Ever tried to make your own soft cheese? No me either!
Feeling inspired while reading about cheese making in one of my many Pioneer books I thought I would give it a try.
Strained yogurt, yogurt cheese, labneh, or Greek yogurt is yogurt which has been strained to remove its whey, resulting in a relatively thick consistency, while preserving yogurt’s distinctive, sour taste. Yoghurt strained through muslin is a traditional food in many countries and it is regularly enjoyed throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean. Eaten plain as a dip, and used in cooking because it does not curdle at higher temperatures. The process of straining yogurt creates Greek yogurt (the popular, high protein thickened yogurt) and labneh cheese (an even thicker yogurt that has the consistency of soft cream cheese).
I find the Greek/Turkish style yogurt is already thicker than regular yogurt and as I wanted to make a soft cheese I thought this style of yogurt would give me a head start.
I used this Turkish style yogurt (found in Lidl)
I measured out 2 cups /450 mls yogurt
I then lined a bowl with 2 cotton/muslin cloths
(These are actually baby cloths/muslin squares and as they are 100% cotton they are ideal for cheesemaking. They really turned out to be a great buy as the quality was so good)
I poured/spooned the yogurt into the centre of the cloth and then tied up the cloth with a thick elastic band (you can use string etc) I then hung the cloth from the handle of the kitchen cabinet door and placed a bowl underneath to catch the whey. Now from what I have read it says draining is best done at room temp. As my kitchen is cool and it being winter I left it here for the entire process as it was the first time I had made it. I wanted it to be as authentic to the process I had read about as possible.
However I would not recommend keeping dairy outside of the fridge for a prolonged period due to the possible growth of harmful bacteria so please do use the fridge method if you want to try this yourself.
Refrigerated draining apparently takes longer and produces a less complex flavour so I will let you know the difference if any as I will try the fridge method the next time. Just put the cloth in a colander and place the colander over a bowl to catch the drips or if you have enough room tie the cloth to one of the fridge racks and let it hang over a bowl.
Save the liquid (known as whey) that collects in the bowl; it’s filled with nutrients and can be used as a milk substitute in baked goods (breads, scones, biscuits) or to add nutrition to smoothies and protein shakes. Store it in a jar in the fridge.
I left the yogurt for 24hrs before I checked it. The longer you strain the yogurt, the thicker it will be. I would give it at least 12-24hrs.
Open out the cloth and place the cheese into a bowl add a little salt, give it a stir and there you have it yoghurt cheese. It is the consistency of soft cheese. I just placed it in a suitable container and it will keep in the fridge for a week at least if it lasts that long as it is delicious!
Mix or top with Mediterranean herbs like thyme and some fresh cracked pepper then use as a dip or a spread for flat bread and crisp veggies. Drizzle with plenty of good olive oil. Or you can just serve it plain on crackers.