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Cyprus’ National Cheese Halloumi Receives Protected Status from EU

Halloumi Cheese
Grilled Halloumi cheese. Credit: Hmioannou / Wikimedia / CC 3

The iconic cheese of Cyprus, Halloumi, finally received its coveted protected status on Monday after years of wrangling in the European Commission.

Halloumi will now receive the coveted Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)” status after an examination process that lasted over 15 years, according to Cyprus’ Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment Costas Kadis.

Halloumi with mint. Credit: Rainer Zenz /Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY-SA 3.0

The Minister explained to interviewers from CyBC state radio that a formal announcement should be made sometime on Monday by the European Commission, the executive of the European Union.

Nicos Anastasiades, the president of Cyprus, hailed the long-awaited decision, admitting that it was the result of “a long and difficult effort, a difficult battle that was marked by political expediency.”

Halloumi is a semi-hard cheese made for centuries in Cypriot villages from either goat’s or sheep’s milk ,or a mixture of the two. Sometimes cow’s milk is also added to the mix.

Halloumi is made by heating cheese curds from the sheep’s and goat’s milk mixture, and then placing them in brine. Traditionally, mint is used in the production of the cheese, adding a hint of minty flavor to the cheese.

Halloumi from Byzantine era in Cyprus

The iconic Mediterranean cheese, as endemic to Cyprus as feta is to Greece, may be used in a myriad of ways. Eaten plain it has many admirers, but when it is fried or grilled, it is taken to a different level, featuring in sandwiches as a substitute for meat.

From this point onward, the word halloumi cannot be used for any similar products that originate outside Cyprus.

Like feta, the designation also calls for the cheese to consist of fixed ratios of goat, sheep and cow’s milk, just as the product has been prepared in Cyprus since time immemorial.

Cheese-making is an ancient practice in the Mediterranean, with the production of cheese from goat’s or sheep’s milk dating back to the 8th century BC in Greece.

This history is accompanied by ancient myths about cheese production, including one in which Apollo’s son Aristaios, raised by nymphs, teaches mankind the art of preparing milk for cheese production.

Feta, in the form we know it as today, was first mentioned during the Byzantine era.

Similarly, halloumi originated in Cyprus during the Medieval Byzantine period. The tasty Cypriot cheese later spread to its Levantine neighbors, who now have cheeses similar to halloumi in their own cuisines.

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