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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Yogurt Cheese

Have you ever made your own cheese from plain yogurt? It's so easy! And so, so good. I first tried this with the help of my dear friend, Lizzie. She makes it quite often, and had to talk me all the way through it, hehe! What can I say, I was very nervous the first time. Was I doing it right? Would it work? Did I add the right herbs? Would I make my fridge explode? Would the world as we know it come to a sudden halt if I screwed up my yogurt cheese?

Thankfully, it worked! And on my very first try, too! That's because it's so easy, even a kid could do it. Seriously. But there's one very important thing--your yogurt can not have gelatin in it, or it won't work. You can look on the label and it'll say if there's some in there or not.

Up until now, I'd only made savory yogurt cheese. But when my friends and I were all trying this out, one of them bought vanilla yogurt instead of plain. I thought, wow, that would be good anyway, and you could add cinnamon and raisins, or orange zest and cranberries, etc.

I decided this time to use plain, but do a sweeter version, with orange zest, dried cranberries, and honey. It was SO good! Was, because it's all gone, hehe. Try it on your bagels for a healthy alternative to cream cheese. I don't know why, but I just don't care too much for low fat cream cheese, but the yogurt cheese is something I really love. It also makes a great addition to sandwiches and wraps!

One more thing--when Lizzie makes it, she adds the herbs and spices first, then drains the liquid out to make her cheese. This is the way I've always done it, too. This time, I wanted to do half sweet and half savory, so I drained the yogurt first, then divided it to make the different kinds. If you're doing a savory one, I recommend adding the herbs before draining. In my opinion, it needs that time to really develop it's flavor. However, the sweet version was perfect. I added the stuff to it after draining, and it was fine. You can decide which way you'd want to do it.

Lizzie's Yogurt Cheese (savory version)

32 ounces (2 lbs) Lowfat plain yogurt

Herbs of your choice (I typically use oregano and basil, but a mix of your favorites, or even a blend like herbes de provence or a cajun or italian spice mix would work, about 1 tablespoon of each)

Minced garlic (optional, to taste - I like about 4 - 6 cloves)

Sea or kosher salt (about 1 teaspoon)

Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Chopped sundried tomatoes (optional)

Chopped kalamata (or your choice) olives (optional)

In a large bowl, mix together yogurt, salt, pepper, herbs, and whatever optional ingredients you want. You can also do the mixing right in the yogurt container.

Prepare a large strainer over a pot to catch the water from the yogurt. Line the strainer with cheesecloth, making sure that it overlaps the strainer and can be pulled up.

When yogurt, spices, etc., are thoroughly combined, pour into the cheesecloth lined strainer.

(the yogurt in this shot has no herbs in it, because I decided to add to it after draining)
Loosely gather extra cheesecloth and drape over the top.

Refrigerate overnight, making sure to check it occasionally and pour out strained water.
Here is the drained, plain cheese, and at this point, I split it into two portions, and added herbs and garlic to one, and orange zest, honey and dried cranberries to the other. All amounts are to your taste:

After about 24 - 30 hours, turn out the yogurt cheese onto a serving plate. Garnish with a bit more salt, pepper, a drizzle of very fruity olive oil, and a sprig or two of fresh herbs, if you like. Surround with crackers and olives (if you used them/like them), and enjoy. I often drizzle enough olive oil that it pools a bit around the cheese, so you can get some of it when you scoop the cheese out.

Here you can see the herbed cheese in the front, orange cranberry cheese in the back:

And a better shot of the cranberry orange:

I hope you'll try to make your own yogurt cheese! You can add whatever you like--do you feel like sweet or savory? How about garlic and chive, or cinnamon raisin? Experiment with different combinations, and don't worry, your fridge won't explode if it doesn't work. Because it'll work!!! hehehe.

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Kevin said...

Making your own yogurt cheese sounds like fun. It looks really good as well.

Erin said...

Elle, this is such a unique idea! Thanks for sharing. It sounds like the perfect spread for a bagel or crackers. Yum Yum!

Joy said...

Elle, you rockstar cook! I don't know where you get all these amazing ideas, but keep them coming!

Jessy and her dog Winnie said...

This sounds like a really cool idea! Is these any way that you can use something other than a cheese cloth? I don't have one, and I want to make this recipe like really soon : )

Elle said...

Yes, Jessy! You can use either a clean tea towel (not a linty-type one, haha) or coffee filters. Good luck, and make sure your yogurt doesn't have gelatin in it! :)

Elle said...

Thanks Kevin--it is kinda fun, and the kids enjoy seeing the transformation.

Erin--it is perfect on those two things, and also on sandwiches.

Joy--I wish it was my idea! hehe. But thank you!

michelle @ TNS said...

this is one of those things i've always wanted to do but never have. now i'm inspired!

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