How to make cream cheese

There are several methods and recipes for making cream cheese at home,

but this is the absolute best and easiest of them all. It tastes just like cream cheese used to taste when it came from the corner deli before Kraft started wrapping it in foil bricks.

This cheese is not recommended for use as an ingredient in other recipes, as it is too soft and delicate. It is best kept simple, spread on a bagel with nice smoked whitefish or lox, mixed with chopped chives, as a base for almost any chip-n-pretzel dip. Continue to use the handy foil-wrapped stuff for cakes and pastries, those stabilizers help hold things together.

You will need to get two special ingredients that are not generally available at most friendly neighborhood supermarkets. To acidify the cream, you will need a starter culture and to set the curd, some cheese-making rennet. Don’t try to use Junket tablets for this, the curd will be too soft. In some parts of the country, the cheese-making rennet is available right next to the Junket tablets.

The simplest thing is to go to the New England Cheese Making Supply and order what you need. You can either culture starters and keep them in the freezer or use the new instant starters. Either way works just fine. There are several rennets to choose from, tablets, liquid, even vegetarian. Liquid calf rennet is about the finest type to use – it seems to keep forever in the fridge and, even when old, still works perfectly (use extra if it is really old).

THE RECIPE

To make cream cheese you will need:

2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 ounce mesophillic starter or 1/8 packet Instant Starter
1 drop rennet
Butter muslin (N.E. Cheese Making Supply has this also)

Put the milk and cream in a plastic, stainless, or crockery bowl. Add the starter and stir well. Add the drop of rennet and stir about 30 seconds then cover with lid or plastic wrap. Set the bowl where it will stay at about 70 degrees overnight. If your house is cool, put it in the oven with the light on and this should do the trick.

The next day, the mixture should be “set” and jiggle like milk jello. Carefully pour into a butter muslin lined colander and allow to drain in the sink. As the whey drains off, you may want to turn the cheese onto fresh muslin so that the top drains faster. I usually flip the mass over onto a new section of muslin and reposition it in the colander. You will know when it is time to flip the cheese because the muslin will easily pull away from the firming curd mass.

Allow the cheese to drain until it is fairly firm and no longer dripping, this will take a few hours, be patient. Turn it into a bowl and add salt to taste. It is now ready to eat or mix with other tasty ingredients.

One thing to remember when working with cheese is that it is alive. You want to be scrupulous about cleanliness, but careful not to kill the kindly bacteria that are doing their magic with the milk. NEVER get bleach near your cultures or milk, but you can use bleach to clean surfaces and utensils. Just be very careful about rinsing it all off with fresh water. Don’t use wooden spoons, they harbor wild bacteria.

Stainless steel or plastic for stirring is best and stainless steel or crockery bowls. Never use aluminum or anything with cracks. Making cheese is fun and people have been making cheese for thousands of years. Maintain reasonable cleanliness and your cheese will come out fine.

Stainless steel

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