Home made Labneh
Growing up in Israel, Labneh was one of the many white cheeses we had in our fridge. I love Israeli cheeses because they’re low in fat, smooth and mild in flavour. Labneh was a staple in our house. You could always find Labneh in our kitchen. It was just something that had to be there, like having vegemite in the pantry in Australia.
We left a lot behind when we immigrated. We were only too aware of bidding our friends and relatives a sad fare well, but we didn’t suspect we were also saying goodbye to our beloved cheeses. But then again, it wasn’t as if they drove us to the airport and waved us off. But arriving in our new home we soon came to appreciate how much they had done for us. How we’d relied upon them and relished them and it would be several decades before our taste buds would take delight in tasting again. And just like we had our favourite uncles, aunties and playmates we missed, there were delights from the delicatessen and the dairy we pined for, but none so much as labneh. Labneh was the star, the pantry without her was like Some Like it Hot without Marilyn Munroe. Meh.
Lucky for us today we have a variety of international continental dairy products at our finger tips and we can reproduce most recipes from our homelands.
So if you like rich, smooth, and deliciously creamy cheeses and you haven’t tried homemade labneh, I highly recommend you try this recipe. You can use it as a dip or a spread.
1kg full fat natural yoghurt
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 ½-2 cups good quality olive oil
Stir the salt into the yoghurt (why make dirty dishes?)
Place a sieve over a large bowl and line it with muslin or cheese cloth or a clean thin kitchen towel If you are using cheese cloth create several layers or the yoghurt will go right through it (I’m talking from experience)
Pick up the edges of the cheese cloth and tie at the top.
You have two options in which to let the yoghurt strain:
Hang in the fridge with a bowl underneath allowing liquid to strain into it for 24-48 hours OR
once you’ve tied up the cheese cloth Leave yoghurt in the sieve sitting on top the bowl, place a plate on top of the tied cheese cloth and place in fridge for 24-48 hours.
24 hours will be enough time If you’re going to use it as a dip.
48 hours for a thick cheese consistency
Because we are making balls I’d leave it for 48 hours.
Transfer the cheese to a clean bowl. Scoop roughly two tablespoons of the strained yogurt. With slightly oiled hands, form labneh into balls and place on a large platter in the fridge and leave overnight to firm up. Cover with a light tea towel.
Place labneh balls in a large clean sterilized jar Repeat until you’ve used up all the labneh. If you want to add some flavour like I did, as you place the balls into the jar add your favourite fresh herbs as well. I used rosemary and sliced garlic. Fill the jar with olive oil until balls are completely submerged.
Stored at room temperature and keep submerged in oil at all times. Labneh will keep up to three months. You’ll need to store them away from sunlight in a cool, dark place.
You can also refrigerate your labneh balls but you will need to take them out of the fridge roughly 30 min before serving (or until they reach room temp) because the olive oil solidifies in the fridge.