Simple Dairy: How to make Cream Cheese.
Do you want to inherit the Earth? Then you need to learn how to be a cheesemaker (or any other form of dairy product manufacturer).
Cheese can be complicated. It often requires specialised equipment and techniques as well as specialised ingredients. In the future we’ll explore all of these things.
Cheese can also be pretty straight forward. In this project we only need access to some pretty basic items: the most specialised of which is cheesecloth (and even here you could use a large tea-towel).
Be assured; this isn’t ‘just’ Philadelphia…
Philadelphia (the brand, ultimately, owned by Kraft) has a fair claim on the term Cream Cheese as it was pretty much the first commercial brand to be available in the 1870’s. Interestingly, it’s only called Philadelphia because that region was known for quality food production. The product, itself, was made in New York (and if cheesecake and bagels are anything to go by, it’s still very popular there!).
There are, apparently, references to Cream Cheese in England as early as 1583 but I can’t corroborate that.
Researching how to make this seemingly simple thing, there appears to be a lot of opinions on what goes in it. Some make it from yoghurt (yogurt), which to me is a Labneh. Others use rennet which is a bit quicker but not really required. We will make both of these here in the future, but Cream Cheese should be easy enough to do in any household without any specialist equipment or ingredients. Here’s what we’ll need:
- 600ml (1 pint) Whole Milk (full-fat)
- 600ml (1 pint) Double (heavy) cream.
- 300ml (½ pint) Cultured buttermilk.
- Fine Sea Salt (optional)
- Desired flavourings (such as herbs and spices. You could look at commercial examples for inspiration).
- Large mixing bowl
- Large square of cheesecloth / butter-muslin or a very large tea towel with a tight weave.
- A food grade seal-able tub to store once finished.
This really is very easy. As usual I’ll add some comments / options at the end.
First up, put the milk, buttermilk and most of the cream into a bowl (you’ll want around 3 tablespoons left for the last step). Gently whisk these together until the consistency is pretty uniform. You’re not trying to whisk into peaks here, just combine the ingredients.
That’s most of the work done! Cover the bowl loosely with a clean tea towel and put it somewhere warm. If you have a warm kitchen you could keep it there. We put ours in the Airing Cupboard. This will now need to stand for a while; anywhere from 12 – 48 hours. It’s ready for the next stage when the mixture has set up to a very thick cream consistency:
Now it’s time to sterilise our draining cloth. Simply place your muslin into a clean bowl and pour over boiling water from the kettle and leave for two minutes. Open the cloth out and put all of your set mixture into the centre. Tie up the four corners and hang to drain over a bowl for around 12 hours.
After 12 hours take down the muslin and unwrap the cheese. Scrape it into a bowl and gently fold in 2 – 3 tablespoons of the reserved double cream. At this point you can add salt (to taste) and any other flavourings you want in there.
That’s it. Plop it all into a tub and refrigerate. It’ll keep for around 10 days or so.
After mixing the ingredients together you can gently warm the mixture to 30°C / 86°F to kick start the culturing. This will save some time.
Instead of buttermilk, you could use a buttermilk, or mesophilic culture from a cheesemaking shop. If you do use one of these (essentially they are both the same thing) then you will need to warm the mixture as above.
Instead of hanging the curds to drain, you could churn the mixture to make a cultured butter.
That’s it then. Let me know how it goes and give us your favourite recipe that uses cream cheese. Enjoy!