Jameed (the Arabic word for 'hardened') is essentially a dry and hard laban made from the milk of goat. A very popular ingredient, in Jordan, the laban, in its truest form, is a defatted, dehydrated goat's milk yogurt. When made, the yogurt is hardened into small balls that are later reconstituted as and when required.
In the Western world, the dry laban is often called 'rock cheese' and in Lebanese and Jordanian cuisine, it is a very important ingredient.
The origin of rock cheese is often traced back to Jordan, where it is still most widely used.
Rock Cheese Preparation Overview
Jameed is not an easy preparation, and therefore, people prefer to buy the commercially produced and packaged variety. Some traditionalists, particularly in Jordan, believe that the cheese should always be made at home for maximum flavor. When manufactured commercially, the hardened yogurt is made almost entirely by machines, with minimum human involvement. Everything from churning of milk to the actual packaging and labeling is taken care of by machines.
Making the cheese at home is a very time consuming and challenging task. First, the milk is churned till the butterfat has separated (traditionally, 'shakwa' or a goat skin bag is used for this task) and then the butterfat is separated from the milk by skimming it off the top. With the help of cheesecloth, the defatted yogurt (left after removing the butterfat) is strained again and again till pure Jameed is obtained. The cheese obtained is salted, dehydrated and then rolled into balls (which are very hard and appear stone-like).
Culinary Uses of Rock Cheese
Jameed is most commonly and widely used in the preparation of Jordon's national dish, Mansaf. It is also used in a range of other dishes in Jordanian and Lebanese cooking, as well as in Arabic preparations like Kibbeh. After it is reconstituted, rock cheese is also sometimes served as a side dish with bread of choice and it also acts as a topping for salads and soups.
Rock Cheese Trivia
The best and most preferred Jameed comes from the Jordanian city of Karak.