What’s creamy, delicious and fancy all at the same time? A tasty treat with no fat? How about making a labneh cheese ball? I’ve made them with savory flavors before but what if the cheese was mixed with sweet and sour flavors for a delectable party cheese ball or breakfast spread?
This may sound like the craziest idea ever but believe me, this is fabulous! This time of year in New England, fresh cranberries are in local stores. In our area, we have a cranberry farm that supplies beautiful bags of these tart, crimson jewels to our local health food stores. Usually we think of making cranberry sauce, bread or relish. I even have a cranberry pie recipe that everyone loves. But, how else can you enjoy these seasonal fruits? I had been thinking of making labneh or laban recently. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a simple Middle Eastern yogurt cheese. Possibly the easiest cheese you can craft at home.
For making your own labneh at home you will need non-fat or low fat yogurt, cheesecloth, a colander and a saucepan. I follow the recipe in the 1997 edition of The Joy of Cooking cookbook. For this recipe, I used vanilla non-fat yogurt. Regular yogurt will do, no need to buy Greek yogurt. For a savory cheese spread, plain yogurt is best.
Place a small colander in a quart saucepan, then layer three pieces of cheesecloth in the colander. Leave excess for wrapping. Scoop 2 cups of yogurt onto the cheesecloth. Add 2 tsp. salt if making a savory version. Wrap in a loose ball shape. Place the saucepan cover over yogurt and put in the refrigerator for 24 hours. That’s it! That’s all you have to do! All excess liquid will be in the saucepan. For a savory labneh, mix in your choice of herbs…rosemary, mint, basil, oregano, you decide. Form into a ball, sprinkle with paprika and drizzle with good olive oil. Serve with pita, crackers or vegetables. No one will guess that it is a healthy snack!
Cranberry Orange Labneh Cheese Ball
For this sweet and tart version, a sort of chutney is needed. Do not add salt in the cheese making process. You will need cranberries, a large orange, sugar and pecans. In a quart size saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups of fresh or frozen cranberries, the juice and zest of 1 large orange.
Cook over medium heat until cranberries burst and mixture thickens.
Add water as needed but the chutney should have a thick consistency, not watery. Near the end, add 1/8 cup of sugar. Add more or less sugar according to taste. Allow chutney to cool. This makes enough for two recipes.
Gently mix half of the chutney into your cheese. Save the rest for another ball or use for something else. Just swirl it in, don’t over mix. Return mixture to cheesecloth to form a ball.
Put back in the fridge to firm it up. When you are ready to serve, turn cheese ball out onto serving plate.
Toast chopped pecans and coat cheese ball with cooled nuts. Serve with crackers, bread, bagels…what ever you can think of! Use in stuffed french toast or on pancakes! Yum!
This is just one way to serve labneh cheese. If you have fresh cranberries locally, why not try this alternative way of serving them? I hope you try making some, it really is an amazingly easy process. You will be carrying on an ancient cheese making tradition. I also hope you love it as much a we do! This is perfect for a party or even just to keep in the fridge for an anytime of day snack. Enjoy!
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