Ten years ago I took a cheese making course with Caitlin of Appleton Creamery, here in Maine. As a chef, we are curious about our food products, so I wanted to see her farm and get an introduction to the process of making cheese. I fell in love with the process…the smells, the systematic approach, the science…and of course, the final result. The fact that you can take the by-product of cheese making (the whey) and make another cheese (ricotta) from it blew me away. Over the years, we have met many cheese makers on our Foodie Trips to Europe, toured their kitchens, factories and caves, and cooked with their products. A friend at our farm (Pepper Hill Farm) recently gifted me some milk from her cow, and the cheese bug struck again.
When Mary Jo and I toured through Greece, we were introduced to Halloumi cheese. I wanted to make a cheese that I could produce in the restaurant, a cheese that could be the center piece of a dish on the menu. In Sicily, I make a dish with Cacciocavallo cheese (from Ragusa), and serve it with a Tomato Jam…perfect for our menu. Now I just need to produce some cheese!
The basic process of making this cheese is: heat milk, coagulate the protein to form the curds, cut the curds, cook the curds to release the whey, drain off the whey and place the curds in a cheesecloth lined mold. Press the curds with heavy weights to create a compact wheel, slice the wheel, cook the slices in hot whey, salt the wedges and then brine.