What is this? Labna

15 Apr

Ever have one of those days when you grab the wrong item at the market?  I kinda did.  I went to reach for a smaller middle eastern yogurt, instead I got a middle eastern spread called labna AKA labanah, labne, labneh, or cheka.  It is a soft and tangy cows milk yogurt cheese, similar, yet different to a combo of buttermilk and cream cheese.  Rather delicious.  I used it to add some tang to my indian inspired carrot soup (onions, cumin, fresh curry leaves, cardamom pods, carrots, water (no stock), salt, black pepper, and that is it.  Oh I pureed it too)

I can recall eating labna in high school when I used to trade lunch bites with my muslim friends who brought in biryani.  If you don’t know what biryani it is a rice based dish, that either vegetables or some type of meat, and is very aromatic.  Many Indians, Iranians, and Pakistanis consume and make this dish.  What I learned is that labna is put into this hot rice dish because the fat content is high enough so it does not curdle.  Labna is used in both sweet and savory dishes.

Suggestions on what I should do with the rest of it

  • Combine with olive oil and fresh herbs like parsley or  dill to make a dip for vegetables and breads.
  • Make the traditional indian dessert kunafa
  • Maybe a spinach quiche with tahini and labna
  • A salad dressing (rocked it out with some olive oil, garlic, sparkling water, and black pepper)
  • Cheesecake

Here is how to make your own Labna (from the Nourished Kitchen)

Labna Ingredients

  • 1 Quart to ½ Gallon of Fresh Yogurt (see sources)
  • ½ Teaspoon Unrefined Salt per quart of yogurt
  • Extra Virgin Unrefined Olive Oil (see sources, optional ingredient)
  • Herbs (optional ingredient)

Labna Instructions

  1. Set your sieve above your bowl.
  2. Fold the cheesecloth into quarters and set it inside the sieve.
  3. Mix yogurt with unrefined sea salt.
  4. Pour the yogurt and salt mixture into the sieve lined with cheesecloth.
  5. The initial straining will happen quickly as the bulk of the liquid and some of the yogurt itself will strain through the cloth and sieve into the bowl.
  6. After the initial straining (5 – 10 minutes or so), gradually and carefully fold the ends of the cheesecloth in toward the center and twist them gently into a nice, tight package of yogurt that can easily hang from a hook.
  7. Tie the package together with a rubberband and hang it from a hook, placing your bowl beneath to catch any dripping whey.
  8. If you do not have a hook set up, you can tie off the package and leave it in your strainer provided you watch the level of the whey, ensuring it never reaches the strainer. Hanging from a hook speeds up the straining process.
  9. Hang your yogurt for at least 12 hours and preferably 18 – 24. The longer you hang the yogurt, the thicker your labneh will be.
  10. After your yogurt has hung for a sufficient period of time, remove it from the hook and gently take off the cheesecloth. You’ll find that the yogurt is smooth and thick like cream cheese.
  11. You can store the yogurt in small mason jars in the refrigerator or store them in olive oil with herbs.
  12. To store labneh with olive oil, roll the labneh into small walnut-sized balls and gently place them into a mason jar with fresh herbs. I like to use violetta basil, but you can use any herbs that suit your preference. Cover them with oil. I have read that labneh can be stored this way at room temperature, but I store labneh in the refrigerator.
  13. Store your whey for later use.

Remember: Preparing labneh at home leaves you with ample whey which is strained away from the semi-solid cheese. This whey is similarly rich in beneficial bacteria and as such is slightly acidic. Don’t throw it away, the thin faintly green-looking liquid is quite valuable. You can use it to soak grains to render them more digestible, in bread baking, as a starter for fermented foods and in smoothies for extra protein and probiotics. Whey should keep, refrigerated, for up to six months. We usually use ours within two weeks.

Next post……………….. PORKY and a Poem.

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