So, you want to learn how to make cream cheese at home. You're in luck - when it comes to home cheesemaking, cream cheese is one of the easiest places to start!
We'll show 2 ways to make it at home where all you need to do is 1) culture the milk and then 2) strain the cheese curd. Which means with just milk and a coagulant, you're ready to go!
Why Make Homemade Cream Cheese
Whether it's curiosity that brings you here or a desire to hone some culinary skills, there's no denying that making it homemade makes all the difference.
Cream cheese is fantastic spread on crackers and bread, or as a base for dips, cheesecake, or frosting. If you're just getting started making cheese at home, cream cheese is a great option for beginners. Making homemade cream cheese also gives you control over the ingredients in the foods your family eats.
What You'll Need: Supplies & Ingredients
Remember how we said cream cheese is a great option for beginners? This is partly because you probably already have most of the supplies you need to make it at home.
You'll be using this to heat your milk, so make sure it's big enough to hold however much you are using. We will note, that you'll want to avoid aluminum. Without getting into too much detail, aluminum can react with acids that develop during cheesemaking and impact the flavor of your final cheese.
You'll be using this to mix the coagulant into the milk. A wooden, plastic, or other spoon will work just fine. Again, the only caveat is to use something that is non-aluminum.
You'll be using this to drain whey from your cheese curd and help it form a thicker consistency. A tight-weave dishtowel will work fine, but butter muslin is a type of cheesecloth, tightly woven for draining soft cheeses.
For the recipe below you'll need 2 quarts of cow milk or a combination of milk and cream. The more cream you use, the richer your cream cheese will be! Check you labels, you'll need milk that's pasteurized. Do not use ultra-pasteurized or UHT milk. [Learn Why]
For a coagulant you have a few options. The easiest, by far, is using a Cream Cheese Starter Culture. (This is a ready-to-use packet that includes both starter culture and rennet.)
If you have some cheesemaking experience under your belt (and the ingredients on hand) the second method involves using other cheese cultures and rennet. Pick a coagulant and use the amounts below for the recipe.
While not required, adding a bit of salt to your finished cream cheese can really kick up the flavor. A good rule of thumb is 1 teaspoon per half pound of cheese, but flavor based on what tastes good to you.
Option 1: Using a Cream Cheese Starter Culture
- Heat the milk, slowly, to 86°F.
- Remove the milk from the heat and thoroughly stir in the packet of cream cheese culture mixture. [Do not stir longer than 15 seconds.]
- Cover the pot and leave the mixture to culture for 12 hours at approximately 72° - 77°F.
- After 12 hours, the cheese should look like yogurt (solid if tipped but still relatively soft). You may see some whey separating from the cheese. The whey is a mostly clear liquid.
Option 2: Using a Mesophilic Aromatic Culture + Rennet
- Heat the milk, slowly, to 75°F.
- Remove the milk from the heat and allow the mesophilic culture to dissolve on the surface of the milk for approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Once the culture is dissolved, thoroughly incorporate the starter culture into the milk.
- Mix the 2 drops of rennet with 2 tablespoons of water or dissolve the rennet tablet in 1/4 cup of water. Add the rennet mixture to the milk. Using up-and-down strokes rather than a stirring motion, incorporate the rennet into the milk. Do not over-mix.
- Cover the pot and allow the mixture to culture for 14 to 16 hours at 70° to 75°F.
- After 14 to 16 hours, the cheese should look like yogurt (solid if tipped but still relatively soft). You may see some whey separating from the cheese. The whey is a mostly clear liquid.
Step Two: Strain the Cheese
- Place a piece of butter muslin (doubled) or a tea towel in a colander in a bowl. Gently spoon the cultured milk into the butter muslin. Gather up the corners of the muslin and tie knots to secure.
- Hang the butter muslin filled with the cultured milk over a bowl so the whey can drain. An easy way to do this is to tie the butter muslin around a cupboard handle so the bowl to catch the whey can rest on the counter underneath.
- Allow the cream cheese to drain for 6 to 12 hours to reach the desired consistency.
- Knead salt into the cheese to flavor.
- Store in the refrigerator. Use within a week.
Tips & Tricks for the Best Tasting Cream Cheese
- Traditional cream cheese is made from 50% cream and 50% whole milk. Use all cream for the richest tasting cream cheese. If you're looking to make a lower fat cream cheese, we suggest using all whole milk.
- Be careful heating your cream or milk. Heating milk too quickly may cause it not to set or taste unpleasant later.
- If you wish to make larger batches of cream cheese, use one gallon of milk (or a combination of milk and cream). Using a Cream Cheese Starter Culture, just follow the recipe above. Using option 2, use 4 drops of liquid rennet with the 1/4 teaspoon of culture.
Cream cheese. With simple supplies, simple ingredients, and simple steps, it's easy to make at home! Get a Cream Cheese Starter Culture and get started!
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At Cultures for Health we believe that anyone--on any diet and at any skill level--can make and enjoy the benefits of traditional fermented foods. All it takes is the right supplies and a little know-how. Through our product offering, recipes, tutorials, and how-to videos, we'll give you the tools you need to nourish your family and live healthy.
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