White Dog called all of the White Dog Army together."Today we get to help momma make cheese," she told them. "Not JUST cheese but labna, you guys will not believe how incredibly good it is!"
White Dog's knowledge of this Middle Eastern treasure comes from years of helping make it. It is not complicated but takes time as the moisture must be pressed from the cheese for several days to obtain the right consistency.
Made from salted yogurt this treat is rich in probiotics, high in protein, and the result is thick, creamy and tangy. Perfect, White Dog told her siblings, to crumble on top of lamb...or take to an opera picnic.
Which was why we were cheesemaking. This week's Rossini work is about the interaction of West and Eastern cultures and our tailgate picnic was Middle Eastern in honor of The Italian Girl in Algiers. Naturally we were making enough for all to enjoy...after the nearly two days it would take to create the finished product.
It was the wait factor that the WDA considered a major negative. "Can't dad just BUY it at the store," Bella impatiently complained. "We could have it TONIGHT!" WD looked at her. "Momma's Labna is the best ever, You can't buy the care and love she puts into it."
All eyes followed as I poured thick Bulgarian yogurt into a bowl and stirred in salt. I set the big strainer over a bowl and spread cheesecloth to line it. Then I poured in the yogurt and twisted the cloth to form a tight knot around the mixture. I started to wash up dishes.
"It is done already?" Bailey asked. "Can we taste it?"Roman wanted to know.
"We have only just started," I told them. I set the heavy marble squares in the strainer on top of the wrapped cheese.
"Be careful! You don't want to bruise it," Tizenegy cautioned.White Dog laughed. "Momma wants to squeeze all of the moisture out," she told him. "Squishing it hard overnight is good."
I explained that in the morning we would dump the whey from the bowl and rewrap the cheese as we once again weighted it down. "Right before dinner we will put a little olive oil on our paws and roll the cheese into balls. They will almost be ready. Remember all of those pistachios dad ground up and put in the container while you ate dinner yesterday? We will roll the cheese in those and put them in a container. A drizzle of olive oil will keep them fresh until Saturday when we all get to enjoy them."
"Saturday?" the Army complained. "That is ages away! Can't we have some now?" It is not ready, Sweet Loves. But there is yogurt that I saved for you dinner tonight...a nice plop in each bowl. Will that work?'
All afternoon the WDA took turns checking the refrigerator and sniffing just in case. "Not yet," each was reminded. As promised, dinner DID include an extra mixin.