At the farm these days, my milk pail overflows. So I spent some time this week making some cheese. It’s a good way to preserve the excess milk. I also freeze extra (goat) milk and I have a recipe for canning milk. However, I have not canned milk. yet. It’s likely that I’ll can some milk one of these days. Oh…that reminds me that I have a recipe for sweetened condensed milk. Yes, that may be my next canning project. OK..back to the matter at hand, cheese.
Cheese is a rather simple way to preserve your milk for a little bit. So when the milk pail overflows at your house, try this recipe. It is easy, requires very few ingredients, and your friends will think your are an artisan cheese maker when they have a bite. The best part is you don't even have to milk an animal. Just grab some whole milk from your local supermarket.
You take little balls of this delectable cheese and layer them in a jar with herbs and seasoning. Then you pour olive oil over it all. The olive oil helps preserve the cheese and seals out air. The flavor is amazing, especially if you are patient enough to wait a week or so to let the flavors meld together. So here’s your supply list.
Labaneh (a yogurt cream cheese)
You will need:
1 gallon of milk ( can be any kind, store bought, fresh, skim, whole)
1/2 c. cultured yogurt (like Brown Cow or Dannon, plain, unflavored)
fresh basil leaves
fresh cloves of garlic
butter muslin (or a square of fine weave fabric like batiste or muslin)
gallon glass jar
How to make Yogurt:
Add 1/2 c. of yogurt to your glass jar. Heat your milk to between 110-114 degrees. Stir milk into yogurt. Incubate for 6-8 hours at 90-110 degrees. To keep this temp, put your gallon jar in a cooler with a heating pad set on low. Or do as I do and use fresh, strained milk straight from the barn. It's the perfect temperature. Then I incubate it in my Excalibur dehydrator. It makes perfect yogurt every time. After the yogurt is thickened, chill in the fridge overnight. It will thicken more in the fridge. If you are using goat’s milk, you may want to add 1/2 c. of dry milk to the milk and yogurt when you are starting out. This will thicken it slightly. As a general rule, goat milk doesn’t thicken like store bought yogurt. If you want to cheat, then just buy the biggest containers of plain yogurt you can find (to equal 1 gallon of yogurt) at the supermarket and proceed as follows.
How to make the Lebanah:
Strain the yogurt in a cheesecloth for several hours. The easiest way to do this is to line your colander with cheesecloth. It will need a very fine weave and usually is sold as "butter muslin" rather than cheese cloth. To sterilize the cloth, iron with a hot iron. When the yogurt is poured into the muslin in the colander, tie the four corners together. You can then hang it on a cabinet door or hook with a bowl underneath to catch the whey as it drips.
Once the yogurt has been strained, scoop little balls of the yogurt cheese with a spoon or cookie scoop. Put them in a quart mason jar. As you add little balls of cheese add in layers of herbs and spices as desired. A nice combination is fresh basil, sun dried tomatoes, peppercorns, and garlic cloves. When the jar is full, pour olive oil over the top. Let this sit in the fridge several days to a week for the herbs to season the cheese. To eat, serve the little cheese balls on a plate with crackers or veggies.
I learned to make this cheese in a Cheese Making class at Homestead Heritage. You can see the lebanah in the photo above taken from the cover of the How to Make Soft Cheese book published at Homestead Heritage. Here is a link for more information on the class that I took. It was worth every penny.