+ Well Nourished | Lacto-fermented foods (starting with dairy)

Lacto-fermented foods (starting with dairy and a recipe for labne)

I’d go so far as to say that there isn’t a disease or illness that wouldn’t benefit from improving the health of your digestive system.  If you’d like to catch up on why your digestive system is so important for your health, including simple strategies to improve its functioning, click here.  If you feel anything less than 100%, read on…

A very simple, cheap and easy way to improve the health of your gut (and therefore your overall health and wellbeing), is to consume fermented foods.  Yoghurt is the most widely known Lacto-fermented food.  To catch up on my review of yogurt, the best choices and ways to include yoghurt in your diet, click here.

What is Lacto-fermentation?
Lacto-fermentation is a food preservation process that has been used by most cultures, in some form, for many, many years.  It is a biological process by which sugars are converted into cellular energy and the metabolite lactic acid.  These lactic acid fermenting organisms destroy harmful micro-organisms thus preserving the food.  Dairy, vegetables, fruit and grain (or any food with a sugar component) are the foods most commonly Lacto-fermented.

Why eat fermented foods?
There are clear and calculable health benefits associated with eating fermented foods.  Historically they are regarded to be of great benefit to the immune system, digestion, and general wellbeing.  There are lots of compelling reasons to include fermented foods in your diet including…

  • The process of Lacto-fermenting food not only enhances the digestibility of a food, it also enhances the bio-availability of macro and micro nutrients including Vitamin A and C.
  • Eating Lacto-fermented foods also promotes the growth of healthy flora in the gut (so they are probiotic).
  • Fermented foods are a rich source of vitamin K2 which is essential for bone and cardiovascular health.  Preliminary studies also show a reduction in the development of certain cancers.
  • Fermented foods dramatically reduce the sugar content of foods and helps to reduce sugar cravings.

Making Labne (cultured cream cheese)
Over the coming posts, I am going to show you how easy it is to Lacto-ferment foods and how delicious it can be too.  To start with I’m going to focus on dairy.  Making yogurt is very simple and I’m sure many of you have given it a try already.

So today I wanted to share with you how to make you labne (or a cultured cream cheese).  This versatile  cheese is SO easy to make and can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes.

Young children and those with sensitive stomachs find fermented dairy much more digestible than milk or other cheeses as much of the proteins and lactose has been broken down in the process of fermenting it.  I have found many lactose intolerant patients tolerate and feel great from including fermented dairy in their diet (though making or using a yoghurt without added ‘milk solids’ helps).  Paris Creek is a brand that doesn’t contain milk solids.

Ingredients
500 grams of full fat natural or unsweetened Greek-style yoghurt

Method

  1. Line a sieve with a muslin cloth (you can buy this from a fabric shop like Spotlight).
  2. Place the sieve over a bowl to catch the whey that will drain off it.
  3. Place the yoghurt in the muslin – lined sieve (as pictured above), fold over the cloth (some people like to tie it off) and pop back in the fridge for 12-24 hours.  You can also leave it out of the fridge overnight to further promote Lacto-fermentation and produce a tarter cheese.  Either way, it’s good!

Labne is a firm but still very soft cheese.  You can make it firmer by straining it for longer and also by folding the muslin over the top of the yoghurt and then placing a weight on it (I use a small plate with a big tin of tuna on top).

Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Reserve the whey and freeze until you need it.  It is super nourishing (high in protein and many other nutrients).  I have lots of suggestions for the whey coming up, including  a mayonnaise and fermented vegetable recipe very soon!

Ways to use Labne…
Savoury

  • Use it as you would a cream cheese spread.
  • Marinade it in olive oil infused with herbs like fennel seeds or rosemary (Mediterranean flavours).  Or chilli and cumin seeds (for Indian or Middle Eastern flavours).
  • You can shape the labne into small balls and then roll it in a mix of chopped herbs, salt, and pepper.  Serve drizzled with olive oil.
  • Use it in roulades to replace fromage frais.

Sweet

  • A delicious, sweet simple recipe here.
  • Drizzle with a sweet syrup like maple, honey or rice malt syrup.

 

Love to receive your thoughts, questions or comments.  You can post them below.

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Image 4

The finished product.  The whey is collected in the bowl below and the cheese is ready for me to make (in this case) a delicious dessert!

  • cel

    My husband is lebanese so ive enjoyed labne for years and now my son enjoys ir too. However I was wondering if eating too much dairy constipating? He suffers from that on a regular occasion

    • Because labne is cultured, it usually is helpful with constipation. I have found however that children who fill up on dairy don’t eat enough fibre rich foods like vegetables and this is the cause of their constipation. It’s really about balance – the bulk of the diet needs to be vegetable based with some quality proteins and fats (so a little dairy, just not a lot). G x

  • Shell Harris

    Hi Georgia 🙂 whats the shelf/fridge life of the Whey or do I use it all straight away??

    • Hi Shell, I personally use it within a week or so though I have read it keeps well for several weeks. I freeze it in ice cube trays or little containers or jars if I’m not going to use with the week. G x

  • Mary

    This has become a favourite in our house now, even the fussy 3 year old has accepted it as cream cheese. But it’s my clever 5 year old daughter who’s most enthusiastic about it, especially in her lunch box as a dip.. and recently she told me “now I know why it’s called ‘love-ne’ because I love it in my belly!”. I didn’t have the heart to correct her..

  • Aah beautiful Mary. So glad to receive your comment and your daughters – heart warming and how right she is! G x

  • Karen

    This looks really great. Can you use the cream cheese to make a cheese cake and if so how much labne does 500g of yoghurt make?

    • Hi Karen, yes you can make cheese cake with labne (I make a mean mojito one for adult dinner parties). A couple of tips. The more strained/ firm the labne the better your cheesecake will hold its shape. I’d rec weighing it down to make it firm. I’m not sure of the weight conversion. It is only the whey you are straining off so it would be a little less than 500 gram at a guess (sorry, I rarely weigh anything, only when testing a recipe for WN). I will post a recipe for cheesecake at some stage though. G x

  • Katie

    Hi Georgia, the yoghurt I buy in Perth (Casa) has the layer of thick cream on the top – should I scrape this off for making the labne or is it ok to just tip the whole container out, cream and all? Wondering if the cream would interfere with the fermenting process.

    • I always use the cream too Katie – even more delicious I think, enjoy G x

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