Making homemade cream cheese came about because this year I decided to cook a dish every week that included one specific ingredient, and for that ingredient I chose cream cheese. (I love cream cheese, I think it can be the salvation of any meal. It has been a salvation of many of my favorite meals.) When I announced my intentions on Twitter, I got a reply back from Michael Ruhlman, who constantly asks us to cook our own food. I made my own bacon after seeing his demo at the Blogher Food conference. So I looked up how to make cream cheese.
Why would you make your own cream cheese? You don’t do it because it is more economical. You do it because you can craft your own cheese. It isn’t hard—t is pretty easy, to tell you the truth. I have personally jumped onto an organic kick, and I try to substitute organic products where I can. Organic cream cheese is expensive, but making your own from scratch isn’t quite as pricy. What I really liked was that I got to make a wonderful organic cream cheese that tastes rich and tangy.
A lot of homemade fresh cheeses—that is, cheeses that don’t have to be aged—you can make at home. Often it is simply a matter of adding some lemon juice to some milk. Letting the milk sit on the counter for 12 to 24 hours and you have homemade ricotta; leave the curds to grow a little more, and you have farmers cheese. This type of cheese is wonderful for breakfast, spread some on some toast, and you have a real homemade breakfast.
So my adventure to make homemade cream cheese didn’t take too long. You do need some supplies. I recommend purchasing some butter cloth, which has a finer weave than cheesecloth, or you could use a flour sack towel to drain the whey from the cheese. You will need a lot of half-and-half. And you will need some Mesophilic culture, which is a mix of different bacteria and enzymes. You must make this purchase; I don’t know of any substitutes for making homemade cream cheese. One packet of the culture will set up to 2 gallons of half-and-half, but I tried it out using just 1 quart.
You can use up to 2 gallons of half and half for this recipe, or if you are like me, I am going to use 1 quart, but you this culture will set up to 2 gallons of milk.
Homemade Cream Cheese
Yield: 8 – 10 ounces of cream cheese
1 quart light cream or half and half
1 package Mesophilic culture
Allow your half and half to reach room temperature, your cheese will set more quickly if it isn’t refrigerator chilled when you add the starter culture.
Add your half and half to your container, I like to use a flat baking dish to make mine, I am sure technically there is no real difference in how long it will take your cheese to set, but for me, I like to do this in a flat container.
Add your culture to the milk, sprinkling it over the top. I let this set for about two minutes before I stir in the culture and mix it up really well.
Next I simply place some plastic wrap overt the top of the dish, and let it set on my counter anywhere from 8 to 12 hours. While my pets would never climb on top of a countertop and see what is there, I like a little extra insurance from flying objects to land in my cream cheese.
When the cream cheese is set, it will have the texture of yogurt. It will appear to you that the whole process isn’t going to work, but here is where you wait and be patient, it really takes about 10 – 12 hours for the cream cheese to set in a cooler house, so be patient. Here is what mine looked like 10 hours after setting. When it is thick like this, you can start to drain the whey out of it.
I take the butter cloth, and make a small sling over the top of the pot, using the handles to secure the cloth. I then add my soft cream cheese into the cloth and let the whey drain out of it.
You can let the whey drain out for up to 12 hours. Then you have some delightful cream cheese you can package into smaller containers. You might like to stir in some herbs, or even some jam for a nice treat for breakfast.
I was really amazed how easy it was to make homemade cream cheese. This would be a fantastic project for kids, there is very little measuring. I have not tried making this recipe with milk, skim milk, or anything else, so I can’t speak to if that would work for those types of milk products. What I really liked was I got to make a wonderful organic cream cheese that tastes rich and tangy.
Can I make cheese with yogurt or buttermilk?
Yes. Yes, you can. Here is why I don’t entirely recommend it for the novice. Actually, you can try to make it with the ambient bacteria in the air, it could turn out, most likely it will fail. This is how it was originally discovered thousands of years ago. Over time our ancestors realized you could reproduce it by using whey as a starter and they would get more dependable results.
I personally think if you are trying this for the first time you should spring a couple of bucks for a culture and get dependable results. I looked up the bacteria that are in both mesophillic culture and buttermilk. They are as follows.
Mesophillic culture may contain lactose, lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis, lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris
Buttermilk may contain lactose, (LL) lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis, (LLC) lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris, (LLD) lactococcus lactis subsp. biovar diacetylactis, (LMC) leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp. cremoris.
Yes, there is some over lap. As you can see they are not the same, so sure you will produce a type of cream cheese, but isn’t the recipe that I am sharing.
I am not the only one who loves making their own homemade cream cheese, check out these lovely folks!
Homemade cream cheese so easy a child could make it
Diana’s Homemade Cream Cheese
Homemade Cream Cheese