Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Yogurt cheese -- labaneh

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For Y Day at ABC Wednesday I'll serve you up some yummy yogurt cheese.
In Israel we call it by its Arabic name, labaneh.

It all begins by milking the ewes early in the morning.
(I got to help milk during my 5-day Arabic course / home hospitality at the Bedouin village of Dirijat in the Negev desert!)
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Labaneh is made in quantity only a few months during the year.
I suppose it depends on when the lambing season is.
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I just happened to wander into a backyard and sighted all the production things.
Unfortunately it was just a few minutes before my ride was leaving back to Jerusalem, so I didn't have time to find out the exact process.
The older women do not speak much Hebrew or English, and my Arabic is still very small.
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Notice even the bags are made from sheep.

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But you can read about strained yogurt / labaneh in Wikipedia.
The women in Dirijat roll some of their labaneh into balls and pack it in glass jars with olive oil and sell it in their visitors center.

The Bedouin also like to press the strained labaneh in its cheese cloth between two heavy stones and later sun dry it.
It becomes hard and dry, like the ball in the photo, and can be stored for long periods.
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I hope you all have the chance to dip hot pita or flat bread into cool labaneh, drizzled with olive oil and zaatar!
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25 comments:

Sara said...

My mouth is watering....labaneh is delicious! And I wish I had some right now. In 1995 we stopped on the roadside where a woman was baking flat bread on what looks like an overturned wok, and serving it hot, with labaneh and zaatari and I can still remember how good that tasted.

RuneE said...

I love yoghurt, but I don't think I have tasted a cheese made from it - maybe I should?

Robin said...

Yum, I love labaneh, and even better with a fresh pita and zaatar.

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Raksha said...

I've made my own yogurt occasionally, but never taken the process a step further and made labaneh out of it. Your pictures may just inspire me to do that!

Here in the U.S. labaneh is usually made from cow's milk and sold in plastic containers in Middle Eastern markets as lebni. Occasionally you can find a deli where they make their own, shaped into balls and packed in olive oil, but not very often.

There's something very anachronistic and funny about your top picture, where the woman is milking the sheep into a plastic milk bottle. That's the same kind of bottle we buy milk in here in the States and later throw in the recycle bin. But hey--I'm all for recycling no matter where or how you do it!

Tuula said...

I just love labaneh, but have tasted it last time 1990. Like Sara I can still remember how it tasted. I should travel to Israel soon again :)!!!

anumorchy said...

Even I love cheeses of all kind, labaneh is not my thing. Too sour or something.

Francisca said...

Oh, I'm with Sara! This labaneh sounds so yummy! Super Y post, Dina. Especially like the second shot with the man with the broad smile looking on as the woman pours the yogurt.

Kay L. Davies said...

SO interesting, Dina. I love yogurt, and have often made it myself, but have never heard of yogurt cheese, and definitely haven't heard of labaneh. Sounds delicious.
-- K

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

Roger Owen Green said...

I'm always impressed with people who make our food in a real, not overprocessed, manner.
ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Leslie: said...

I bet I'd like that since I love cheese of any kind, including goat cheese! :D

richies said...

I am learning something new from your blog. I'm hungry and you are not helping.

An Arkies Musings

Tumblewords: said...

I think I'd like this, even though I've never heard of it. :) Excellent post and pictures!

Hels said...

I am not a morning person and never bother with breakfast. But during the years we lived in Israel, breakfast was the most important and tasty meal of the day. Oh the cheeses... oh the breads.... and salads.

Kate said...

Looks like the women do most of the work for this product; the guy looked happy but a wee bit idle.

VioletSky said...

I have seen labaneh in the Lebanese grocery I often shop at, but I have never tasted it. Next time I'll buy some (I love zataar, too)

Kay said...

Hmmm... I don't know...
I haven't tried anything like it, but it sounds interesting.

Georgia said...

that sounds delicous!!! i love your post because it is so informative. i love being able to learn new things!

VP said...

Sorry, I hate yoghurt, but I was really fascinated by all the process. I think I tried some labaneh a long time ago, but just to not offend our Bedouin hosts!

Dick said...

I wonder how labaneh tastes, I like sheep cheese, I like all sorts of cheese.

Jew Wishes said...

What an enlightening post. I love the photos and bits of verbal history.

andrea said...

I would like and come and have some .. bo appetito and Happy New Year

Reader Wil said...

This must be delicious! I eat yoghurt almost daily. May be it's something like crème fraîche or Hüttenkäse. I like them all.

Petrea said...

I can see how you charmed these folks. Look at that guy smiling for your camera!

spacedlaw said...

A most interesting cheese!

susieofarabia said...

Great post, Dina! Amazing pics.