Gibnah Baydah – White Cheese with Blackseed

As Salaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullaahi wa Barakaatuh – Peace be upon you, and the mercy of Allah and His blessings!  It’s easy to say once you get the hang of it and the blessings of sharing this phrase are immense!

Good morning!  It’s a sunny Saturday morning here in Virginia.  Very cold, but the wind is not blowing so it’s not too bad if you are well bundled and stay in the sun.  Or if you stay inside, which is where I am right now.

I woke up this morning with thoughts of making yogurt and cheese.  For once in my life, I had everything I needed at hand, so I was able to get started right away.  Well, right away after I started the coffee brewing.

Last night I was watching an episode of “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” and Guy Fieri was visiting a restaurant where the man was making international cuisine, including Middle Eastern stuff.  He made a delicious simple cheese that I’ve made several times before so I decided I wanted to make it this morning.  And so here it goes:

What you will need:

1 gallon whole milk
juice of two lemons
1 cup of all natural yogurt (I use Dannon All Natural if I don’t have home made in the house)
salt
herbs such as black seed (haba soda), mint, oregano, dill, etc. (optional)
strainer or colander
cheesecloth or finely woven cloth such as a pillowcase
large bowl

In a large, tall-sided pot, heat one gallon of milk to the boil.  You will either need to use a really big pot or watch the pot like a hawk to avoid having a messy boil-over.  I suggest watching it like a hawk.  As soon as the milk starts to foam up and rise, add the juice of two lemons and the cup of yogurt.  Give it a quick mix with a wire whisk.  Allow to boil for a minute or so – the risk of boil-over is gone once the milk starts to break up into curds – and then remove from the heat.

I put a big stainless steel bowl in the sink and then rest a big stainless steel colander inside that, and line the colander with cheesecloth or my personal favorite, a (clean, never used for a human head) pillowcase.  Very carefully, using pot holders, grab the handles of your big pot and pour the contents into the colander.  Set pot aside.

Raise the colander a bit because probably the amount of liquid will be a lot and it will “float” the colander unless you empty most of it out.  DO NOT THROW AWAY THE WHEY.  Or, DO NOT THROW A-WHEY THE WHEY!  Pour it into another container and then put the colander back into the bowl.

Allow the cheese to drain for about twenty minutes.  You can twist up the pillow case to squeeze out the last bit of liquid if you want to, but I don’t bother because I like my cheese a bit moist and I don’t want to burn my hands.  Once it is drained to your satisfaction, dump the cheese into a bowl and put the pillowcase in the laundry.

Now you can add salt and whatever herbs you like.  A classic addition is blackseed, know by names as nigella sativa, habat al barakah, or haba saudah.  I mix it all in with my hands.  Try adding salt a little bit at a time, starting with one teaspoon and mixing well.  Taste before adding more so you don’t make it too salty.  Mix well and then enjoy!  My teenage son LOVES this cheese and it’s a good thing I got pictures before he woke up because it will probably be gone soon!

Bil hana wa shifaa.

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