J’s family takes its Labne or Lebanese yogurt as I like to call it, very seriously. It’s a staple in their diet and his entire family makes their own batches of yogurt. They all use the same yogurt culture that has been passed from family member to family member. The culture originated with J’s grandmother, Alice, who while alive, was a fabulous cook. The family still talks about her food. Each Sunday evening, she would have the entire family over, anywhere between 15 – 30 people at her house and she would cook enough food to feed ALL of them. Amazing. Takes my breath away just thinking about it. J still makes the yogurt and he eats it every morning (with granola) for breakfast. We wanted to share the recipe.
Half a gallon of whole organic milk
Half a cup of yogurt with live cultures
In a pot, heat the milk over low heat until it reaches 180 degrees. Make sure to check it often so that it doesn’t burn.
Take the pot off the heat and let the temperature go down to approximately 130 degrees. An aside, J’s grandmother would use her “10 second” rule of putting her finger in the milk until she could hold her finger in there for 10 seconds. We don’t really use this pseudo masochistic way of testing the milk and use a thermometer instead.
Once the milk has reached 130 degrees, you temper the yogurt by adding one tablespoon at a time of the hot milk to the yogurt (only about a half a cup of milk is needed to do this). This prevents the culture from being shocked (by the heat, not indecency) when it’s added to the milk. You stir it each time you add a tablespoon. Once you’ve added about a half cup of milk in, pour the yogurt/milk mixture into the pot of warm milk.
Wrap the pot in a blanket or towel and place in a warm area in the kitchen (but not a hot oven!). Let the mixture sit for 6 to 8 hours. You can see it’s done when the top of the mixture has solidified.
Place the clean cheesecloth over the mixture, make sure not to push on the top, just rest it there. Place in the refrigerator. For the first three days, ring out the cheesecloth, rinse it under cold water and place it back on top of the yogurt. Repeat this process twice a day for the first three days. After the three days, keep the cheesecloth on the yogurt, but only ring and rinse once a day. In addition, the yogurt is ready to eat after the first three days but the more water you pull out, the thicker the yogurt will get.
As you get towards the end of your batch of yogurt, save some for the next batch, so that you can keep regenerating that same culture.
If you’re going to add any additional flavors, make sure not to contaminate your clean batch of yogurt.
Enjoy the tangy taste of this home made yogurt. Smear it on Arabic break, make tzatziki, plop into a smoothie, go crazy with it.