If you’re making it from scratch, add a little something you fermented yourself. Award-winning baker and fermentation expert Charlotte Pike has a new book out that guides you through the steps of this near-magical natural process that yields worldwide culinary staples like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi and pickles, then serves up a wide variety of recipes incorporating your tart homemade fare.
Labneh can be preserved for up to three months by preserving it in oil, but it must be completely submerged at all times. Rolling labneh into balls and coating them with an aromatic combination of flavors is not only delicious, but a great way to make your labneh last. What’s particularly nice is that you can scoop out as many or as few balls as you like, as and when you want to use them. They’re gorgeous served in a bowl as part of a mezze selection, or spread on a flatbread.
- 1 1/4 pounds Savory Labneh, drained weight (see below)
- 6 heaped teaspoons chile flakes
- 6 heaped teaspoons chopped thyme leaves
- Zest of 4 unwaxed lemons, finely grated (ideally using a microplane grater)
- Approximately 3 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 2-pound tub of organic whole milk or Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- Clean cheesecloth, string
For the savory labneh
Place the yogurt in a mixing bowl and beat in the salt.
Set a sieve over a large mixing bowl. Drape a large cheesecloth over the surface so that the base of the sieve is fully lined and the sides of the cheesecloth hang down over the sides of the bowl.
Spoon the yogurt into the center of the cheesecloth, gather up the sides, and tie them tightly with string just above the yogurt. Leave the lengths of string long to tie it up.
Suspend the cheesecloth bag over the mixing bowl by tying it in a position where it can hang and the whey can drip into the bowl. I do this at home by tying the cheesecloth bag onto a cupboard handle over the countertop. Some people like to tie it to a faucet and sit the bowl in the sink below. Set aside in a cool place overnight, during which time the whey will drip through the cheesecloth.
The contents of the cheesecloth bag is your labneh. In the morning, pour the labneh into a clean earthenware or glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in the fridge until needed. (It is helpful to weigh how much labneh you have made at this point so that you can make up any recipes accordingly.)
The labneh will keep well in the fridge for up to 3 days.
For the labneh
Put the labneh in a large mixing bowl. Combine the chile flakes, thyme and lemon zest on a large plate.
Pinch off a little piece of labneh about the size of a walnut and shape it into a ball. Roll it in the herb and spice mixture so it is well coated and place in the bottom of the jar. Repeat with the rest of the mixture.
Add extra-virgin olive oil until the jar is full, ensuring that all of the labneh balls are completely submerged, and fasten the lid.
The labneh balls can be eaten immediately. Otherwise, transfer the jar to a cool, dark place, where the labneh balls will keep for up to 3 months. They can be kept in the fridge, but the olive oil will solidify.
Once opened, use within 2 weeks.
Tip: Once you have used up all of the labneh balls, you can use the flavored oil as a salad dressing or for cooking, so it won’t go to waste.