The Accidental Cheese Maker

Another installment in the exciting, crazy life of me!

On Saturday I was working in the retail section of The Kitchen Shoppe & Cooking School while two classes were being taught.  The first was a burger class and the second, Cheese Making for Beginners.

In between waiting on customers, answering the phone and keeping up with the general duties of the shop I was able to listen in on the classes as they progressed.  Of course, that means I was able to get 25% (or less) of the information being shared with the students.

At the end of the day, after all the students were gone and the staff in the cooking school was cleaning up the classroom and kitchen, I was presented with the following question, “Do you want to take the Halloumi with you?”

Remember when you’re mom told you, “if it seems too good to be true it probably is”?  Well, I should have thought about that before I answered the question.  Or at the very least I should have asked one or two questions in return before replying with a resounding, “Yes.”  (I mean, who doesn’t want fresh (I mean REALLY fresh) homemade halloumi?)

But, I didn’t ask any questions and I didn’t consider that old adage; so what did I get?  I got the demonstration batch of halloumi done only through step 5 of the 10 step process….in a large pot……..with a lid and a LOT of liquid…..that I had to transport home in my car. Oh, and I got the recipe so I could finish steps 6 through 10 too – and because I did, I knew I needed to buy some cheese forms before I left the store.

I drove home very carefully trying not to spill any whey in my car.  I did put a Pot Bra on the large pot of curds and whey (yes, I was feeling a little bit like Little Miss Muffet) before I put it into my car and then I hoped for the best.

Now mind you, I had worked Monday thru Saturday AND had a class to teach the next day, for which I had to get up early so that I could make a few things before class began. I tell you this not to complain, but to say in a round-about way that I was tired when I got home.  I was probably not in the best frame of mind to take on this cheese project, but alas I did.

So when I got the pot of curds and whey home, I washed my hands, rolled up my sleeves and looked to step 6 of the recipe for direction.  I drained the cheese, reserved the whey and put the curds into the cheese forms that I had purchased.  Then I had to find something to use to press the cheese for two hours.  After fumbling around the kitchen cupboards, I decided to use two small bowls and two cans of veggies – one of each for each cheese form.  I put the forms on a baking rack over a half-sheet tray and let the cheese press for 2 hours.

During the two hours, I ironed my clothes for the next day, did some laundry and made myself something for dinner.  I also began yawning from time to time.  When the timer rang, I turned to step 7 of the recipe.  I heated the whey up to the boiling point, put the cheese into the whey*, turned off the heat, and let it sit for 90 minutes.

*I wasn’t sure whether to take the cheese out of the forms or to leave them in the forms so I rolled the dice and put the forms containing the cheese into the whey.  This is where it would have been extremely helpful to have heard ALL the information presented in class!

During the 90 minutes, I cleaned up from dinner, read a little, surfed the web and began yawning in earnest.  But I pressed on (no pun intended).  And when the 90 minutes were up I moved on to step 8 of the recipe.  When I read step 8 – remove the cheese [from the whey] and allow it to drain on a cheese mat for 2 to 4 hours –  two questions immediately came to mind: (1) “What in the world is a cheese mat?” and (2) “How am I ever going to stay awake for 2 more hours?”

Again, I wished I had been paying closer attention to what was going on in class when they covered cheese mats….and what to do if you don’t have one.  But still I continued.

During the 2 hours, I read some more, took off my makeup, folded some laundry, surfed the web again and finally at 1 hour and 50 minutes, I gave up and made the brine solution according to the instructions on the recipe.  I put the halloumi in the brine and put it in the fridge where it had to sit for 24 hours and I promptly dropped into bed.

Now you would think this is the end of the story…..or at least the part where I tell you the halloumi was delicious and certainly worth staying up late.  But……it’s not the end and, in truth, I haven’t tasted the halloumi yet.

Yesterday after the class I taught – Girlz with Grillz, which was sooooooo much fun – I overheard my husband, who was kind enough to come and help with the cooking for class, saying to one of my co-workers, Sure, we’ll take some Feta.” Noooooooooooooo!

Little did he know that being offered feta didn’t mean FINISHED feta.  It meant feta that was at step 9 of 13 steps!  Now I am in the process of finishing a batch of feta too!

So, it’s really not fair to call myself a cheese maker – even an accidental one.  I’m more of a begrudging cheese finisher!  But perhaps when the cheeses are finished I’ll have the incentive I need to learn the whole process of making halloumi and the whole process of making feta.

But for now, I’ve got to run…I have cheese to drain, salt and refrigerate.  Do yourself a favor, remember the old adage, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is” the next time someone asks you if you want to take the halloumi [or the feta] with you!