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Thick and Rich Homemade Labneh

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Nutritional Type Cookbook

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When it comes to Middle Eastern cuisine, there’s one particular fermented food you should not miss out on: labneh. Also called yogurt cheese or strained yogurt, this is a spreadable type of cheese that is made by draining out the whey from fresh yogurt.1

However, because of its foreign origins, labneh is usually elusive — chances are your only hopes of finding it and tasting its creamy goodness is by dining in Middle Eastern restaurants or scouring ethnic food stores. But did you know that you can make fresh labneh at home? All you need is some homemade yogurt. Try this easy labneh recipe below.

Thick and Rich Homemade Labneh Recipe

Total Time: 24 hours

Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 quarts of fresh yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped dill
  • 1 teaspoon chopped chives
 
Procedure
  1. Set the sieve above your bowl.
  2. Fold the cheesecloth into quarters and set it inside the sieve.
  3. Mix the yogurt with unrefined salt.
  4. Pour the yogurt and salt mixture into the sieve lined with cheesecloth.
  5. Tie the cheesecloth and set it in the strainer. Make sure there’s enough space between the strainer and the bowl to ensure the whey will never reach the sieve during the straining process.
  6. After the yogurt has strained for about 48 hours, gently remove the cheesecloth.
  7. Roll the labneh into small walnut-sized balls and gently place into a Mason jar with fresh dill and chives, then cover with the oil.
 

The Benefits of Eating Fermented Foods

Regularly eating fermented foods is among the top dietary strategies that any person can implement, and is in fact one of the cornerstones of optimal health. I believe that most people would benefit from adding more fermented foods to their meals, as addressing your gut flora can positively impact most health conditions, whether chronic or acute.

Here are just some of the ways that consuming fermented foods can boost your well-being:

Helps reduce risk of infection from pathogenic microorganisms

Improves digestive function, leading in reduced constipation or diarrhea

Helps improve and reduce the risk for atopic dermatitis (eczema) and acne

May help manage weight (certain fermented foods like kimchi are found to have anti-obesity effects in animals)

Helps improve inflammatory bowel conditions such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and necrotizing enterocolitis

Reduces risk of urinary and female genital tract infections

May reduce the risk of brain diseases, including Alzheimer's disease Lowers the risk for type 1 and 2 diabetes

Improves mental health, mood control and behavior

Remember that different fermented foods contain varying strains of bacteria, which is why you should add a wide arsenal of cultured foods to your meals in order to optimize microbial diversity — and labneh is one of the best types out there.

You’ll Never Run Out of Uses for Labneh

Labneh, also pronounced labne, lebnah or labaneh, is loved by many for its creamy and tangy flavor. It can be consumed as a dip or spread, topped with a dash of za’atar spice or fresh herbs, plus a drizzle of olive oil, or added to various recipes.

Labneh is also sometimes called Greek yogurt, although there is a slight difference between the two. The former is usually more strained, resulting in an ultra-thick, cream cheese-like consistency. What’s more, labneh is more popular in savory applications, while Greek yogurt is usually mixed in sweet recipes.2

But this doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself when it comes to using labneh in your meals. This cheese-like food is extremely versatile, and can be enjoyed both cooked and raw.

Labneh works as a replacement for sour cream and cream cheese, and can be added to pastries and baked goods. Try making a healthier cheesecake using this delicious yogurt cheese. One boon of using labneh instead of the usual yogurt is that it does not curdle at high temperatures, mainly because of its high fat content.3

One tip: the consistency of the end product depends on how long you strain the yogurt. The longer it’s allowed to strain, the thicker the labneh will be.

Reminder: Don’t Discard the Whey!

Whey, the cloudy and yellowish liquid byproduct of making labneh (and other types of cheese), seems like it doesn’t have a lot of uses, but don’t throw it out — it actually packs a nutritional punch.

Whey is loaded with phosphorus, calcium and B vitamins such as pantothenic acid, B12 and riboflavin. In fact, adding it to your recipes can actually boost the vitamin, mineral and protein content of other foods.4 Try these ideas on using the whey from labneh:5,6,7

  1. Add it to your morning smoothies and shakes to boost their nutrition content.
  1. Use it as a substitute for buttermilk in baked goods. You may need to use slightly less whey than the amount of buttermilk the recipe requires. For example, if the recipe needs a cup of buttermilk, use only 3/4 cup of whey.
  1. Use whey instead of water when making lemonade, or try adding it to your tea.
  1. Make lacto-fermented vegetables like sauerkraut using whey — it can help with the fermentation process.
  1. Use it to thin out homemade hummus or pesto sauce.
  1. Cook your quinoa in whey for added flavor.
  1. Add it to your soups and stews (Remember that this will not work for all recipes, though).
  1. Keep feta cheese fresh by submerging it in whey.
  1. Use it to water your plants for extra nourishment. Just remember to dilute the whey with water so it will not “burn” your plants.
  1. Add it to your pet’s food. Whey can also be fed to farm animals.

If you don’t have any immediate need for the whey, don’t worry — you can easily freeze it for future use. Simply pour it into ice cube trays or small cups and place them in the freezer. When you’re ready to use, just pop out the cubes and defrost.8

Sources and References
Nutritional Type Cookbook

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