Homemade Labneh Cheese

March 21, 2009

labneh

This cheese is of Lebanese origin and the first cheese I’ve made.  But before describing it, I need to explain the picture.  I was cooking another dish which called for wine, and there was an open bottle next to me for that.  When I reached for the olive oil to drizzle over the cheese, I ended up with a wine bottle in my hand.  That’s what gives the white cheese the reddish tint.  The circular gash in the top was my attempt to create a well for the olive oil.  The cheese was harder than I expected and instead of giving under the spoon, it started to break apart.  I should have just scooped a portion out to make the well, but instead I tried pushing with the spoon.  Rest assured, the taste is much better than it looks.

The cheese was like a sponge and soaked up all the wine and olive oil almost immediately.  The texture is hard to describe.  It was both dry and soft at the same time.  Soft enough to cut with a cracker, but not soft enough to dip into the cheese with a cracker.  It was crumbly but not as crumbly as a feta.  On the palate the texture was somewhat dry, sticking to the mouth, kind of like peanut butter would.  The taste was clean, fresh, tart, tangy and felt alive on the tongue.  There was just a hint of the yogurt it was made from, but I’m not convinced if you didn’t know what it was made from, you would be able to pick up on that.  It paired well with the wheat garlic crackers we used to eat it with and the kalamata olives.  Once you start eating this cheese, it’s hard to stop.  The cheese would work well with onions, garlic and herbs of about any kind.

The cheese was easy to make.  I followed the instructions on Fankhauser’s site.  I used a quart of the yogurt I made the other day.  Mixed in 1 teaspoon of salt, wrapped it in a bandanna, and hung it for nearly 24 hours.  The only thing I did differently from Frankhauser’s instructions, was I gave it a gentle squeeze near the end, to speed up the draining process.  I’m guessing that’s why the cheese was as dry as it was.  Next time I’ll try just hanging it for 24 hours to see what the consistency is like.  Pressing this cheese a bit would be interesting as well.

By Kenton