Monday, February 6, 2012

Labneh, mean it! Falling in love with homemade yogurt

Labneh, the tangy, creamy cheese
made from strained yogurt.
I've been making my own yogurt for a few weeks now and still can't get over how easy, delicious and inexpensive it is. I'm lucky to have a warming drawer built into my gas stove, which keeps contents at a fairly consistent 106-110 degrees, the ideal temperature for slowly converting scaled milk and starter into creamy Greek-style yogurt. 

Inspired by reader interactions and helpful advice from site co-founder Merrill Stubbs, I more or less follow the directions posted on Food52. I use organic whole milk each week as directed, and used a cup of organic whole milk Greek yogurt to get the first batch started. In subsequent weeks, I've used a jar of my own yogurt to feed the next batch. Additionally, instead of nine cups of organic whole milk, I now buy a half-gallon and add 1 cup of regular 1% milk, which is what I otherwise stock. I stir in capful of vanilla before pouring into a dozen canning jars for the slow transition into yogurt. It's terrific -- and costs only about 25 cents per serving.

I enjoy a jar nearly every morning for breakfast. Sometimes I spill in onto a half-cup of granola with a handful of dried blueberries. Other times I've stirred in homemade orange curd or other preserves. My current favorite is a great dollop of peach-Grand Marnier sauce. Yup, for breakfast. Awesome.

I posted this photo last week on Facebook and it caught the eye of a co-worker who wondered if I ever use my yogurt to make labneh, a yogurt cheese. I'm familiar with labneh as a condiment at Nemomonde, one of Raleigh's best Lebanese eateries, but I never realized it was something so easily produced at home. Encouraged by the rapturous look on his face as he recalled how his siti made labneh for him as a child, I decided to give it a try.

Recipes vary, but the general rule of thumb is 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt to every cup of yogurt. Stir well and pour into a cheesecloth-lined colander or jelly bag set over a bowl. I used the latter and poured in four cups of salted yogurt before I left for work. It dripped in a steady stream for the first 15-20 minutes then settled into a slow plunk.

There is little consensus among recipes whether the yogurt should sit on the counter or be refrigerated for the nine or so hours necessary to fully drain. Since Graham was home, I split the difference and had him transfer the jelly bag and bowl to the refrigerator after about four hours.

When I returned home at the end of the work day, the resulting cheese had stopped dripping but was still quite moist. I gave the bag a good squeeze before peeling back the cloth and freeing the ball, which was handsomely textured by the mesh and deep seam. It was stunningly delicious right away -- tangy and very creamy -- and it firms up a bit with additional refrigeration.

I brought a sandwhich for lunch today of labneh generously slathered on fresh sourdough with a layer of baby arugula. It also was great on pita chips. I shared go-cups with a few friends and already have plans to make more with this week's yogurt. I'm eager to try some mashed into a hot roasted potato and, if sufficiently solid, I plan to roll small balls of labneh into minced herbs, zatar and nuts for a special appetizer plate.

No comments:

Post a Comment