Labneh is easily one of my favorite things in the universe. While I could go to any store to get it, I enjoy it best when it is homemade. It doesn’t take much time or effort at all! Basically it’s perfect for anyone who is willing to take the time to do it. I guarantee for what you have to do, you’re going to feel like a pro afterwards. It’s one of the more rewarding recipes I’ve made. It’s also one of the most versatile recipes as it can pair with most anything.
So what is Labneh? Simply put, it is a strained yoghurt cheese commonly on the Lebanese table as an appetizer and present at breakfast, lunch and dinner. We traditionally eat it with pita bread, the plate typically drizzled with olive oil and adorned with a sprig of parsley or a kalamata olive. I instantly feel at home when I eat labneh, it’s mild at first but with a tart bite at the end. Olive oil, the finishing touch, coats your mouth and throat. As I get older, I find myself grabbing an olive and adding it to the mix, this is something I really made a stink at as a kid but time makes us more open to things. These days, it satisfies my need for salty and creamy combinations.
Like most Lebanese dishes, it always brings me back to the times we visited my family in Lebanon. The first night there was always the most exciting because they would all come to the airport to greet us. It almost felt as if we were celebrities because half of the people outside of customs were there for our family. After easily one of the many giant group hugs and lots of kisses we’d head over to my Sitto’s (grandmother’s) apartment in Beirut. There would always be a mezze spread, labneh included, with bread,fresh, and pickled veggies to accompany. We’d munch on this while our family would cook the rest of the meal. I remember loving this because we were allowed to stay up late into the night. My uncles and cousins reciting poetry, which in lebanon is more like singing; toasting with Arak, to our health and prosperity. Ululating and dancing together. So many laughs were had on those first nights, even though we didn’t all speak the same language. Love was in the room, and it was put into every dish served.
Back here in the states My father will usually call us over for an impromptu meal, but occasionally they’re planned. We’ll have the same basic foods as we would have if we were with our family in beirut followed by good conversation and laughs. The thing about the Lebanese table is it is truly a social one. Labneh is a plate to be shared and it encourages interaction with the people you care for and love. What may be a few minutes for most families to eat a meal could be hours for a Lebanese family. I enjoy introducing it to my friends because it’s an easy stepping stone into my culture and I honestly find it brings me closer with them. The first time I had it with my now husband, we were enjoying it and I said “Labneh forever”. I get really excited when I‘m eating good food so statements like these are fairly common. He misheard and said “Love you forever too” ... I should have let it slide but I fessed up; now it’s one of the many ways we say “I love you”. So I am going to share my love with you now.
1 Gallon Whole Milk
1 Cup of plain Whole Milk yogurt
Salt to taste
In a pot, bring the Milk to a boil then cool until lukewarm. If you are using fresh milk that is not pasteurized you will want to boil it for a bit to kill any bad bacteria before letting it cool. Last thing we’d want is anyone getting sick!
Once the yogurt is at room temperature, add the yogurt as a culture and mix well. Then you will cover the pot and wrap with a towel. Leave for 24 hours. Lots of time to clean up, run some errands, binge watch any given show on netflix… I think you get the picture, go live your life and then come back tomorrow!
When you check on it the next day, the mixture will have become yogurt. Crazy right? My husband is very weirded out by all of this but trust me, it’s all good bacteria in there. Now you just need to place it all in a cheesecloth and leave for 1-2 days to achieve desired consistency and flavor, add salt to taste and refrigerate! When you’re ready to eat, spread the mixture on a flat plate, or put some in a bowl, drizzle olive oil ( I like to get all fancy and swirl it!) add garnish if you so desire. Chop up some fresh veggies, my favorites are cucumber, red onion, and olives in case you’re wondering! Last but not least, simply enjoy it you deserve it since you worked so hard to make it right?!
I told you it was easy!
Firstly if you decide you’re going to make it, send me pictures! I’d love to see your results post your photo’s to instagram and tag us guys! We’re @culturetotable. Secondly if you have a twist on it in terms of what you like to have accompany with it send that in too. The best thing about all of this is seeing how you contribute to the evolution of Labneh. I am really looking forward to hearing from you all.