September 7, 2009 • Category: Beverages
The good old days of making mooneh ( provisions for the winter) are over for a large majority of Lebanese folks. My grandmother’s generation made mooneh dedicating days to making pickles and olives and jams and labneh balls and eggplant makdoos and moghrabiyeh and kishk. She was born sometime in 1895. Nobody bothered to tell her when exactly. She could crochet and sew and cook and knit and embroider and make mooneh. All of which she excelled at. My mother’s generation was skilled in cooking and jam-making . My generation is trying to maintain the traditional methods of cooking with some difficulty. My children’s generation is learning the joys of fast-food and frozen food.
However, there is one tradition that will remain in Lebanese homes globally. Drying fresh mint from the garden ( or the containers) . I have seen it done in countless kitchens and patios and balconies. Spreading out a large towel and laying all the mint leaves to dry in the sun.
Mint is essential in Lebanese cuisine. Mint is present in almost every dish. Now, if you buy it from a supermarket in a little bottle, you are throwing your money away. Inodore, incolore, et sans saveur. (no taste, color or smell) You need to have fresh mint that you dry yourself or Lebanese dried mint. I bought a large bag recently at the middle-eastern store, imported from Lebanon. I was curious. Upon opening it, a whiff of mint escaped and I found myself back home.
I love Lebanese cuisine because it is a cuisine that respects the riches of nature above all. It glorifies it. Where else can you find a cuisine that uses mint and parsley and cilantro and garlic with such profusion? And, what could be healthier?
This chai be-na’na is a signal that the day is unwinding and it is time to recap and reflect. Make a big pot of it and the soothing fragrance of na’na will wrap you up in contentment and serenity. Then you can praise God for your blessings.
INGREDIENTS: Quantity given is for one serving and can be multiplied ad infinitum.
1 generous cup dried or fresh mint leaves
Sugar to taste (optional)
Boil one cup of water. Seep the leaves for a few minutes in the boiling water. Drink hot or at room temperature with a bit of sugar or honey if you wish.
I received an award today from Sophie from www.sophiesfoodiefiles.blogspot.com.
I am so touched and honored! Shukran Sophie!
10 Comments • Comments Feed
Hi, you mentioned labna balls on this page. How do you make them if you don’t mind me asking?
On September 29, 2009 at 10:19 pm
Hello! This definitely deserves a full post, but I will give you a condensed version: After you have made the labneh, which is simply draining the yoghurt overnight in a muslin bag or through a strainer covered with a paper towel or a coffee filter ( add some salt to the yoghurt), then you have the actual labneh. At this point, keep it in the refrigerator for another day to drain it some more. Now, remove from the fridge and form little even-sized balls. Lay these on a tray covered with a cloth or several paper towels to dry 24 hours in the fridge. Cover the tray with paper towels. Prepare your glass jars by sterilizing them (boil in water for 10 minutes and dry) and then fill 1/2 full with extra-virgin olive oil. Put some olive oil on your hand and shape the labneh balls again, while you place them delicately in the jar. Seal the jar and place in the fridge until needed.
On September 29, 2009 at 10:40 pm
Thank you for your speedy response I will make labneh from scratch and then follow your direction on making the balls. I will let you know how I go.
On September 29, 2009 at 11:23 pm
On September 30, 2009 at 2:26 pm
I made labna from scratch. I rolled the balls and dried them in the fridge as you suggested and then I rolled in zaatar just for something diffrerent. Then I bottle them as you described. My inlaws came up to visit and were gobsmacked at how authentic and delicious they were. This is a great recipe for me as where I am living there are no middle easten ingredients or grocery stores.
Also wanted to ask if you knew how to make ‘Shanklish’. It’s a dried type of cheese with a thyme? layer that coated the outside of the shanklish. I remember my parents used to eat this at home when I was young.
Keep up the great site and thanks for the awesome recipes which I will be trying weekly.
On October 11, 2009 at 11:22 pm
I am so glad your in-laws liked your labneh balls ( AKA zaqaleet)! Also, great idea to roll them in zaatar!
For the shankleesh, I have never attempted it but here is a recipe from Akkar. Use fresh milk from grass-fed cows. Boil it in a copper pot. Cool it and when it is about 105F add a yoghurt starter. When the yoghurt is formed, churn it to separate it from the whey.Heat the whey until it coagulates. You will get qareesh (like a ricotta cheese). Cool it for 6 hours. Add salt, mix well and strain overnight. Try to get the cheese as dry as possible as it will last longer. Form the balls by hand and dry for 2 days in the sun (I guess an oven would work?) Then store in an airtight container for one month. The cheese will grow mold. Rinse off the mold, roll in thyme and eat! ( the lady who makes it at home insists that only grass-fed fresh milk works here). Recipe from Lebanon’s slow food foundation. Good luck!
On October 12, 2009 at 9:42 pm
I want to grow aromatic mint in my back yard what type of mint should I buy from market
On February 29, 2020 at 11:58 pm
Donald Coffman says:
Any of the hardy mints (spearmint, peppermint, apple mint, lemon balm, catnip, etc.) will grow anywhere in the country, and will usually overgrow. I got a start of mint from a Lebanese couple and it is a variety of spearmint. They told me it is a very popular mint in Lebanon. I would advise putting whatever mint you select in a large nursery pot and bury the pot with about 1” of the pot above ground. This will help keep the mint contained, otherwise it could very easily take over your garden.
On May 18, 2020 at 10:27 pm
Hello, I came across your blog as I was searching for a traditional way to make mint tea, myself and my wife reside in Florida and came across a Lebanese on store and we had some food there and a cup of mint tea and decided to pursh the mint tea tea leaves and some mint water as the guy there stated we would need to add to make it home , along with a little sugar and the tea tasted good, however next time I will use real mint leaves if I can find good ones.Also reading your post about growing up and the memories of your family , grandmother baking and making everything from scratch reminded me of growing up in Dublin , Ireland and it was the same for myself , my granny baking the best apple pie, and blackberry pie and much more .Today however as you said yourself the young generation of today want fast food and frozen goods instead if fresh made home cooked food .We had all small family owned stores back then instead of supermarkets where almost ever is processed .
So thank you and take care .
On March 21, 2023 at 12:45 am
Hello William, I want to thank you for sharing tidbits about your own childhood growing up in Ireland. Your granny sounds wonderful!!!
On March 23, 2023 at 12:28 am