Being of Lebanese heritage, kefir (aka lebne) cheese is something I grew up eating. Before I got married, as my husband was being introduced to my family, it went inconspicuously something like this: “This cheese is a tradition and family staple, and if you marry our daughter this cheese will follow you and have a throne in your refrigerator!” Needless to say, husband got me and the cheese! And not surprisingly, it quickly became a favorite of his, second only to his beloved mozzarella =)
The only problem was that in California my mom always bought this cheese at the store. Here in Sicily, there was no kefir cheese within 10,000 miles. What was I going to do? All I saw in sight was Italian cheese and I was headed for a panic attack….would I never eat my childhood cheese again!?? Ahhh, but that’s where mom came to the rescue! She taught me how to make it at home, and while it’s not the same as the one I grew up on, it’s here to stay! So today, I’m showing you how to make this delicious spread. For those who don’t know how kefir tastes like, I would say it basically tastes something between yogurt and cream cheese.
Now, you can start with 1 pound of ready made full fat or low fat yogurt……or you can start with homemade yogurt. I’ve tried both and find that using full fat and\or store bought yogurt yields a thicker spread, while low fat and\or homemade yields a thinner spread. Both are equally tasty. The choice is purely a matter of diet or preference.
(Yields about 1 1\2 cups)
-1 pound of yogurt (I normally use ready made and low fat)
-1 regular sized white coffee filter
-A pasta strainer (I use an old plastic white cheap one)
-A bowl to catch the yogurt whey (liquid)
-A kitchen towel
-Pour\scoop out all the yogurt onto the coffee filter. Cover the strainer with the kitchen towel and let drain for about 8 hours or until all the liquid (whey) has drained. NOTE: Some people choose to just pour the yogurt into a cheesecloth and hang the cheesecloth over the sink\pot to drain. I find that a bit more work and so I simply use a coffee filter and strainer. You can really use either method.
-Every 2-3 hours, remove the whey and toss it or save it for making bread! (Did you know you can use whey in place of water when making bread?….the natural bacteria found in whey is very beneficial to the body and not to mention makes a very spongy and mildly sour tasting bread, almost a cousin to sourdough bread. It’s actually quite delicious = )
-When the whey has completely drained, hold the filter down with one hand while carefully scooping out the cheese with a spoon using the other hand.
-Place the cheese in a glass container. It can be stored in the fridge for up to 10 days. Before eating, just add salt or sugar (depending on how you are eating it =)
Happy kefir cheese making!