Yogurt Cheese or Labneh
While some may not consider this an honest-to-goodness cheese, entire countries would disagree and so do I. Labneh or Labne as I have seen it labeled at Mediterranean and Middle Eastern markets is a quite delicious and very versatile cheese.
Not only that, if making cheese intimidates you, this is a good starting point. There is no messing this up and it familiarizes you with the draining of whey/use of salt and their transformational powers, which is a huge part of making cheese. Baby steps…enjoy!
All you need is:
1 quart plain yogurt
2 tsp pure salt (or more if you like this cheese as salty as feta, experiment)
butter muslin or similarly tight cheesecloth- even a new or boiled tea towel/pillowcase will work
12-24 hours of draining time
All you have to do is:
Place your cloth in the colander and place the colander in the bowl. Stir the salt into the yogurt and dump it all into the colander.
For another draining method, you can tie the cloth corners and hang the wet sack of yogurt from a cupboard handle with a bowl beneath it.
If you have animals/pests or other reasons why you don’t want it out in the open, you can hang the wet bundle from a rack in your fridge with a bowl beneath it.
The idea is just to drain the whey and be left with a thick cheese.
Drain at room temperature (ideally) for at least 12 hours but I have found that 24-36 hours gives me a thicker, more delicious cheese. Beware, it starts smelling a bit funky but this is good!
Note that refrigerated draining takes longer and produced a less complex flavor but if you just can’t leave it out, let it drain in the fridge until you like the results.
When it’s done, you will have a thick, tart, delicious little ball of yogurt cheese.
*Use it as you would cream cheese for a rich tasting but lower fat cheesecake (omit salt).
*Mix dry herbs, fresh pepper and salt into it and use it as a spread on crackers and crisp veggies.
*Roll into little balls, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with zattar (lebanese thyme and sesame seed herb mix) or other herbs and eat with pita.
*I just use it liberally and drop a ball into chili, tacos, curry etc. YUM
I’m lucky to have a good friend who brings me Labne from the West Bank.
Tasting the real thing (and asking her to to grill grandmas on their methods) has improved my version of this cheese drastically!
The photos below show you my inspiration. Thanks Stephanie :)