Labneh (strained yogurt) is a daily food item in the Lebanese diet, cherished by everyone and consumed mainly in sandwiches for breakfast. Labneh comes in various tastes and flavors depending on the method of processing and the source of milk; it can be sweet or sour.
Ambarees, also known as Serdalli ( also pronounced Sirdeleh) or Labnet al Jarra, is a traditional dairy product of the Bekaa Valley and the Chouf area where baladi (local) goats are the main grazing animals. Ambarees consists of fermented raw goat milk in earthenware jars; It develops into a Labneh with a creamy texture and an acidic flavor. The word “Sirdeleh” actually refers to the earthenware jar in which the dairy product is prepared.
This dairy delicacy is made from raw goat milk, and to a lesser extent from cow or sheep milk, which is poured at room temperature in earthenware containers with a coarse salt, closed, and left for a week to ferment. At this stage, a curd and a liquid forms, the latter being drained from a small hole at the bottom of the jar. The process of adding raw milk, coarse salt, fermenting and draining is repeated until the jar is full. It is then sealed and left to ferment until it reaches the right acidity.
Ambarees is a result of an old and wise traditional knowledge of food and food-ways, a preservation technique that has proven successful over the centuries. The high acidity and salt concentration of this food product, along with a proper handling by food producers, makes it totally safe to eat.
Ambarees is produced from late March until end of September, when goat milk is abundant, and the water content of the pastures becomes low. Ambarees is highly dense in milk solids, can be preserved for a whole year, and makes for a perfect meal in winter days, often spread on a piece of Saj or Markouk bread, and heated over a wooden stove.