Thursday, July 24, 2014

Cream Cheese

Homemade cream cheese is pretty amazing. It doesn't taste like store-bought at all. It's a little tangier which might take you a while to get used to, but I love it! It's also creamy and fresh-tasting. You can make cream cheese at home. I KNOW you can! It's a lot easier than it sounds, you just need a few key things for it to turn out perfect. I got this recipe from an awesome book called Make the Bread, Buy the Butter.


-1 quart of whole milk that is not ultra pasteurized. Most milk at grocery stores are, but I am able to find just pasteurized and not ultra at Whole Foods. I like to use the best milk I can find, that means AT LEAST organic, grass-fed is also great if you can find it.
-1 quart of half & half. If you can find it, get organic too.
-1/4 teaspoon of mesophilic culture, I get this on Amazon. I keep it in the freezer and it will make a few batches.
-2 drops of liquid rennet. I found this vegetable rennet on Amazon. This lasts a while in the fridge.
-1 teaspoon of kosher salt.

-One really important thing about making cheese is you want everything to be very clean, make sure you wash all the things you need RIGHT before you use them and dry them with paper towel or in a warm oven. This is the equipment you'll need:

-A thermometer. I use this one that's special for cheesemaking.
-A big stainless-steel pot. Here's the one I got, you don't need to get the exact one but this is an idea.
-A stainless-steel slotted spoon.
-Measuring cup and spoons. You need exact measurements for this.
-A big and tall bowl for draining the milk.
-Cheesecloth. This is vital.

-So over the lowest heat on your stove, combine the milk and half-and-half in the stainless-steel pot. Heat this mixture to 80F. Do this slowly because you don't want to scorch the bottom of your pot. It takes me about 20 minutes to get it from fridge-cold to 80 degrees. Once it comes up to 80, remove from the heat.

-Sprinkle the 1/4 teaspoon mesophilic culture over the milk. To mix it in, gently lift your slotted spoon up and down. This culture that I bought comes with little white packets inside that baggie. I'm not sure if this is still how they will ship it but for me one packet was equal to 1/4 teaspoon.

-Add 2 drops of liquid rennet and stir again with the up-and-down motion.

-Cover the pot and put it in a place where it won't be disturbed at room temperature. You don't want to keep moving the pot all the time. Now you're going to leave this alone for 24 hours. I like to start this in the morning, you'll see why.

-Once the 24 hours are up, you're ready for the next step. But first look at this fun trick. Your cream cheese has completely separated into curds (solids) and whey (liquid). I tilted the pan so you can see it. They whey is collecting on the right.

-Now, place a colander over a large, tall bowl. Line it with the cheesecloth.

-Ladle the entire curd and whey mixture into the cheesecloth. Don't mind that spoon there, that's not what you want to use for this because you don't want to drain the whey from the curds just yet. Leave that job to the cheesecloth.

-Cover this with a kitchen towel and let drain for 8 hours at room temperature.

-This is why I like to start it in the morning. If I start it at 8am on Saturday morning, it'll be ready to drain at 8am on Sunday morning, then it will be completely finished by 4pm Sunday afternoon and I can cool it in the fridge for Monday morning! If you started it at night, say around 9pm, you'd have to leave it draining for 8 hours which would mean that you would have to get up at 5am to take it off the cheesecloth. And don't think that leaving it a couple of hours extra draining is OK because it's not. I tried that and my cream cheese came out too dry and not like the creamy consistency we're used to. So, stick to the schedule people!

-So anyway, this is what it looks like after just 10 minutes draining.

-After 8 hours, you have cream cheese!

-I like to save the whey. I store it in a mason jar and freeze for when I make bagels, breads, even pizza dough! Some people even like to put it in smoothies as a natural protein, instead of buying whey powder. I got about a quart of whey, so half of the entire milk/half-and-half mixture.

-Bake up some bagels and slather your beautiful, homemade and organic cream cheese on top. I'm not even sorry about the amount of cream cheese on there!

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