This blog seems to be turning into the story of what I’ve been doing in the increasingly long periods between posts. This time I have a great excuse. I was moving. Between looking for a new place, packing, the actual move and unpacking, two months have gone by. Not only have I not made anything for the blog but I have barely cooked anything at all in that time. I even let one of my favorite Jewish food holiday, Shavuot, pass without a dairy delight emerging from my kitchen. So for my inaugural post from my new kitchen I decided to start the cheese making I have been threatening for at least a year. I actually purchased the book Home Cheese Making at least six months ago, but it took me lending it to my friend Megan to be prodded into finally making some. We made mozzarella and lemon cheese but I had yet to unpack my camera, so I’m starting you off easy with the simplest cheese imaginable, labneh.
Labneh is a traditional middle eastern cheese made by straining yogurt. Israeli’s have embraced it and it has become a staple at breakfast. It is typically sprinkled with herbs, or rolled into balls and then in herbs, drizzled with olive oil and served with bread or pita. It also makes a great condiment spread for sandwiches, or base for a dip and is much healthier than mayo.
All you need to make this is cheesecloth or muslin, a fine mesh strainer and a bowl. You can simply let it drip through the strainer or you can go the more traditional route of hanging it after and initial drain. I hung mine for a few hours using a wire hanger and a rubber band. Yes, I am the MacGyver of cheese making.
I choose to roll some of mine in spices, one with some typical Israeli spices, za’atar with sumac mixed in and another in chopped chives. They were really different but both delicious. I end up eating more with just some additional salt and olive oil on a pita.
- 1 quart of high quality yogurt
- 1 tsp salt
- Layer your cheesecloth over the strainer and place over a bowl
- Mix salt into the yogurt
- Pour the yogurt into the cheesecloth
- Place in the fridge for a few hours.
- Pour off the whey (you will probably have lost a bit of yogurt as well) and tie up the cheesecloth like a sack.
- It you want to hang the labneh at this stage you can but be conscious of temperature and the possibility of spoilage. If you are concerned keep it in the fridge.
- Continue straining for a total of 24-36 hours
I let mine go for 36 but wasn’t seeing much whey being released beyond that.
PS – please bear with the slightly dark photos while I figure out the lighting in my new kitchen and I promise there will be more frequent posts to come.