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Monday, June 15, 2009

Homemade labneh (yoghurt cheese).

By Julie, Towards Sustainability

Homemade labneh - essentially a tangy cream cheese - is so incredibly easy to make, you'll never buy cream cheese again! It's also very versatile; it can be used many ways in both savoury and sweet dishes.

Step 1:
Make or obtain some fresh plain yoghurt (the quantity doesn't matter).

Step 2:
Line a sieve or colander with a very clean open-weave cloth such as muslin, cheesecloth, or an unused Chux-type cloth (I used a clean dishcloth saved for that purpose in the photos). Pour the yoghurt into the cloth and place the sieve or colander over a bowl.

Step 3:
Wrap the cloth over the top of the yoghurt and place a saucer on top, and a weight (such as a jar) on top to speed the straining process, and place in the refrigerator.

Step 4:
After around 24 hours (sooner or later, depending on how much yoghurt you used and how dry you want the cheese), remove the weight and wrapping and tip the cheese out into a clean bowl. Ta da: basic labneh!

Note: The yellowish liquid left in the draining bowl is whey - save it for use in cooking (substitute it for buttermilk for example) or for making lacto-fermented vegetables. It can also be frozen for several months.

Now that you have your labneh, you can dress it up or down anyway you like!

Try using it as a dip: mix in chopped fresh herbs for example (in the photo below I've added chives and parsley) or diced cucumber, crushed garlic, lemon juice, chopped mint and salt and pepper to make a variation on the traditional Tzatziki dip.

You could leave it plain and drizzle it with sweet chilli sauce, a la Sweet Chilly Philly.

Or use as a sweet spread: add honey and cinnamon (orange zest is nice too) and spread on toasted fresh bread (or Gavin's bread rolls). Or mix in a little of your favourite jam or pureed berries.

How about draining it until it is very dry, add chopped herbs and roll it into walnut-sized balls. Eat fresh or store in a jar in the refrigerator covered with olive oil to use on a mezze plate. As a variation, omit the herbs and roll the balls in your favourite Middle Eastern spice mix, Dukkah (yum!) or sesame seeds.

These are just the tip of the iceburg, so to speak, as you can see, it's very quick, easy and delish. If you use organic yoghurt or make it yourself, it won't contain any chemical nasties either, which a bonus.

If you already make labneh, what's your favourite way to eat it? I'm always looking for new variations!


Kimberly said...

I load it up with all sorts of fresh herbs: savory, dill, chives, etc. Whatever I've got growing works! We spread it on the crackers and breads I bake. Yum! It's a favorite even with my 1 and 3 years olds.

Through My Kitchen Window said...

Thanks for posting. I am going to try this.

Ran said...

i am arabic and grew up with this. i like it spread out on a plate, and olive oil pured over (very good quality) and then eaten as a dip with flatbread

we also use it in egg sandwhiches during easter when we boil and dye eggs. I made this last week and i love it. not sure the purist in me will allow all your other wonderful ideas!

livinginalocalzone said...

I'd love to make this for my father - he adores all youghrt. We make a dish called raita often, and this sounds similar. The herb combos are endless. Mint is great too.

Deb said...

Hi Julie

How easy is this!

My husband and I love cheese and used to eat a ton of Philly. In an effort to eliminate artificial colours, flavourings and preservatives etc, I have stopped buying it.

Now I can make my own and I love your ideas to add some simple flavours. I look forward to suggestions from readers in other parts of the world.

linda said...

How long would you drain it if you wanted to roll it into balls?

NMPatricia said...

Could you (or I) make cheesecake with this like with cream cheese?

Green Bean said...

Thank looks awesome!! Thanks for the step by step.

Attila said...

I always call this quark; don't know if I'm right. My Polish friend was telling me about pirogies(?)which sound almost the same as the dumplings that a Chinese friend has taught me to make. Isn't it great how different cultures can have such similar foods; quark/labneh is another example. My favourite way to eat this cheese is with raspberries and meringues, or slightly sweetened with icing sugar on fruit.

Julie said...

Hello everyone,
Thank you for all your suggestions - yum :-)

Linda - I use a kilo of homemade yoghurt at a time and leave it to drain for around 48 hours for rolling into balls, otherwise I leave it around 24 hours.

NMPatricia - I did try it once with a no-bake lemon cheesecake and while I liked the results, it was far too tangy for my husband and kids, so I guess it depends on your tastes? I don't have a very sweet tooth so tangy is good as far as I'm concerned LOL.

Attila - Yes I think labneh is called quark in some parts of Europe, although my (US and Australian) cheese making books have a different recipe for quark, which is far more cheese-like, if that makes sense. It all tastes good though ;-)


Anonymous said...

I am Lebanese, from the land where the true Labneh comes from. I'm very impressed how many variations you found to using Labneh.
In my country, the Labneh is never absent in the household. We serve a plate at every meal placed in the middle of the table, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and eaten with a side of fresh pita bread and a bowl of green and black olives from our trees. Also we add fresh mint and herbs. We even sometimes serve it in shape of balls as a beautiful design.
Some doctors in the past said that since Lebanese women ate so much Labneh all their lives, they can be allowed to drink the strong arabic coffee while pregnant without any side effects on the baby...but I'm not sure if that was scientifically proven or not.

Jenn said...

This looks delicious - I'm really looking forward to trying it.

Joanne said...

Another simple, yummy recipe that I can do! I'm getting quite a collection of 'Julie' recipes.
One quick question- would this work with a reduced-fat yoghurt or does it have to be full-fat?

Julie said...

Anon - I hope that means the labneh I eat is negating the effects of the ordinary espresso coffee I drink! LOL.

jenn - Enjoy :-)

Joanne - Yes, low fat is fine :-)

Cheers, Julie

Katrina said...

How long can you keep it after making? I made a large quantity and as there is only the two of us will not get through it all for a week. Is it ok to keep that long?