Friday, November 15, 2013

Simple Homemade Organic Middle Eastern Cheese

Making cheese at home is easier than you ever thought! I love cheese, well I adore cheese, cheese shall be in my will! Having said so, I must direct your attention to the fact that cheese can be made at home, from organic, 2% milk and the best thing is that it does not require a lot of work from your part. The cheese needs some time to be ready but you can be out and about, no need to babysit this one. One of my favorite things about this cheese is that you can use the whey you get from straining your homemade yogurt (read here how to make your own organic yogurt) when making Labneh, or Kefir Cheese (read here how to make organic Labneh). I know that you can use the whey in pickling which is on my to do list, but I just love how my pickled turnips turn out using the traditional Middle Eastern method of pickling (read here how to pickle turnips). I decided to research other ways of using this glorious whey. Making Cheese! Who knew!

This cheese is very simple and is flavored with caraway or nigella seed which I absolutely love. It is very similar to Nabulsi Cheese, a Palestinian cheese, the specialty of city of Nablus (known for its soap and Kanafeh), that is flavored as well with Caraway seed. I prefer to use metric measurements when I am working with cheese and brine liquid because they are more exact and I am used to them since I grew up in the Middle East.
The whey resulting from straining yogurt
  • Clean stainless steel pot
  • Clean colander
  • Clean Flour Sack or several cheese cloths
  • Clean wooden spoon
  • A Pasta draining pot that the colander fits in (optional)
  • Another clean pot/weight that fits inside the colander
  • Another pot to prepare salted water to preserve the cheese
Preparation time
  • 30 minutes to boil the milk
  • 5-8 minutes to curdle the milk (this is where you have to be present)
  • three to five hours to strain the cheese
  • 1 Gallon of organic milk. I used whole milk.
  • 1 tablespoon of Nigella seeds or Caraway seeds
  • 4 cups of preserved Whey (for every liter of milk, use one cup of whey)
  • 260 g (little bit less than 1 cup) Salt 
  • 1 liter (4 cups) Water
The brine solution
First start by making the brine solution that will be used to preserve the cheese when ready. I follow the 20% brine concentration: use 1.3 kg of salt for every 5 liters of water. (You will roughly need 1 liter of brine solution, so I used 260 g of salt) You should start with it since it should be room temperature when used. Just boil the water, add the salt and stir until dissolved. let the solution cool down to room temperature. Set aside. Once it is room temperature, place the water in a glass bowl that has a cover. A pyrex bowl comes very handy here.

Prepare the draining station. Lay a clean colander with a flour sack or few cheese cloths. sprinkle some Nigella seeds. Place the colander in a big pot in a way that the colander is just resting on the pot and not actually inside it.
The cheese draining Station
Bring the milk to a boil, in a clean stainless steel pot, on a medium heat. Once it starts boiling add the whey and stir gently on low heat. You will notice that the milk starts to curdle. Turn off the heat after around 7 minutes.
Curdling the milk
Drain the curdled milk in the colander, get rid of the water. Now sprinkle more nigella seeds on the top. Cover the cheese with the cloth you are using. Place the other pot that fits on top of the colander and fill it with water. Thus will create weight and help drain the cheese. Leave for few hours until fully drained.
Draining the curdled milk
Once the cheese is drained, it is ready! Just cut the cheese into pieces and place in the prepared saline solution. Refrigerate! The cheese keeps for a week in the fridge.
Cutting and preserving the cheese
I like to eat this cheese with some fresh bread, olives, fresh tomatoes and mint from my garden. It is equally delicious with my Seville Orange Marmalade. Click here for recipe


I found this video of making Palestinian cheese and it is excellent! watch it here
For my detailed recipe how to make organic 2% yogurt click here 
For my detailed recipe how to make organic 2% Labneh click here
For my detailed recipe of Middle Eastern Pickled Turnips, click here
For my detailed recipe of Seville Orange Marmalade, click here


  1. Nadine, thank you so much for posting this easy and wonderful cheese recipe, I really enjoyed it! I make homemade yogurt all the time and I'm always looking for recipes to use up my leftover whey when I make labneh and Greek style yogurt! I made my first batch this weekend and I'm already looking forward to my second batch! I do have a question though, I was wondering if it's possible to reuse my brine from this first batch, I've read that brines can be reused and impart flavor into the new cheeses when you reuse the same brine. Have you ever used the same brine for multiple batches? Also, is it possible to make this cheese without using whey to curdle the milk? I've used lemon juice or vinegar to make a quick ricotta in the past and it worked great (even though I usually have whey on hand I have some friends that don't make yogurt but want to learn how to make simple cheese...unfortunately I won't be sharing my whey :-) Thank you again for this great recipe! Sincerely, Shanda.

    1. Thank you Shanda for trying out my recipe! Receiving comments from people like you makes it all worthwhile! I have never used the brine in multiple batches and to be honest with you I have never thought about it. I would rather start every batch with brand new brine and whey just because cheese can easily get spoiled. You answered your second question. I use vinegar or lemon juice just as if I am making ricotta. Just strain the cheese all the way to get that solid like texture. I tried both recipes, and I prefer the whey. Your friends can also use Rennet. You can order it online from cheese making websites.

  2. Nadine, thank you so much for your response! I think I will just make a new brine when I make a new batch, as you have suggested, it would also be a lot easier than figuring out how much salt to add back to the old brine to rebalance the salt to water ratio. And thank you for the rennet suggestion, its a bit trickier to find here in Brazil than if I were back in the US, but I found some awhile ago and might buy a bottle for my friend if she gets into cheese making. I really enjoy reading your recipes, keep blogging and posting wonderful recipes, they are much appreciated! -Shanda

    1. Thank you for your kind words Shanda! I suggest that you subscribe to my blog, this way you will get an email notification every time I post something new. It is free and easy. Just enter your email address in the subscribe field on the right side of my home page. You will receive an email from Feed burner to activate the subscription. Click on the link provided. Sometimes the emails goes to junk. It is sent as soon as you enter your address. Would love to hear from you when you try other recipes. Thanks.

  3. Done! I'm subscribing right now! :-) and for sure you will hear from me again when I try more of your wonderful recipes! P.S. I'm enjoying the last of the delicious cheese with some labneh, tomatoes and fresh dill! I am making some homemade feta right now, but in a day or two I will be making batch #2 of this delicious cheese! Xoxo

  4. I like this recipe. Have you tried Lime juice instead of Whey?

  5. I did and I have to say that I prefer the taste of cheese made with whey. I also have whey on hand every week because I strain my homemade yogurt to make Labneh, as described above.

  6. Hi Nadine! How do you make feta or ricotta cheese? Any suggestions?

    1. Hi! I have made ricotta cheese before. It is the same process as above but you just stop after draining the curd. So basically, you do not put weight on the cheese to get water out. If you decide to make ricotta, use full fat milk, as the ricotta made with skimmed milk does not taste good. Let me know if you tried it and if it worked for you.