Dream Cheese

I’m making the world’s most popular cheese today:  yogourt cheese.   Never heard of it?  That’s no surprise.   Around the world it is the most universally loved cheese, but in North America it is barely loved at all.  It’s known as leben or labneh in Arabic speaking countries, fromage frais in France, queso blanco in South America.  And in English speaking countries, if this cheese is known at all, it is labled with a foreign tongue.   Aside from the ungainly ‘yogourt cheese’, we simply don’t have a name for it in the English language.  So allow me to re-christen this wonderful, fresh cheese  dream cheese.

And why is this the world’s most eaten cheese?  Because it is the most easily made at home.  You don’t need a stove, you don’t need rennet, you don’t even need water.  All you need to make this cheese is some yogourt.

1. Get some yogourt.

Either make yogourt yourself or get it at the grocer.   Look for yogourt with a simple ingredient list: milk and bacterial cultures.  Any yogourt will do, so long as it doesn’t have any thickeners or gelling agents in it that will prevent the yogourt from separating.

2. Get some cheesecloth.

Get a good piece of cheesecloth:  anything but the despicable, disposable grocery-store stuff which has pores so wide the yogourt slips right through.  Professionals use unbleached muslin or nylon cloth that’s strong yet light, and easy to wash.  I once used a pillowcase, and was thus inspired to name this cheese for a dream.    These days I use a favourite gangster accessory, the Do-Rag, which you can find at your local Jamaican barbershop.  It has a perfect head-shaped pocket that’s just the right size for a batch of cheese, and two long tails that are perfect for hanging the cheese upon a wooden spoon.  A do-rag makes a gangsta cheese!

3. Pour yogourt into the cheesecloth.

Now drape your cheesecloth, freshly washed, atop a bowl and pour some yogourt out into its centre.  Pull together the four corners of the cloth around the yogourt, give them a twist, and secure with a knot.  Pull the cheesecloth, by its topknot, into the air, and watch as whey begins to drip into the bowl below.  Drip by drip, this yogourt will become cheese.

4. Hang the yogourt overnight.

Find a place to hang this cheese.  Stick a wooden stick through the knot and suspend over a big stock pot.  Or stuff the bag into the handle of a cupboard.  Or better yet, hang it  from your chandelier…just be sure to place a bowl underneath to catch all the whey!

After 24 hours, this cheese will have dripped dry. And you can enjoy it just like that.  If you haven’t the patience to wait more than a few hours, don’t fret about indulging –  this partly hung yogourt is known as quark in Germany, quarho in Spanish.

5. Salt your cheese.

Salt your cheese if you’d like to keep it, and to improve its flavour.  Salt draws moisture out from the cheese, concentrating its goodness, and preventing it from spoiling. To salt,  open up the cheese-bag, and sprinkle out a teaspoon of salt over the surface of the cheese.    Close the bag, and hang it again upon the chandelier.  Though the cheese had stopped dripping,  the dripping will resume.  Wait another four hours and the dream cheese will be even dreamier.

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Why is this cheese unknown in North America?  Because we lack a home cheesemaking culture.  We leave our cheesemaking to professionals, or to other countries, as we fear for the safety our food.  Yet, this cheese is so easy to make, so safe, so affordable, and so wonderful that it’s a wonder it’s not more popular.

But it’s not popular because of this cheese’s short life-span.  It is not suited towards our supermarket centred food distribution system as dream cheese simply does not last long enough.  Even under refrigeration, this cheese wouldn’t make it from dairies to distributors to supermarkets and ultimately to consumers’ homes.

Equivalents of this cheese exist in the supermarket. But they are made with rennet, or hot packed and thickened with gums of all sorts. Their texture is vastly different, and these cheeses lacks flavour.  The only real way to find real dream cheese is to make it yourself!

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Notes:

*Do not use a dry cheesecloth for hanging cheese, as the cheese will stick to the fabric and will be difficult to remove.

*Don’t squeeze the cheese to force out whey.  You’ll almost certainly end up with squeezed cheese in your eye.

*make this cheese with goats yogourt, and you get chevre.

*make this cheese with extra high fat yogourt, and you get cream cheese.

10 comments

  1. Mary

    Thanks for this. We are in Morocco and while we can find cheese it’s the highly processed kind. I’ve just made my first batch using Leben and when I can find large tubs of yoghurt will try that as well

  2. Mary.

    Glad to hear that you’re finding this resource useful for making your own cheese.

    I’m surprised that morocco does not have a cheesemaking tradition, considering how much yogourt is eaten in the country.

    From my own time spent in morocco, I remember yogourt making to be a very common activity…so common that every corner breakfast joint (I don’t know the term to refer to these places where you can go for coffee, tea, freshly squeezed juices, a boiled egg, yogourt or fresh bread) in Casablanca fermented its own yogourt in house.

    If you’re looking for large tubs of yogourt, consider going to one of these breakfast joints, and ask them to make you a larger batch…They just might oblige if you let them taste some of the cheese that you make from it. You may also be able to tap into a good milk supply through these establishments.

    If you do some investigation in this realm, I’d be interested in learning what is used as a starter culture in morocco, and where their milk comes from.

    Cheese

    David

  3. Steve

    We had David over to Mission, BC, last weekend and this dream cheese was the hit of the workshop. I was blown away by how ‘finished’ the cheese tasted. Along with the kefir, this cheese will be the first one I try at home. I spoke with a couple of other workshop participants today (the day after the workshop) and confidence remains high, as does enthusiasm! Thank you, David!

  4. Hi David, our first soft cheese is hanging in (well washed) nylons just after we attended your AMAZING workshop in the Valley yesterday. Thank you for all your cheese wisdom! Looking forward to make alpine cheese soon.
    Julia & Dale

  5. Way to go, Julia and Dale
    You should get some shapely dream cheese out of those stockings tomorrow…It was a pleasure sharing with so many wonderful folks out in the slocan.

    Bon fromage

    David

  6. Anonymous

    Hey David

    I was wondering how to best wash a cheesecloth. Is sticking it in the laundry fine? I frankly wouldn’t appreciate having a hint of detergent flavour in the cheese (or any of the detergent’s ingredients in my body).

    Cheesily yours
    Maria

  7. I try not to use detergents that are too harsh or perfumey in general – and especially not with my cheesecloths. Typically I was them by hand just with a natural dishsoap to ensure that no cheese remains in the fabric, then I hang them to dry. Even if you wanted to put them into the washing machine, its a good idea to scrub them beforehand.
    And just before I use them, I sterilize them in boiling water with a bit of baking soda added to it to take away any scents that may linger….

    Hope that helps!

    David

  8. Hi David,
    The dream cheese turned out fabulous thanks! I’m making it regularly now.
    I posted something on my blog about our cheese making workshop with you. I hope you’ll like it.

  9. I shared this on my facebook page today. Awesome recipe. Kate Schat recommended I check out your website and blog. Love it. May I use your pic and tip of the Do-Rag/gangsta cheese?

  10. Please do, Trish. Say hi to kate for me!
    David

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