Age Your Yogurt, Open Your Mind

“Why is Khalto Ola hacking away at rocks with a large knife?” I requested my mom this query one morning. We have been in our neighbor’s kitchen, and I sat, mesmerized, watching this petite girl use what, to my five-year-old eyes, seemed like a sword to show the apple-size rock into skinny shavings and powder.

Dismissing me after the hundredth query of the day as solely moms can so skillfully do, she informed me it was jameed, not rocks, and went again to her dialog along with her pal. And there I had it—my first encounter with the rocklike discs of dried yogurt used so as to add a deeply savory, bitter depth to probably the most conventional of Palestinian and Jordanian Bedouin dishes: mansaf.

Evaluating the completed product to yogurt is like evaluating a pickle to a uncooked cucumber.

Jameed dates again to the Center Ages and has its roots in shortage and the will to protect seasonal gadgets from one 12 months to the subsequent. A by-product of soured milk that has been churned, boiled, strained, salted, and unnoticed to air-dry for 2 to a few weeks, it will probably maintain for months, even years. Whereas mansaf, bone-in lamb served on a heap of golden rice with heat yogurt sauce, could also be jameed’s most acknowledged utility, there are numerous makes use of for this further laborious cheese of kinds that may impart an intense taste to something it touches.

Bedouins are nomadic Arab individuals discovered throughout the Center East who usually tended giant herds of sheep. When milk was plentiful within the spring, they'd flip it into yogurt. This yogurt would then be whipped—by hand, in a churn produced from sheepskin—to separate it into buttermilk and butter. The butter can be clarified into samneh, which lasted the 12 months with out refrigeration.


The buttermilk, alternatively, can be heated once more to separate the milk solids from the whey. The milk solids can be strained till they resembled a thick yogurt. That yogurt can be closely salted and put aside for a pair weeks earlier than being formed into discs or cones that have been left to air-dry utterly—till they have been as laborious as a bar of cleaning soap. The longer they have been left to dry, the more durable and extra sturdy they turned. When salt emerged on the surface and might be dusted off, the jameed was prepared, and it might maintain for months, even years. These dried within the shade retained a white coloration, whereas these dried within the solar took on a yellowish hue.

This conventional Bedouin meals has made its manner into many international locations throughout the Arab world, from Saudi Arabia and Syria to Palestine and Jordan. It’s used to lend quite a lot of yogurt-based soups, stews, and dips a creamy texture and a uniquely acidic and salty taste, like that of a tough, aged goat cheese however extra bitter.

To prepare dinner with jameed, you merely reconstitute it into yogurt by soaking it in water. The method takes a lot much less time whether it is damaged up into smaller items, as my mom’s pal was doing that morning a few years in the past. At this time’s abundance of dairy merchandise may go away some questioning why they need to hassle with jameed if they'll simply purchase yogurt anytime they need. However the taste of jameed is way richer and extra savory than plain yogurt, from the continued fermentation because it sits out for therefore lengthy and from the intensely salty and concentrated yogurt taste it takes on when drying. Evaluating the completed product to yogurt is like evaluating a pickle to a uncooked cucumber.


Industrial jameed could be discovered throughout the area these days, though the standard varies drastically. Even these produced by native artisans can fluctuate in high quality relying on how meticulous and hygienic the manufacturing course of is and the way lengthy they have been left to dry. When the discs are left to air-dry within the wild for weeks, how they're lined and tended makes an enormous distinction within the consequence. To today, my mom will get her jameed from a household she has recognized in Ramallah since I used to be a baby, and she's going to mail some to me wherever I occur to be dwelling, insisting that the alternate options merely don’t style the identical.

Exterior the Arab world, many Center Japanese grocery shops carry jameed in its liquid kind in Tetra Paks, and Persian markets additionally promote jarred liquid kashk, which is nearly the identical. However for a lot of Arabs within the diaspora—from Turkey or Germany to Brazil or the US, the place I presently am—we select to make a simplified model of it at residence with simply two components: yogurt and salt! It takes a few week or so, however the course of is comparatively arms off.

Upon getting this ingredient in your arsenal, its makes use of shouldn't be restricted to mansaf alone. Soaked and blended with some water to a yogurt’s consistency, jameed can kind the premise for a lot of a dip. I like one through which it's blended with contemporary (and even roasted) tomatoes till clean, after which crushed garlic fried in olive oil is poured in and blended by way of. Straight out of the freezer (the place I retailer my selfmade jameed), jameed is like an Arab counterpart to Parmesan cheese, good grated over soups, salads, or manaqeesh (a pizza-like flatbread often topped with za’atar).

Because of my Vitamix, I don’t have to spend my weekend mornings hacking away at strong rocks with a big knife, like our outdated neighbor Khalto Ola used to. However each time I make mansaf, or any dish through which I exploit jameed, I feel again to that morning, to life’s simplicity again in these days, and I really feel grateful that no less than one ingredient of it—even when in barely completely different kind—stays a staple in my kitchen as we speak.

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