Learning to make labneh (strained yohurt) has rocked my world.
Le dessert du jour in our house is labneh topped with blueberries (always), buckinis (activated buckwheat groats) and a sprinkling of cinnamon and coconut. Or else it is labneh, drizzled in raw honey, and topped with sliced fresh fig and walnuts. Oh, the possibilities and simple deliciousness found by straining unsweetened, probiotic yoghurt!
A Global, Traditional Food
Labneh is a part of traditional cuisine in cultures all over the world. I have adopted the Middle Eastern term (it sounds better than "strained yoghurt, no?) and yet it is referred to by many other terms. Simply put: for as long as humans have been fermenting milk to make yoghurt, they have been straining yoghurt to make labneh. For as long as humans have been creating labneh, they have been saving and using whey.
I began making my own labneh recently. It is a simple process and requires only equipment that most people already have in their kitchen, and there is much gratification in being a part of this traditional method of food preparation. It is also a great way to get children engaged in the science of food!
Thick, creamy, and pleasantly tart, labneh can be used in both savoury and sweet dishes. Sweetened with a little honey, or left plain, labneh is a perfect accompaniment to breakfast loaves, cakes, or fruit salads. It is a delicious base for savoury dips or spreads, or rolled in fresh herbs and spices, preserved in olive oil, to be served on a cheese board or smeared on turkish flatbread. Once you start making this deliciously versatile and healthy dairy product in your own kitchen, I'm sure you'll get addicted and you won't be without it!
Why should you make labneh? Well, it's...
- full of probiotics (helping to make a happy gut)
- high in both protein and calcium, yet lower in carbohydrate than regular yoghurt, suiting those trying to limit their carbohydrate intake
- creamy and delicious!
- can be used in a range of recipes, both savoury and sweet
And don't forget...
- it produces whey
Whey: A Useful By-product
When yoghurt is strained, the milk solids remain in the cheese cloth and acidic whey - a high protein, nutrient dense liquid - is strained out. (Sweet whey is a by-product of making certain cheeses.) Don't be temped to throw it out - whey is nutrient-dense and comes in very handy in the kitchen!
- a tablespoon in a glass of water taken 15 minutes before eating will stimulate digestion
- add it to smoothies, or use in place of milk or water in baking to increase the nutrient profile (particularly protein)
- when added to homemade mayonnaise it extends the "fridge-life" up to about 6 months
- whey is high in lactic acid, so when used in vegetable fermentation, the amount of salt required is reduce, as is the length of fermentation
- whey can be used to soak grains to make them easier to digest (traditional preparation method à la Sally Fallon and the Weston A. Price Foundation)
There are many more uses for acidic whey in the kitchen (including - so I hear - making your own ricotta - ummm yes please!). So don't throw it away - get creative and experiment!
Things to note about whey:
- Whey will keep in a jar in the refrigerator for at least 6 months.
- If it develops a funky smell, you know it's time to biff it. Trust your nose!
- Whey lends a faint cheesy taste to baked goods.
(I recently made some seed crackers which I added whey to, and then fermented on the counter for 48 hours; increasing the nutrient profile and probiotic content but also intensifying the flavour. They were definitely very cheesy and tangy!)
That's labneh there on the left, acidic whey on the right.
Ok, so here's how to make it in your own kitchen:
How to Make Labneh & Whey
Tools and Ingredients
one medium bowl
one medium seive
one piece of cheese cloth, muslin, or a clean dishcloth (roughly 25cm squared)
1L unsweetened yoghurt
2 glass jars, one medium and one small
1. Place the seive so that it rests atop the bowl.
2. Lay the piece of muslin over the seive.
3. Pour the yoghurt. into the lined seive.
4. Cover, place in the fridge and allow to strain for 12-24 hours depending on how thick you'd like the labneh to be.
5. Using a large spoon, scoop the labneh into the large glass jar and store in the fridge. It will last approximately one month when stored in this way.
6. Pour the drained whey into the small glass jar and store in the fridge for up to 6 months. Use in smoothies, baking, preservation, fermentaion or the traditional preparation of grains and legumes.
Labneh can be used in savoury or sweet dishes. How do you like to eat labneh? Please share!
With love from my kitchen to yours,
Mmmm creamy, tangy, probiotic goodness.