The early bird may get the worm, but it's the second mouse that gets the cheese. – Jeremy Paxman
|Homemade cream cheese on an ancient grains bagel. Mmmmm.....|
A few months ago I purchased a specialty magazine called “Cheesemaking.” It is full of interesting – and quite simple – recipes for several common cheeses. I haven’t had the guts to start to try any of the “hard” cheeses yet, but hopefully will soon.
One of the recipes was for homemade cream cheese. I created and posted a recipe loosely based on one in the book earlier for crème fraîche, a delicious but artery clogging soured thick cream that is great on desserts or in cooking or baking.
|This is the yogurt just starting to strain.|
Today the victim is the cream cheese. I was reading posts of other people’s adventures in making this useful product and was gratified to see that all said the homemade was far superior to what we buy at the grocery.
There are several methods to make cream cheese. Some use rennet, others do not. I settled on starting with a modified yogurt that is then strained. It’s actually as simple as that. Make yogurt, strain out as much whey as possible, and you’re done. Oh, and it takes 3 days…
The modification to the yogurt is instead of skim milk I used buttermilk. Unless you live on or close to a farm the only kind of buttermilk you’ll be able to get is “cultured.” Cultured buttermilk is milk that has been pasteurized and homogenized. It is then inoculated with a lactic acid bacterial culture to simulate the naturally occurring bacteria in the farm made product. Because of the acidity, buttermilk has a fairly sour taste.
Yogurt is well known for its active bacterial cultures that help promote proper absorption of nutrients by the body. So it seemed the substitution in making it was a marriage made in heaven.
|Place in a colander in the refrigerator to strain out the whey.|
I made a “usual” amount of yogurt (which is a lot) thinking that in the draining the volume would reduce substantially. I saved about 2-3 cups of yogurt to eat and strained the rest. When all was said and done I had about 2+ cups of homemade cream cheese. If you strained all of the yogurt I would expect a yield of close to 4 cups.
Note: The usual time for culturing yogurt is 12-16 hours. The longer you culture yogurt the tangier it becomes, as will your resultant cream cheese. I opted for 24 hours for purely logistical reasons. I did it one night through the week so had to wait to get home from work the next night to begin straining off the whey.
I quite like this cream cheese. It’s not as firm as store purchased but stands up well to being used on a bagel. And the taste… tangy, smooth, creamy and delicious. Don’t throw out the whey. It is very beneficial for your health and has a thousand uses. I’m using it in an experimental liqueur right now.
Homemade Cream Cheese
Time: 3 days | Yield: somewhat less than 4 cups, depending on straining
8 cups milk
1/3 cup skim milk powder
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup active cultures plain yogurt
Salt - for after draining
Heat milk and skim milk powder to 185°F. Remove from the heat and let cool to 110°F. Stir in the buttermilk and yogurt.
Cover the pot and keep in a warm place for 12-24 hours. (The longer the culture the tangier the yogurt. Mine is quite tangy.)
Place the thickened yogurt in cheesecloth 4 layers thick, suspend over a bowl and let drain in the refrigerator for 24-36 hours. I strained off 3 cups of whey. After the whey separates out you are left with cream cheese!
Beat in as much or as little salt as you like and you’re finished. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to one week.
|The finished product. Looks (and tastes) pretty fine.|
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