Before I begin – let me preface this post with the following statement: WE LOVE CHEESE! I mean WE LUH-OVE CHEESE!!!!! We take tours of cheese places. We always have at least two or three varieties in our fridge. Our toddler would live off it if we allowed her. Cheese is one of our best food friends.
Now back to the post at hand…
A few months ago I signed up for an amazing class that was co-hosted by the Co-op and the local community college. For $38 I enjoyed four hours of hands on, gut-filling, make-em-say-mmmm cheesemaking. The class focused on soft cheeses and we made an array of a half-dozen varieties. There were staples that most people are aware of including mozzarella and ricotta, but a few newbies like quark and labneh that delighted my palate and got me thinking outside the mold of what I had considered “cheese”.
Here’s the first recipe I put to the test in the kitchen and into our bellies – LABNEH.
Lab-huh? I’d never heard of this stuff either, but when I heard that it could be substituted for cream cheese (another love!) and sour cream (woo hoo!) – I was hooked. It’s versatile. It’s easy. You control the fat content and it’s inevitably going to be A LOT less than cream cheese or sour cream. And, it’s seriously delicious.
Labneh is a middle eastern soft cheese that is called “yogurt cheese”. Give LABNEH a try!
- 1 quart of plain yogurt
You pick the fat content and brand. Just make sure that it does not have any pectin in it or thickeners of any kind. I went with Nancy’s Organic Lowfat Plain Yogurt.
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or cheesemaking salt) – you want the big-crystal-kind
The salt is used to the draw the moisture from the yogurt and bring the whey out.
- Fine-mesh cheesecloth: I used one of the old pillowcases I keep for jelly-making and other kitchen projects.
- A system of contraptions that will allow the cheese to hang in the cheesecloth/sack
Allow the yogurt to come to room temperature.
Stir the teaspoon of salt into the yogurt until it’s well distributed. Do not over stir.
Option 1: Hang the cheesecloth filled sack from a shelf in the fridge and allow the whey to drip into the bowl.
Option 2: Keep the cheesecloth filled sack in the strainer and allow it to drain into the bowl.
I chose Option 1 because I have always been a fan of gravity and it cuts the draining/dripping process in about half.
Store in the refrigerator in a sealed container. Expiration date and freshness will coincide with that of the yogurt you used.
Use as a delicious spread on pita bread. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle chopped mint on it. Spread onto toasted bagels. Substitute for sour cream in your favorite recipes like Crunchy Chicken Casserole and Sour Cream Buttermilk Pancakes (more on these later).