Cutting back on my budget has, inevitably, meant cutting back on cheese. Cheese really ought to be an expensive product. To get a little perspective on food costs, I’ll often think of all of the steps it takes to produce a particular food product. Cheese gets very involved: first feed must be grown to nourish the animals, the animals themselves must be cared for and milked, then that milk is condensed to produce the cheese curds, and finally the cheese has to be carefully aged. It makes sense that such a labor intensive product like cheese should be relatively expensive. But it is lovely isn’t it?
Lately I’ve been making a lot of labne to fill my cheese cravings. I can buy a quart of yogurt for just over three dollars, even though the finished volume will be about half of what you started with– for a good quality soft cheese, that’s still a steal of a deal. All that is required to make labne is yogurt, a strainer and a piece of clean cloth. (A double layer of cheesecloth would do fine, I have a small square of linen reserved for this purpose.) Simply line your strainer with fabric, pour in your yogurt and let it stand in your refrigerator to strain for 1-2 days. The longer you strain the yogurt the more dense your yogurt cheese will be. I typically let mine sit for 2 days. This leaves you with a soft, spreadable, delicious cheese. Remember, though, that the finished cheese is only going to be as good as the yogurt you buy– I like yogurts with a distinct lactose tang. You can also make different tasting yogurt cheeses with different yogurts (I’m looking forward to experimenting with goat labne). Labne can be used for either sweet or savory applications, so I’ll post a recipe for each. But I don’t want to give the impression that you need to fuss too much to make labne palatable. It is also wonderful served very simply, either dressed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt or drizzled with a little honey.