Labneh is a type of cheese made from fermented milk (rayeb) that is drained on a cheesecloth or concentrated in a porous bag or container, allowing the water to evaporate.
Labneh comes in various forms: as semi-liquid yogurt, with a slightly granular texture, as well as in the form of cheese balls preserved in olive oil (flavored with spices or not), dried herbs and / or seeds.
How to prepare the labneh?
This diversity of forms comes from the manufacturing process of labneh: it is a yogurt that can be drained more or less time. As a result, the longer it is allowed to drain, the more the yogurt turns into a dry cheese that can be shaped into a ball.
In short, the basic principle is simple: you only need to let the yogurt buttermilk drip through the cheesecloth long enough to achieve the desired consistency.
For a fresh and tender cheese, 12 hours will be enough. On the other hand, for a firmer consistency, let it drip for 24 hours.
Labneh is traditionally made from sheep's or goat's milk. But cow's milk is being used more and more due to its great availability throughout the year.
How to serve the labneh?
It can be served with pita bread or manaeesh bread, or you can serve the labneh seasoned with olive oil and zaatar. For a more consistent version, it can be served in the form of dumplings with spices, aromatic herbs, or oil seeds.
Some ideas for using the labneh
It is an extraordinary resource in the kitchen that can replace, depending on the consistency we decide to give it, ingredients such as sour cream and fresh cream, cream cheese, or cottage cheese. Can be used for cakes and cheesecakes.
Its silky cream form is delicious as a dipping sauce for raw vegetables, a dipping sauce, a condiment for salads, as well as for desserts, with fresh fruits or simply, in combination with fruit compotes.
Choose the milk you like the most, your favorite spices or herbs, the bread you want and let yourself be tempted by this wonderful labneh!
Cheese / Appetizers
4 whole natural yogurts, 120 g. each
1 tsp of salt
1 ½ cup olive oil
Filter bag, or a cotton cloth: a wide cotton cloth, gauze or similar, thick enough so that the yogurt does not pass through it, and allows the serum to fall.
Optional spices: pepper, rosemary, parsley.
Place a large bowl on a flat surface. On top of the bowl, place a large strainer, and over the strainer, the cotton cloth. Make sure the cloth is well stretched and in the center. At the end of the process, you will close it with a cord.
Uncover the yogurts. Remember that it must be yogurt without flavor, or added sugar. If you want to use Greek yogurt, you will get a creamier Labneh, in a shorter amount of time.
Pour the yogurt and salt over the cloth. Mix it with a spoon. Tasty, if you want you can add a little more salt, it should not be too salty because the flavors will concentrate when the buttermilk has drained.
Then, tie the fabric with a string or a kitchen clothespin into a small sack, so that the yogurt is inside. This bag must be left hanging, suspended, so that the serum falls. This is something you should do with a little ingenuity. I tie the bag to a large knife and place the knife over a jar so that the bag is hanging. If you prefer something simpler, leave the bag on top of the strainer.
Put everything in the fridge and let it rest for at least 12 hours. If you want it creamy, like a spreadable dip, after 8 hours it will be perfect. If instead, you want to make balls, you will have to wait approximately 18 hours until the labneh is more solid to mold the spheres.
Open the bag, place the labneh in a bowl. Scrape up the remaining labneh from the bag with a spoon. Taste and rectify the salt if you consider it necessary.
Divide the labneh into similar portions and form the balls, the size of a ping-pong ball. Once formed you can pass them through a plate with seeds or chopped herbs or simply leave the cheese as is.
Put the olive oil in a clean, dry glass jar. Then put the labneh balls in the oil. In this way, they keep for up to a month in the fridge.
Serve and taste:
Creamy labneh can keep for up to three days in the fridge. You can serve it immediately cold. It can be served with pita bread or vegetable sticks. Although if you dare to make the balls, do not hesitate to use it in salads.