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How to Make Labneh

Sean Timberlake of Punk Domestics shows us how to make labneh at home with this simple recipe.

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I love yogurt, to the point that I very nearly consider it a separate food group. It makes its way into all meals — as a base for granola and fruit for breakfast, mixed into creamy salad dressings, as a substitute for sour cream in tangy dips, you name it. Because of my DIY bent, I usually make my own. (You can too — it’s easy!) But sometimes I get a little, shall we say, overzealous, and make way too much. After all, there’s no point in making less than a quart, and more is more. Luckily, yogurt is a chameleon in the kitchen.

So, you know how when you open a container of yogurt, and there’s that bit at the top near the seal that’s gone a little extra-thick and yummy? So, what if you made the whole lot of it into that awesomesauce? It’s done quite commonly through the Middle East, where it’s a cheese known as labneh. And it seriously — seriously! — could not be easier. 

I promise: You have all these things on hand. Ready? Set a mesh strainer on top of a bowl. Line the strainer with some cheesecloth, a few layers thick, making sure there’s enough to fold over and cover the top. Pour your labnehyogurt into the cheesecloth, and fold the excess cheesecloth over, completely covering the yogurt. Then, set a smaller plate atop, and weigh it down with something. I’m guessing you have a little cranberry sauce on hand, right about now. 

Leave it for several hours, or better yet, overnight. Don’t worry: It’ll be fine. The acidity level of the yogurt will prevent any spoilage. Then, just turn out the labneh from the cheese cloth. It should have the thickness of cream cheese, but with a bright, tangy flavor. 

Notice how out of one quart of yogurt I ended up with almost a pint of excess liquid? That, my pretties, is whey, and it is liquid gold. Whey is full of probiotic goodness, and is high in lactic acid, which is a naturally occurring alpha hydroxy acid. So don’t throw it away. You can use it in approximately one jillion ways including: 

  • Add it to stock for added flavor.
  • Add it to bread doughs to tenderize and moisten.
  • Fight mildew in the garden.labneh
  • Use it as a naturally exfoliating face wash.
  • Fight dandruff by using it as a shampoo. Go ahead, you won’t smell like Greek salad. 
  • Or heck, just drink it, why not? (Even, ahem, in cocktails.)

And that’s not all. There are plenty of other ways to use whey in the home and in your beauty regimen. 

And that’s just the byproduct. We still have about a cup and a half of delicious labneh to contend with here. 

Feel free to flavor your labneh by adding in herbs and spices. I find it works best with Mediterranean flavors: Think lemon zest, fennel, oregano. But don’t let me cramp your style. 

You can simply pack your labneh into a bowl or other container, and store by pressing cling wrap right down on the surface. It will last about a week (assuming you don’t just eat it all by the spoonful in that time). But if you wantlabneh-3 to store it even longer, do what they do in the Levant: Form it into little balls, toss in a meticulously clean jar, and cover completely with olive oil. Store in a cool, dark place, or even the refrigerator. The oil will congeal in the fridge, but don’t fret. Simply allow it to come to room temperature, remove as much as you like, and then make sure the rest remains completely covered in oil to store. 

This is a lifesaver for holiday entertaining. Simply bust out a few balls of labneh, and serve it up with crackers or bread and yummy condiments of your choice. May I recommend some sweet-hot pepper jelly

Read more from Sean at Punk Domestics.