This is one of my favorite appetizer/maza dishes. Guests delight in its exotic yet familiar taste. To make it even prettier, when I have chives in blossom, I sprinkle some of their lavender flowers over the top along with the chives.–Victoria Jenanyan Wise
Armenian Yogurt Cheese Balls
- Quick Glance
- 30 M
- 8 H, 30 M
- Serves 6 to 8
- For the yogurt cheese
- 1 1/2 quarts yogurt
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- For the marinated cheese balls
- 2 cups yogurt cheese (above)
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed
- 2 teaspoons chopped dill leaves
- 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped chives
- Crackers, for serving
- Make the yogurt cheese
- 1. Drain the yogurt by lining a colander with a double layer of cheesecloth, making sure to have a generous drape over the sides. Set the colander in a bowl that holds its bottom well above the bottom of the bowl. Place the yogurt in the colander and set aside at room temperature to drain until reduced to 4 cups, 2 to 4 hours, depending on the consistency of the yogurt to begin with. Use right away, or store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- 2. Stir the salt into the drained yogurt in the colander. Cover and refrigerate to continue draining. Leave for 12 hours (overnight) to achieve a cream cheese texture. Leave for 24 hours to achieve a firmer, chevre-like texture. Be sure to pour off the whey accumulated in the bowl whenever it reaches up to the bottom of the colander.
- Make the marinate cheese balls
- 3. Divide the cheese into 13 portions and roll each into a walnut-size ball. Set the balls, without touching, on a plate lined with paper towels. Cover loosely with paper towels and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours, until firm.
- 4. In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, garlic, dill, and Aleppo pepper. Transfer the balls to a deep dish or a high-lipped platter, all in one layer. Pour the oil mixture over the balls, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2 hours, or up to 1 week.
- 5. To serve, sprinkle the chives over the top and accompany with crackers.
Recipe Testers Reviews
Despite the time it took to prepare the cheese balls, the results were amazing. I served these with other cheeses and crackers for a wine and cheese party and everyone loved these! They were surprised that I had made them. The cheese was still a little soft (firm enough to hold shape, but soft enough to spread on a cracker) but the marinated oil made it very tasty.
I’ve made yogurt cheese before, and this method is wonderful for getting the right texture. I think the second draining with the salt makes the difference. The presentation is beautiful with the white cheese and garlic, green herbs, and red flakes of pepper floating in orange tinted oil. The creamy tanginess of the cheese is well matched with the spicy oil.
I love recipes that act as a launching pad for all sorts of variation ideas, like this one did. The yogurt cheese was quite tasty on its own. It would be nice on a bagel in place of cream cheese. The flavors of the marinade made the cheese even tastier. It added a nice edge to the smoothness of the cheese. This would be great to serve for an appetizer. The herbs and spices could be changed for endless taste variations. Blending the spices right into the cheese would also make a great topping for baked potatoes, breads or crackers, or a dip for vegetables. This one is a keeper!