7 April, 2013
Labneh is strained yogurt (as simple as that)! For the Lebanese, expatriates included, it is an essential food. Mothers all over the world (with Lebanese origins) try to find a suitable labneh to drain overnight to feed the family this Lebanese comfort food. Breakfast, lunch, dinner … It does not matter when. Our basic food as Lebanese includes bread, olives, labneh, and zaatar—we don’t need more! I promise. We love labneh, we can’t live without it!
Labneh, in the context of the mezze, is usually served in a small plate or a pottery vessel seasoned with crushed garlic or powdered dried mint. Often, when the labneh is really fresh and patrons want to show it off, it is simply served as is with a drizzle of olive oil. A fresh mint leaf is used for garnish.
- 4 liters (1 gallon) fresh goat milk or cow’s milk
- 240 ml (8 fl oz) starter (yogurt)
For the labneh
- Salt ( for every kilo [2.2 lb] use 30 g [1 oz])
To make the yogurt, pour the milk into a double boiler or heavy pot and heat it until it reaches a temperature of 45˚C (112˚F). Or use the traditional method by dipping your finger into the hot milk. If you can leave it for 10 seconds, it is the right temperature to proceed. ( If milk is not pasteurized, bring to a boil by it at 95˚C (200˚F) for about ½ hour, until it begins to rise and froth forms around the edges. Stir frequently to prevent a skin from forming. Be careful not to let the milk boil over. To cool it down, cover the pot and place it in a receptacle of clean cold water. It should reach a temperature of 45˚C (112˚F)). Gently stir in the starter (yogurt) until it is thoroughly mixed. Cover the pot and wrap it with a woolen blanket to keep warm. The temperature should stay above 50˚C (122˚F), and the milk should remain undisturbed for 6 to 12 hours. Place the pot in a warm spot away from any drafts or house traffic. Alternatively, place the pot in the oven with the oven light on. When the yogurt sets, uncover and pour in an earthenware jar with a tight-fitting lid. Refrigerate for 24 hours before making strained yogurt cheese. Remove 240 ml (8 fl oz) of yogurt and place in a covered glass jar. Store in the refrigerator and use within 4 to 5 days. This will be the starter for the next yogurt preparation.
To make strained yogurt, pour the fresh yogurt into a large bowl lined with a double layer of sterilized muslin or cheesecloth, leaving plenty of the material to overlap on the sides. Add the salt and mix thoroughly. Tie the ends of the muslin or cheesecloth together and secure with a string. Hang it up over the bowl or drain over a sink overnight, allowing the whey to drip out until the contents are firm. It can be suspended in a refrigerator if the weather is too hot. You may need to drain for 2 days. To test for firmness, the yogurt should easily break off from the cheesecloth.