Homemade labneh or yogurt cheese is an appetizer or side dish so easy to make and so delicious that the first time you make it you can’t believe it came out of your hands.
You don’t know what labneh is? Hom-bre-por-fa-vor… I’ll tell you.
Labneh is a concentrated yogurt that is typical of large areas of the Middle East. It is prepared by partially draining the yogurt from cows, sheep or goats, which concentrates it into a cream.
The degree of concentration is variable and we can present labneh in two ways:
A spreadable cream, perfectly suitable for dipping bread, or
a soft cheese that can be shaped into little balls that are preserved in oil, which is probably a presentation you have seen.
I emphasize the cheese because although we call it that because of its consistency and texture, labneh in good condition is not a cheese, since it does not come from milk curd, but from its previous transformation into yogurt (lactic fermentation).
An aside: as a work surface for the photos I used a piece of Sapienstone porcelain stoneware worktop that imitates marble, but without the absorption and taste for stains that it has. A material on which you can cut directly and gorrorrhize as much as you want. When you are done, you just need to wipe it with a damp cloth and it’s done. No fear of spilling wine, citrus juice or coffee, because they leave no trace. A marvel I intend to use as much as I can.
THE RECIPE FOR LABNEH OR YOGURT CHEESE
We call it a recipe, but it doesn’t even deserve that simple name, which is the process. Can you put something on a cloth to drain? Well, you already have labneh.
Labneh, drained and concentrated yogurt, seasoned with herbs and spices
Author: Miriam García
Recipe type: Starter
1 kg of natural cow yogurt, homemade (or half cow, half goat or sheep)
Olive oil to taste
Sesame to coat the balls or herbs to taste
We placed a relatively thick cloth (I use pieces of sheet) on a large strainer placed in a bowl.
labneh yogurt cheese
Let’s pour the natural yogurt on the canvas. We cover it up so that it does not dry out and put the whole thing in the fridge for 24 to 36 hours (if it is very hot) so that it releases the serum by gravity. Soon I will begin to appear liquid underneath, which we will have to remove from time to time if we don’t use a bowl.
Some people prefer to put the yogurt on the cloth and make a bundle with it, which has to be hung somewhere. It is a very nice method, but more uncomfortable than the previous one.
labneh yogurt cheese
It is also possible to speed up the process a little by bundling the cloth and squeezing the serum out. As we prefer.
labneh cheese yogurt
When the yogurt has the consistency we want, we remove it from the fabric. If we have left it dry enough to make little balls, we will make them with two spoons and roll them in seeds or spices, such as sesame or chopped herbs.
labneh yogurt cheese
We keep them in a jar covered with olive oil.
If we want to serve the labneh as a cream, we can dress it with pistachios, olives, garlic, herbs… whatever comes to mind. We can also use any sauce we have prepared, such as chimichurri or pesto. Maybe some gentleman from the East will take our word for it, but we’ll take the risk.
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QUESTIONS ABOUT LABNEH
I’ve only tasted labneh with cow’s milk, so I don’t know how the taste changes if it’s made with goat’s or sheep’s milk.
Is it necessary to use homemade yogurt to make it? No, it can be made perfectly with commercial yogurt, but it’s simply better.
Can I use semi-skimmed yogurt? Yes, you will get semi-skimmed labneh, which will be less creamy and a little duller, but acceptable. Some people claim to have made labneh with up to 3% fat, but I haven’t tried it, so I can’t vouch for the result.
Can I drain the labneh just through a fine sieve? No, you have to use a thick cloth, to make cheese or similar, because otherwise you will lose a lot of substance with the whey.
When you remove the whey, the initial amount decreases considerably. From 1 kg of yogurt, you get about 12-15 balls of labneh, if you make little balls with it.
In my humble experience, it is not convenient to use a strong-flavored olive oil to preserve the labneh balls, because the flavor ends up penetrating and distorting its own.
How long does labneh last when properly refrigerated? At least a month if it is covered with oil, although some people talk about longer, but it has never lasted that long.
Labneh is a fantastic accompaniment for raw vegetables cut into sticks (crudités), all kinds of bread, fresh fruit, etc. Try it with a good homemade pita bread.