Oh, thank you to those from around the Eastern Mediterranean Sea for bringing this delicacy to the world.
If you haven't tried labne, I can highly recommend it! It is so very delicious and in contrast to the ridiculously hefty price tag of the store bought tubs around these parts, it is incredibly easy to make. Truly. If dairy is a no-go zone for you, well, then labne would also be something for you to steer away from. Otherwise, go for it!
Essentially it is yoghurt cheese and can be enjoyed in a miriad of ways. I first discovered it when I began creating my own liquid whey. I've mentioned ever so briefly about one of the many uses for this powerhouse liquid here, but by all means have a read here for much more detailed info on all the benefits of both the yoghurt cheese and the liquid whey. There is some pretty terrific culinary ideas to be enjoyed at that link too.
After extracting the whey from quality natural yoghurt (I use this local one), you are left with the curds or the yoghurt cheese. Of course, you can always use your own homemade yoghurt, however, the times where I have done this, the separation has not worked as well since my homemade yoghurt tends to be rather on the sloppy side.
For extracting the whey you need to drain the yoghurt in a method similar to my super professional and technical (ahem) rig here.
It's pretty self explanatory from the image, but all I do is double line a colander with cheesecloth (muslin), upend the tub of yoghurt into it - on this occasion I used two 500gm tubs - then bundle the cloth up and tie it off with string or twine. Hang it so it is suspended over the bowl and colander. I like to keep the colander in place just in case the string breaks and the whole thing plops down - the colander will keep it from plopping back into the pool of whey (theoretically).
Depending on the time of year and temperature of the day, I mostly leave it hanging over the bench from late afternoon and continue the draining overnight. The next morning I give the cheesecloth sack a squeeze, unhook it, place the whole bundle into a clean bowl and stick it into the fridge to rest for a day or so - due to my frequently over-ambitious daily list, it has sometimes sat there in the fridge all bundled up for about five days before I've finally got to it for stage two. I've found this to be completely fine and if anything, the extra time has made rolling the balls easier and less sticky. The liquid whey I pour into some glass bottles (juice bottles work great) place the cap on and store in the fridge. Here it will keep for a long time but you will likely use it up before any expiry.
Just on a side note, one of my favourite things about this process is that you can spread it out over a few days. There is no pressure for the whole exercise to be fit into one day and in fact, it wouldn't work that way anyway since separating the whey needs time.
On to stage two. Once you get that moment to roll your balls, unwrap your cheese from the cloth and set yourself up with some small clean (wide mouth) jars, beautiful olive oil (the kind you would use for dipping bread) and herbs / spices of your choice. Our family favourites are rosemary, oregano and a few juniper berries, although Tuck also has a liking for a dukkah mix I've done on occasions. Usually I begin with pouring a little olive oil into the jars first then dropping in some of the herbs, giving the balls a little cushion to plop onto when the first ones go in. About half way through I top up with a little more oil, the last of the herbs and about 3 or 4 juniper berries per jar. Continue rolling your balls and filling the jars and when you are close to the top, cover with more oil, wipe the top of the jar clean with a paper towel or cloth and secure the lid (it doesn't have to be rock solid tight - just tight enough). Place jars into pantry or store in another cool, dry place. I like to give them about two days to marinate before we start unscrewing the top and demolishing.
Once you've eaten all the labne, do not discard the oil. Strain it through a tea strainer lined with a small cut of cheesecloth and keep the collected oil from all the jars for all manner of other things (crouton crisp bread is awesome). Having been infused with the herbs, the oil becomes fragrant and very gently takes on those flavours.
It's the bomb! The whole box 'n dice, from the yoghurt, the whey, the curds becoming labne, to the crisp bread (which can also be enjoyed with the labne) and the infused oil.
It all feels very complete to me and makes an impressive gift too. Enjoy folks!
Ps/ There was a moment of excitement there on Tuesday's post when I thought the "comments" were up and running again, however, it appears this is only available to some readers with certain internet servers. Give it a go if you want (?), it's like a lottery, you may have the lucky 'server', or, you may end up with the frozen grey screen of death. Ha, ahh, a collective breath and all will be well. And by the way, the frozen screen will in no way harm your computer, you'll just have to click away from the page.