Homemade cheese: Starting soft with Labneh

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!

Ingredients:

  • 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.

Supplies:

  • Fine-mesh cheesecloth: I used one of the old pillowcases I keep for jelly-making and other kitchen projects.
  • Strainer
  • Bowl
  • A system of contraptions that will allow the cheese to hang in the cheesecloth/sack

Directions:

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.

Line the strainer with the cheesecloth and place the strainer into a bowl.

Scoop the yogurt into the cheesecloth and securely close at the top.
I was using the pillowcase, so I just tied a knot into it.

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.

Allow the cheese to drain for 8 to 16 hours.  It’s done when it reaches the consistency you desire – a bit softer for sour cream and a bit thicker for spreadable cream cheese.

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).

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6 Responses to Homemade cheese: Starting soft with Labneh

  1. Stephanie says:

    I tried it!!! I made mine yesterday and let it hang to drain for about 24 hours. Today, I also made homemade soft pretzels and sliced them in thin pieces and slathered on some Labneh spread. Oh my freaking word… it is declicious! I love the creamy flavor and texture and I love that it still keeps a little tangy kick. I think it is my favorite. It’s great. I am also very interesting in trying it in a chicken pita with some lettuce, grilled chicken, feta.. oh my.

    • sacredbee says:

      So happy to hear that you tried it and loved it! I was so happy to find out about Labneh and find out how EASY it was to make! It’s delish!!!! And, healthy, too!

  2. Carol says:

    Awesome. One of my goals this spring is to try and make my own soft cheese. I have a yummy looking indian recipe that starts with whole milk, but this looks simpler.

  3. Amber says:

    YUM! Making Labneh is what started my dairy obsession..I made Labneh with store bought yogurt, then learned how to make my own yogurt (which is super easy) and farmers cheese, which gave me tons of whey left over, so I learned how to make Lacto-Fermented Ginger Ale and Lacto fermented veggies, Kvass… so on and so forth…Blame Labneh,

    • sacredbee says:

      Yogurt is the next on the “to try” list. We eat tons and need to find a cheaper way to get it. Do you have any special tips for making it extra thick (almost like greek yogurt)?

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