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DIY Labneh


labneh

Before I discovered labneh (and Greek yogurt, for that matter), I assumed all yogurt was like what I found in the supermarket dairy case: sweet, custardy, and just a step away from ice cream. I never knew it could be so simple and more healthful.

Labneh—strained yogurt—can range in texture from soft to dense and in flavor from mellow to mouth-puckering. If you tinker with the cultures, the richness of the milk, and how long you drain the curds, you can create myriad variations.

And make sure to enjoy your labneh (pronounced LEB-neigh) properly. A friend who grew up eating the stuff claims the spread exists as a vehicle for olive oil. Her recommended breakfast: labneh and olive oil on toast with tomatoes, onions, and dried mint. This rich and savory morning meal is a far cry from a sugary cup of caramel crème or blackberry-vanilla yogurt. Here’s how to make your own. This recipe takes two days from start to finish but is mostly hands-off. To simplify it, start at Step 4 with two quarts of plain, store-bought yogurt.

LABNEH

Makes 14 to 16 ounces labneh, depending on draining time

Equipment:

Large heavy-bottom stock pot
Thermometer
20-inch-by-20-inch piece butter muslin (a flour-sack dishcloth works well)

Ingredients:

1 gallon whole cow’s milk
3 tablespoons plain store-bought yogurt (or ⅛ teaspoon freeze-dried yogurt cultures)
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried mint

 

step 1: add milk

1. Add milk to a stockpot set over medium heat. Bring milk to 195°F, stirring often. Once milk reaches target temperature, remove pot from heat and place in a sink of cold water to chill. Keep pot in sink until milk temperature drops to 115°F. Remove pot from sink and set aside.
 

step 2: combine milk with yogurt
2. Combine 3 tablespoons of cooled milk with yogurt in a small bowl. Stir yogurt mixture back into pot of milk. (If using freeze-dried cultures, skip yogurt step and sprinkle cultures over milk’s surface, wait 1 minute, then stir.)
 

step 3: cover
3. Cover pot of inoculated milk and place in warm location that won’t change temperature (milk needs to stay near 105°F). Try the inside of an oven or a cooler filled with 105°F water. Incubate milk for 6 hours or until it thickens to the consistency of custard.
 

step 4: transfer yogurt from pot into colander
4. Remove pot from incubator and place near sink. Line colander with the butter muslin. Gently transfer yogurt from pot into colander. When all yogurt is transferred, knot ends of muslin to form a pouch.
 

step 5: suspend pouch
5. Suspend pouch on a dowel set over large pot or loop pouch over faucet. Allow yogurt to drain 12 to 30 hours, or until curds reach desired firmness. About halfway through, shake pouch several times to expel more whey. If curds are too dry after draining, stir in a small amount of water or leftover whey.
 

step 6: scrape curds out of muslin and season
6. Scrape curds out of muslin into mixing bowl and season with salt to taste. When ready to serve, spoon labneh into a dish and top with olive oil and dried mint. Top leftover labneh with additional olive oil and place in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

OTHER WAYS TO LOVE LABNEH

Generously spread labneh on an English muffin and drizzle with honey.

Use in place of sour cream on a baked potato.

Mix freshly chopped herbs—we like dill, mint, and chives—and spices (try ground sumac or turmeric) with the labneh to create a dip for fresh veggies.

Louella Hill

Louella Hill, the San Francisco Milk Maid is a cheesemaker, cheese teacher, and, foremost, cheese eater. She is the author of Kitchen Creamery. She lives in Virginia with her family.