We’re in the midst of a two week lesson on kefir in the Cultured Dairy and Basic Cheese eCourse. I shared troubleshooting and tips, how to make kefir cream, how to make kefir ice cream (yeah — probiotic ice cream!), how to make kefir cheese, and how to make kefir cheese balls. The weekly free video is an excerpt from this lesson — you get to see how I make kefir (or yogurt) cheese balls.
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Traditional Cheese Preservation
What I show you in the video above, and the recipe below, is a traditional Middle Eastern method of preserving yogurt cheese that requires no refrigeration. My family still follows it to this day. My grandmother and namesake, Tata Wardee, who has passed away, always had jars full of yogurt cheese balls available to add to our plates at breakfast, lunch and dinner!
The cheese is salted and soured, both of which are means of preservation — but then when fashioned into balls, the balls are submerged into extra virgin olive oil, a protective brine of sorts.
The kefir cheese for this method needs to hang and drip for over 2 days, so it will be quite dry. Otherwise, the balls won’t hold together in the brine. Because of this additional hanging time, it may be quite sour. If you are leery of the tang, try it with yogurt instead, which will always be more mild.
Or, if you have cold storage with room for a hanging bag of cheese, you can drip out the whey while fermentation is suspended — meaning sourness won’t develop during the hanging time.
Kefir/Yogurt Cheese Balls
- very dry kefir cheese, made from hanging* from 1/2 gallon of kefir
- 1/4 teaspoon+ sea salt (if not already salted)
- 1-1/2 cups+ of extra virgin olive oil
- quart size jar with tight-fitting lid
*Hanging Instructions: Put a colander inside a big pot or bowl. Line it with two layers of 90-count cheesecloth. Carefully pour the kefir into the cheesecloth-lined colander. Tie up the ends of the cheesecloth and tuck them inside the colander. Hang the bag of cheese up, over the pot (you can remove the colander) for more than 2 days, until the whey no longer drips out and until the cheese is quite dry.
If you have not already salted the kefir cheese, do so. Starting with 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt, salt to taste.
Put the olive oil into the jar. With your hands, create individual balls of kefir cheese, about a tablespoon each. Plunge the balls into the olive oil one at a time. When all balls are in the jar, top off with additional olive oil, as needed. Cover tightly. Store in a pantry cupboard. Burp as needed. Keeps for a few weeks, at least, under normal pantry conditions, but more likely longer.
Serve at breakfast with any kind of eggs or breakfast meat, as a fermented side dish with lunch sandwiches or salads, and even at dinner next to grilled meats and rice. Not to mention for a snack with veggies or fruit! The sky’s the limit how you can enjoy kefir cheese balls. I hope you do!
What About You?
Have you made yogurt/kefir cheese balls before? If not, are you willing to try them? When you do, come back and let me know what you think!