Learning how to make cream cheese…
… is one of those things that makes you feel like a homesteading rockstar. But I have to warn you before you proceed, otherwise it just wouldn’t be fair:
Homemade cream cheese is one of those things that beckons you to eat it in large spoonfuls. You’ve been warned.
Yeah, yeah… Smearing it on bagels is nice too, but there’s just something about eating it plain…
Since I am currently milking our cow twice daily and have an abundance of cream (for the first time in a looong time), I decided it was time to try playing around with making my own cream cheese.
And, let me just say that it couldn’t be easier!
First, some clarifications…
Number 1: there seems to be about a million different methods for homemade cream cheese out there. This is the method I prefer, and it’s pretty darn simple.
Number 2: Many, MANY “cream cheese” recipes out there are actually yogurt cheese or fromage blanc recipes. I’ve made a lot of yogurt cheese as well, and it’s great– but not the same as real cream cheese. The flavor and texture are notably different.
Number 3: I used my fresh, raw cream for this recipe. However, since you are adding a culture to it, you could use store-bought, pasteurized cream if you had to. Or even half & half would work. Just try to use the highest quality cream that you can find.
How to Make Cream Cheese
- 1 quart of cream or half & half
- 1 package (1/8 teaspoon) of Mesophilic starter culture (where to buy)
- Fine cheesecloth (Find out how to improvise your own cheesecloth)
- Sea salt to taste (optional)
Make sure you are using a glass container to hold your cream. Gently stir in the starter culture.
Loosely cover (not airtight!) and set it on your counter top to culture for 8 to 12 hours. (It may take more or less time, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.)
You’ll know it’s done when it has set up and somewhat resembles yogurt. (It might not be a perfectly even consistency, but that’s ok.)
Dump the thickened cream into the cheesecloth and allow it the whey to drip out for at least 12 hours (the longer it drips, the firmer your finished cheese will be).
(Instead of draining the cream at this stage, you could also turn it into cultured butter. Decisions… decisions…)
You might have to get a little creative with your drip set-up. I don’t have any knobs on my cabinet doors, so I tie the ends of my improvised cheesecloth around a wooden spoon and allow it to drip into a pitcher.
Once it has reached the desired consistency, scrape it out of the cheesecloth and lightly salt it to taste. The salt is optional, but it will help it keep slightly longer. Store in an airtight container in your fridge– it will get firmer as it chills.
I usually get 1 1/2 to 2 cups of cream cheese out of 1 quart of cream. Yields will vary slightly.
- I’ve seen several recipes that use cultured buttermilk instead of the mesophilic culture to make cream cheese. I haven’t personally tried it, but it would probably work just as well. Add 1/8 to 1/4 cup of buttermilk to your quart of cream to try this method.
- You can spice up that cream cheese with all sorts of different flavors! Mix in cinnamon, fruit preserves, or even some chives and onion powder for a unique treat.
- To make yogurt cheese: Follow this exact same method, substituting the quart of cultured cream with a quart of yogurt (homemade yogurt or store bought) instead.
- Here are a bunch of ways to use the leftover whey– don’t toss it!
- If you *ahem* accidentally forget about your cream cheese and leave it culturing or dripping for longer than stated above, don’t sweat it. It won’t hurt it and the worse that will happen is that it will just be slightly tangier.
Let me just say that this stuff is infinitely better than the store bought version. You’ll want to scoop it out of the container and eat it plain… Or smear it on some chocolate zucchini bread… Or make a pumpkin cheesecake… Or….
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