Easy to make Cream Cheese: How to make Cream Cheese!
A few years ago
........when my two oldest children were still teenagers and we still lived on the big farm (the one that was eventually going to make me independent from the worlds hussle and bussle and all, live off the land etc... but that's a story for another day)
I raised a small herd of Alpine and Nubian cross goats for their milk and a Jersey cow, "Daisy" who was my special "baby". She was quite a goofy little cow who would have been worthy of being featured as a cartoon as she sure as heck thought she was a puppy and was underfoot wherever I went. She thought she was too good for the barnyard and used to escape. When I went into town she spent most of her time waiting around in the garage. On one occasion she even left her calling card in the middle of my kitchen floor. (I'm off on one of my tangents again)
Having been born and raised a city girl never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined how much milk I would have to process daily. (pasteurize)
Even with my hollow legged teenagers and their many friends coming and going, we still couldn't drink enough and cook enough with milk and cream to use it all up.
Wasting food was a no-no and as I couldn't figure out how to ship all the extra milk to Africa before it went bad I learned how to make cheese.
Cheese making goes back thousands of years and there are probably thousands of ways to make many thousands of style of cheeses.
My first stop in this new venture was as always the library, I took home every book and read and read. It didn't sound too hard all I needed as far as equipment was concerned I had already in my kitchen. Most of the books suggested to start with making cream cheese.
The same as there are quite a few types of cream cheeses, there are also different ways to make cream cheese. Even though I sold the farm and the animals a few years back I still make cheese on occasion especially when I know a big crowd of company is coming. I'll share three of my favorite recipes here that I found the easiest, best textured and most of all best tasting.
Cream cheese in simple terms is strained yogurt. If you remove the whey from it, the solids are a cream cheese. Most cheeses have their own "personality" which is given to them by using different acids, mesophilic-m cultures, different amount of rennet, pepsin and different temperatures etc... Before I lose you let me back paddle a bit...
Cheese making is the process of removing water from dairy milk. Milk is mostly water. For example cows milk, contains over 85% water. Once the water has been removed what remains are the solid components of the milk. Fat, protein, lactose and minerals.
The style or character of a cheese is determined by how much water has been removed. Soft cheeses like cream cheese or feta contain more water than a hard cheese like Edam or a Gouda. Now Romano or Parmesan which are considered to be a very hard dry cheese contain almost no water at all.
To remove water from milk can be done in a number of ways.
The simplest method is to add an acid such as vinegar or lemon juice directly to the milk. A other slightly more complex method uses a 'good' bacteria to create an acid in the milk. These bacteria also provide flavor and character to the finished cheese.
Quick basic things to know about milk!
Cheese can be made from Raw milk: Straight and fresh from any dairy animal. (goat, sheep, cows, water buffalo, ..... etc) Raw milk is not readily available for us to buy anymore. So what we have to work with (if we do not have a Daisy cow in our garage) is store bought milk.
By law all store bought milk has to be Pasteurized milk: The process of pasteurization is to heat the milk to 165 degrees Fahrenheit/74 degrees Celsius and keep it there for at least 15 seconds. Or heat it to 145 deg. F/63deg.C and held there for 30 minutes. Then quickly cooled in an ice bath.
Homogenized milk: The process of homogenizing milk Which means that the cream particles or the butter fat have been mechanically broken up into microscopic particles. This is done to prevent the cream from separating from the milk.
Equipment needed for cheese making!
Most households have all the necessary equipment on hand for making cream cheese:
~Large double boiler pot (the inside one should be stainless steel, or enamel some of the acids could react with aluminium or copper)
~Lid or plate to cover inside pot
~Strainer or colander (I prefer stainless or enamel to plastic but plastic will work fine too)
~Large stainless steel, glass, or any other bowl large enough so that the colander fits into without it resting on the bottom. (large stock pot will work fine too)
~New white dishcloth (washed to remove the sizing out of fabric), or cheesecloth (oddly enough I don't think that the cheesecloth really workes all that great... not durable)
~Measuring cup and measuring spoons
~Kitchen timer (optional)
~Good food thermometer (I use my candy thermometer)
~Sanitizer for all equipment and kitchen work area
Depending on the type or style of cheese you would like to make you will need some of these acids or coagulants. Some cheeses need both, see recipes.
~White, Cider, or Red Wine vinegar
~Pepsin Tartaric acid
My brother-in-law is originally from Lebanon. This is his recipe for Labneh which is a Lebanese soft fresh cheese that is made from yogurt. You simply need to drain the whey out of yogurt. It really is the easiest cheese to make. Then eaten with pita bread.
~1 gallon/4 liters of whole milk
~1/2 cup +1 tablespoon/ 140ml plain yogurt (or 9 tablespoons)
~Pour milk into double boiler and heat milk stirring occasionally until it starts to bubble and rise.
~Take out the pot of milk and replace the boiling water with cold then replace milk so it can cool down to about 110 degrees Fahrenheit/45 degrees Celsius.
~Add yogurt and stir thoroughly.
~Cover with lid and let sit overnight in a warm draft less place. (I put mine into a lukewarm oven I pre-heat the oven to around150-160 degree Fahrenheit/60 degrees Celsius then shut it off overnight.)
You now have a pot of yogurt.
~Place dishcloth or cheesecloth in colander, pour in yogurt, gather up corners, and kind of squish down the yogurt into a ball in your cloth (as of now this is a technical term), tie butcher twine or elastic around neck of 'bag', hang over a bowl for the whey to drip out for 3+ hours preferably overnight.
If you do not want to start from scratch you can also buy ready-made plain yogurt. Pay attention to only buy the kind that is all natural without added gelatin.
~Place dish or cheesecloth in colander, pour 2 quarts of yogurt into a dishcloth, gather up corners, kind of squish down the yogurt into a ball in your cloth (as of now this a technical term), tie butcher twine or elastic around neck of 'bag', hang over a bowl for the whey to drip out for 3+ hours preferably overnight. This makes a nice tangy spread super on pita bread or bagels. It has a slightly tangier taste than the phily for instance but can be used in the same recipes the same way. It has to be eaten within a week of preparation.
1 gallon milk either cows or goats milk
!/2 teaspoon mesophilic-m culture
2 tablespoons diluted rennet (to make diluted rennet add 2 drops to a 1/4 cup water)
~Pour milk into double boiler and heat to 80 degrees. Remove from heat but leave in double boiler warm hot water add in the mesophilic-m culture while stirring. Stir well for 1minutes then add the rennet again while stirring. Stir well for 2minutes. Cover the pot with lid and let sit undisturbed at room temperature for 12 to 18 hours.
You now have a really nice tasting thick yogurt. Slightly less tangy then the Labneh recipe above.
~Line your strainer with your clean dishcloth, pour in yogurt, gather up the corners of you cloth, and (let's use our official and highly technical term) kind of 'squish down' the yogurt into a ball in your cloth, tie butcher twine or elastic around neck of 'bag' tightly, hang over a bowl so that the whey can drip out. This should take about 8-9 hours. The longer you drain it the more solid or dryer the cream cheese gets. Make sure that you hang the cheese 'bag' high enough over the bowl so that it clears the accumulating whey. Once the dripping is done what's left in your 'cheese bag' is your super duper way better then the store-bought "phily". You can add a little salt, some of your favorite herbs and garlic at this point for an awesome herbal cream cheese. Or some well drained pineapple, or... your imagination is the only limit. Use this cream cheese in spreads or cheesecake. (if you add any type of fruit remember to really drain it well so that it wont go runny on you, also if you're planning on making a perfect yum delicious cheese cake, drain the cheese for an extra half hour or so)
I usually let it drip overnight, that means that I have cream cheese ready for breakfast bagel in the morning.
Remember 'waste not want not'... use the whey in a pancake or waffle batter instead of milk or water. It also gives homemade bread a nice flavor.
This cheese is more solid than the cream cheese. Little bit almost soft rubbery and it can be sliced. Perfect crumbled in lasagna. You can add garlic and herbs or chili peppers or onions or dried and chopped apricots, again the options are limitless. I added this recipe because it is just sooooooooo easy and good. It will stay crumbly and not melt. If I remember right this is a Latin American cheese which is traditionally used in soups. (perfect in stir-fry's too)
1 gallon of whole milk
1/4 cup of either red wine vinegar, cider vinegar or lemon juice
~Heat Milk in double boiler to 185degrees Fahrenheit/85 degrees Celsius
~Remove from heat
~Slowly stir in either of the vinegars or lemon juice
~Keep stirring for 5-8 minutes
~Soft curds will form
~Before pouring curds and whey into cloth lined colander add your flavorings. However remember if your making an herbal flavored cheese the cloth you use will not be usable for sweet flavored cheeses anymore.
~Continue the same as with the cream cheese recipes. Let drain for 7-8 hours.
Halfway through the draining time you can scrape the cheese into an open ended mold (soup can with both ends cut out). Stand 'mold' straight in colander as it still needs to drain, use a glass that fits inside the 'mold' as weight or press on top of the cheese.
If I plan to make a dessert cheese to go with wine I use the lemon juice instead of the vinegar because the lemon aroma augments the fruit flavors.
Cheese making: a great new hobby!
After two or three batches you'll find the cheese that is the one for you. In a pretty ceramic bowl home made Cream cheese or Queso Blanco with some home made soda crackers make perfect Christmas gifts, and great hostess gifts.
If you would like to check out a great site on cheese making with great pictures too check this one out here http://www.cheesemaking.com/
some pictures courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu/
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various pictures courtesy sxc.hu & flickr