And while we’re discussing things Cypriot, I should give a shout out to my former colleagues Bill (“Johnny”) and Michelle, who have both chosen this island as the focus of their archaeological studies.

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