We've been learning all about kefir…
This is a traditional Middle Eastern method of preserving kefir (or yogurt) cheese — called labneh.
The kefir or yogurt cheese is salted and soured first, then fashioned into balls and submerged into olive oil. Because the salting and souring preserves the cheese, and the olive oil acts as a protective brine, this method requires no refrigeration. My family still follows it to this day!
My grandmother and namesake, Tata Wardee, always had jars full of yogurt cheese balls that we would add to our plates at breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Watch the video below, or follow along with the print instructions, to see how to make your own kefir cheese balls! The video is an excerpt from my Cultured Dairy and Cheese eCourse — be sure to check it out for even more information.
Middle Eastern Kefir Cheese Balls (Or Yogurt)
- 1/2 gallon kefir or yogurt
- 1/4 teaspoon+ sea salt (if not already salted)
- 1-1/2 cups+ extra virgin olive oil
- quart size jar with tight-fitting lid
First, turn your kefir into kefir cheese. Line a colander with 2 layers of 90-count cheesecloth, then nest colander inside a big pot or bowl. Carefully pour kefir into colander. Tie up the ends of cheesecloth and tuck inside colander. Hang the bag of cheese up over the pot (you can remove the colander) for at least 2 days, until whey no longer drips out and the cheese is quite dry.
This hanging time means your kefir may be quite sour. If you're leery of that tang, try it with yogurt instead which will always be more mild — or if you have cold storage, hang your cheese there to drip out the whey while suspending fermentation.
If you have not already salted the kefir cheese, do so. Salt to taste, starting with 1/4 teaspoon.
Pour olive oil into jar. Shape kefir cheese into individual balls — about a tablespoon each. Plunge balls into olive oil one at a time.
When all balls are in jar, top off with additional olive oil till balls are completely submerged. Cover tightly. Store in a pantry cupboard. Burp as needed.
They keep for a few weeks, at least, under normal pantry conditions, but more likely longer.
Serve with eggs or sausage at breakfast, or as a fermented side dish with sandwiches or salads at lunch, or even at dinner next to grilled meats and rice! Or, enjoy as a snack with veggies or fruit! The sky's the limit!
Have you ever made kefir cheese balls? Do you have a traditional preservation method from your family to share?
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