Labneh is a traditional Middle-Eastern soft cheese made from straining yoghurt. It is very similar in taste and consistency to cream cheese.
Yesterday, I placed a cheesecloth into a strainer and dumped a tub of plain natural (no sugar added, no flavours, etc) yogurt into it. Apparently I should have added salt before this step but no matter, I added salt to the finished product.
Next I gathered the corners of the cheesecloth and brought them together and hung the small sack from the kitchen faucet over top of a 4 cup glass measuring cup to catch the whey. A couple hours later I remembered that the yogurt I was using was pasteurized, and should be refrigerated, so I transferred the sack to hang over a pitcher using a wooden spoon to hold it.
This afternoon I checked on the sack and it felt of the proper consistency so I carefully removed it from the cheesecloth. It looked like a big white ball of cream cheese! I transferred it to a bowl and mixed in about half a teaspoon or so of kosher sea salt. I'll store the labneh in a cream cheese container, since it made just a little less than 250 mL. Perfect.
The taste is pretty similar to cream cheese, if not a little more sour tasting. It's less sour than the plain yogurt taste, I think, and not offensive at all, especially with the salt added. I tried some spread over PC Organic Multi-Seed Stoned Wheat Crackers. Yum.
I can foresee this replacing our commercial cream cheese. It has an excellent, creamy consistency, a smooth taste, and will go with everything that cream cheese or sour cream partners does. I picture it over baked potatoes, on bagels and crackers, or the base for dips and spreads. Right now I'm imagining it served with roasted red peppers and olives.
The best part is, I know how to make yogurt. I can make that myself, and in turn, make labneh from the yogurt. And then the remaining whey I will use for soaking grains and such, and for replacing the liquid in breads and baking. Cheese and milk products RULE!
On a side note, I have found an Ontario source for rennet tablets and liquid, so I'll be ordering some of that. I plan on making Feta, so I won't have to buy THAT anymore, either. Eventually I'd love to learn to make cheddar and other forms of cheese so I'm excited to get started.