Labne: A Mediterranean Yogurt Cheese

Before Mr. Graceful and I moved in together, I lived with a roommate. And her boyfriend kind of lived with us.

That had the potential to be really annoying, except… They both made such good food. Amazing. I was already obsessed with raw tahini, but she was the one who showed me the dangerous potential it had when combined with soy sauce. We both challenged ourselves and baked complicated things in our little half-broken toaster oven. Actually, she did most of the cooking out of the two of them. But that’s because he made the labne. And that completely leveled the playing field.

Labne is basically strained yogurt cheese. It’s extremely easy to make and extremely difficult to not consume it all by yourself in one sitting. Here in Israel you can get it in any  Mediterranean joint that respects itself, and it goes great with (drum roll, please) spicy food. Because it’s essentially “cream of yogurt”, it’s important that you don’t use those 0% fat, runny varieties full of water. Greek yogurt may be an exception since it is creamy no matter the fat content, but I haven’t tried that so I can’t guarantee anything. (The Greek yogurt fad (which I am a proud participant of) has yet to hit Israel, so until then I get my fix every time I’m in the U.S, and the rest of the time I’m in withdrawal). This is my ex-roommate’s boyfriend’s recipe.

Labne:

Serves: Depends on use
Estimated Time: 10 minutes actual work + 24 hour wait
Kosher Classification: Dairy

Ingredients:

About 1 Liter (=1/2 gallon) of good quality yogurt (at least 3% fat)
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp coarse sea salt
optional: Za’atar

Method:

Start by lining a colander with cheesecloth or a very thin (clean!) kitchen towel. 2-3 layers of paper towels will work well, too.

Put the colander in a bowl. This bowl is going to catch all the liquids strained from the yogurt, so make sure the bottom of the colander is far enough from the bottom of the bowl. If the colander sits in its own yogurt-juices, it’s kind of counter-productive.

Now let stand on the counter or a place in the house where gross things won’t fall into it (we have hairs here. So many little hairs) for about 12 hours. If it’s really hot where you live, you can transfer it to the fridge after only a few hours. Remember, yogurt is milk with bacteria, so we do want it to culture a bit more… But we do not want it to fester. It’s supposed to taste pleasantly tangy, not like a Petri dish (not that I tasted one. Ahem).

After 12 hours have passed, put the whole thing into the fridge, as is, for another 12 hours.

Almost done. Carefully pick up the cheesecloth or paper towels by the edges…

Tilt it a bit above an airtight container…

And watch the labne roll out easily into the box!

Add olive oil and salt and stir well.

Serve drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with Za’atar. Enjoy with warm Pita bread.

Keeps for about two weeks in the fridge.

Not that it will have a chance to.

In A Nutshell:

  1. Line a colander with cheesecloth or 2-3 layers paper towels. Put the colander in a bowl to catch liquids.
  2. Pour yogurt into lined colander and let sit at room temperature for 12 hours. (If you live in a very hot region, leave outside for as many hours as you can without it going bad, and then transfer to fridge).
  3. After 12 hours, transfer to fridge for another 12 hours.
  4. Transfer Labne to an airtight container. Add olive oil and salt and mix well.
  5. Serve drizzled with olive oil and if desired, sprinkled with Za’atar.
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One thought on “Labne: A Mediterranean Yogurt Cheese

  1. Pingback: Home-Made Soy Milk | The Graceful Kitchen

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