Jameed, a fermented dried yogurt, is a traditional Bedouin ingredient and the star of the famous Palestinian-Jordanian dish mansaf. Its uses go far beyond it, however, adding distinct savory and acidic notes to soups, salads, and stews.
This is not the most traditional way to make jameed, but it is easier and quicker than the usual weekslong process. Although jameed is commonly left to air-dry in a sunny spot for a couple weeks, not everyone may have access to such a spot or climate. So I’d like to offer up a couple of alternatives.
I let jameed dry for less time than is traditional because one reason it is left out to dry so long is to make it durable at room temperature for long periods of time. Since these balls will be stored in the freezer, it’s not necessary to dry them to that stage.
Muslin cloth and nut milk bags work better than traditional cheesecloth, which can be quite thin and finicky to work with. Finally, don’t balk at the quantity of salt, because much of it washes away with the whey.
- Put the yogurt and salt in a large bowl and mix to combine.
- Line a colander with muslin cloth or a nut milk bag and set over a bowl. Transfer the yogurt to the cloth or bag and tie to close. You can place a heavy weight over the yogurt and allow it to drain over the colander, or, if you have the option, you can tie the bag over a sink faucet you are not using or a cabinet knob and allow gravity to speed up your work.
- Set aside for 24 hours. Open the bag and use a spatula to mix the strained yogurt mixture (this will bring the dryer sides into the middle and allow the moist center to drain some more) and repeat the draining process for another 24 hours.
- Open the cloth and mix the strained yogurt to smooth out its consistency. It should be quite dry at this point. Shape into two balls and set them on a muslin- or paper-towel-lined plate. Cover with a cheesecloth (this will prevent dust from getting in as it dries) and set in a dry, sunny place, ideally with fresh air, for 24–48 hours. If you live in a dry climate and have a sunny balcony, that is ideal; otherwise, a sunny window that you open for air periodically will do.
- Alternatively, place the balls on a paper-towel-lined plate and set it in the fridge, uncovered, for about 4 days. Change out the paper towels if you feel them becoming damp, and continue to do so until the papers are completely dry for 24 hours.
- Once the discs have dried and feel hard to the touch, they can be used immediately or stored in freezer bags for up to a year.
Reem Kassis is a Palestinian food writer and cultural critic. She is the author of the best-selling and award-winning cookbooks The Palestinian Table (2017) and The Arabesque Table (2021). Her other writings have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the LA Times, and The Atlantic in addition to various magazines and academic journals. She grew up in Jerusalem, then obtained her undergraduate and MBA degrees from UPenn and Wharton and her MSc in social psychology from the London School of Economics. She now lives in Philadelphia with her husband and two daughters.