Delicious and Simple: Labneh - Yogurt Cheese January 13, 2016 09:02

Last fall, a friend gave me some of her homemade yogurt which got me started on making my own. I live with 3 roommates, one of whom is stoked on eating tons of yogurt (I started off making a gallon a week and we'd finish it). But these days, when it's time to make a new batch, I notice there's still a bunch of yogurt in the fridge. I want to keep my yogurt culture moving along healthily. If I wait too long to make a new batch, I'll spoil my culture and I'll have to buy more.

So this week, when it was time to make a new batch of yogurt, I noticed we still had about a litre too much of 3 week old yogurt. Too much to make a batch (which I've now reduced to a half gallon every 2 weeks), and too aged to want to eat for breakfast. After perusing David Asher's Art of Natural Cheesemaking, I saw a recipe for Labneh* - a simple strained cheese extremely popular in cultures all over the world. Also known as suzma, yogurt cheese, and strained cheese, I thought this might be a delicious way to use up the old yogurt no one in my house finds appetizing anymore. So with a little more research, I learned some things:

What You Need:

1 litre of Yogurt (fresh or aged, as long as it's still good!)
Herbs (optional - for taste)
Cheese Cloth

Here's how it works:

1. Pour the yogurt into a large piece of cheese cloth double folded (a du-rag also works really well here, in which case no need for double folding). If you like, add some salt. This will make your labneh taste a bit more flavourful, but more importantly it will act as a defense against contamination, and will pull out more moisture - which will allow your labneh to keep a little bit longer. This is optional however. Not adding salt will give your labneh a more mild taste similar to cream cheese with less yogurt-y sourness. You can also add any other herbs and spices to flavour your labneh.

yogurt hanging to drain

2. Tie your yogurt filled cheese cloth to something it can hang from. I tied mine to a wooden spoon and let it hang over a deep bowl for 8-12 hours (I did this overnight) at room temperature. As it hangs, whey will separate and drip into your bowl. For a more mild flavour, you can do this process in your fridge as it will hibernate the fermentation process. However, it may also take a bit longer for the whey to drip out.

labneh unveiled!

3. By morning (8-12 hours later), you'll notice your bowl will have caught quite a bit of whey, and you'll be ready to unveil your labneh. All you need to do is untie your cheese cloth and let it free. At this point you can also dry the sides of the cheese with some paper towel or dry cheese cloth.

Labneh is Ready!

The texture of your labneh will be a lot like gournay cheese, a little crumbly but very spreadable like cream cheese! The flavour has a hint of yogurt sourness which I find quite enjoyable. The presence of sour will depend a lot of on the freshness of the yogurt you use, whether you used salt, and whether you hung it at room temperature or in the fridge. Personally, I enjoy sourness especially in contrast with sweet!

Labneh Cracker

4. Enjoy! I had fresh labneh this morning on crackers, and later again on my raisin bagel. Pretty tasty! This batch of labneh even passed the roommate test! Yogurt is saved!

 *Yogurt cheese or strained cheese is known as labneh in the Arabian Peninsula where it is often stored in olive oil. It's also known as matzoon in Armenia, tsedeno kiselo mlyako in Bulgaria, chak(k)a in Afghanistan and Iran, suzma in many places in Central Asia, chaka in Pakistan, süzme yoğurt in Turkey, and it is the base of Greek Tzatziki.


by Kelsey Cham Corbett
January 13th, 2016