I just love this cheese! Brimming with vitalizing nutrients and gut-healthy probiotics, this beautiful “Boursin” yogurt cheese is not only a show stopper at parties, it’s absolutely delicious, easy to make, inexpensive, and really, really good for you. You can make a creamy spreadable version (like cream cheese) which is what I’ve pictured here or a firmer one more like traditional Boursin – details coming.
Of all our herbal yogurt cheeses this is my hands-down favorite, but sadly it is seasonal. I made it for two wild food workshops last June with the very last greens of late spring. But happily, now that the cooler, wetter weather is back, along with the peppery and pungent wild herbs that give this “Boursin” its amazing flavor – I can finally share the recipe!
This dish was inspired by two great cheese traditions — “Boursin” a herb-flavored fresh cheese popularized by Francois Boursin and Labneh, a strained yogurt cheese eaten in the Middle East. Boursin is the ready-made version of a traditional French dish of fresh cheese mixed with fresh chopped herbs (chives, basil, parsley, dill oregano) at the table. In 1957, Boursin introduced his “premixed” version which today has become one of the most popular cheeses in the world.
Labneh is a yogurt cheese that has been eaten in Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Israel and other Middle Eastern countries for thousands of years. Easy to preserve, Labneh was an important source of protein. Yogurt was simply drained of whey until a thick cream cheese remained.
Like a “Boursin” we’ll premix the chopped herbs into the yogurt. Then, like a labneh, you’ll pour this herby yogurt into a bowl lined with cheesecloth, tie up the cheesecloth with string, then hang it and drip off the whey. This allows their flavors to permeate the throughout the yogurt as it drains. Here are pictures from other websites (with directions to make Labneh) to give you an idea.
And when it comes to the price of cheese, this wild weedy “Boursin” is darn economical! All you need is some free backyard weeds, a large tub of FULL FAT Greek Yogurt, cheesecloth, and a large sieve. It does take a day or two (depending on how spreadable or thick you want the result) so be sure to plan ahead. You’ll need a day for the creamier spreadable version and two days for the thicker one.
To get started you’ll need a selection of wild and garden greens whose flavors give body and bite to our cheese. Think pungent garlic mustard hot wild field mustards, and bittercress, all of which are prolific weeds probably growing in your backyard. And if you can find any peppery nasturtium or tiny new arugula leaves, pick those as well. Make sure you harvest a few flowers too, you’ll need these for adorning your finished cheese.
Then look for tender tangy wood sorrel. Growing as an ornamental in many landscapes as well as dark shady woodlands, it is easily identified by its three-clover shape and often has slightly fuzzy whitish-purple underleaves. Wood sorrel brings zesty flavor (and pretty color) to our cheese.
Finally, you’ll need some fresh crow garlic greens (Allium vineale) as well as a few mature fall bulbs. These taste like garlic chives and the bulbs are from the same genus (Allium) as garlic, shallots, and onions. And as Allium vineale is considered an invasive plant, she thrives from the west to the east in lawns, fields, open woods and trailside.
You’ll be looking for tender new shoots of what looks like chives. And you’ll know for sure as soon as you take a whiff because you can’t mistake the oniony aroma. And like chives, Allium vineale can be identified as having a hollow leafy structure with a single hollow tube. For the bulbs, you’ll be looking for the dried yellow stalks of mature plants bearing round seed heads. Tug on these gently, the bulbs will come up from the soil fairly easily.
Finally, make sure you harvest the colorful blossoms of wood sorrel, mustard or nasturtium that you find. You’ll use these to decorate your finished cheese before serving. Wood sorrel, wild mustard, and nasturtium blossoms can also be chopped and added right into the cheese for a jolt of flavor and color.
And if you can find a handful of reddish bronze sheep sorrel seeds or nettles, gather those as well. They make a nice sprinkling over the top of the cheese.
Wild “Boursin” Yogurt Cheese
- ¼ cup of finely minced wild mustard, pepper cress, nasturtium leaves, garlic mustard greens (you can use arugula too)
- ¼ cup of finely minced wood sorrel leaves (or garden variety sorrel)
- ¼ cup finely minced crow garlic greens (use chives or green onions if you can’t find any)
- 6-8 crow minced crow garlic bulbs (use 3 regular garlic cloves if you can’t find any)
- handful of nasturtium, wood sorrel, mustard or arugula blossoms
- 1 large tub of full-fat Greek Yogurt (10 or 11% milkfat)
- 1 teaspoon of sea salt (taste and add more if you like)
- 1 or 2 conventional garlic bulbs
- sprinkling of nettle or sheep sorrel seeds (optional)
- 1 tsp. of black pepper
- Pour off as much whey from your yogurt as you can. (Don’t throw it away you can save it for sauerkrauts & ferments!)
- Put your drained yogurt into a bowl. Mix in your chopped herbs, garlic and salt.
- Take a cheesecloth and fold it over, and once again. You should have a tight weave.
- Place this cheesecloth in a large sieve and make sure there is plenty of cloth overflowing the edges to tie up the cheese and hang it.
- Pour the yogurt mixture into the cheesecloth, let it settle a moment, then pick up the four corners of your cloth, and tightly tie them off with string.
- Suspend or hang your cheese in the cheesecloth over a large bowl. You can tie the string to a wooden spoon and place it over the edge of the bowl.
- Make sure there is enough room below the cheese so it is not soaking in the whey. There will be a lot of liquid that will drain off.
- Place in the fridge or cool dark place. Let hang for 24 hours ( if you want a cream cheese consistency) or for 48 hours (if you want a firmer cheese).
- Adorn fresh cheese with sprigs of herbs, mustard or sorrel blossoms, then rewrap in a fresh piece of cheesecloth and store until serving.
- Unveil & enjoy!