Cream Cheese – Day 2

Sorry I missed yesterday:  Life got in the way.  By the end of yesterday, 24 hours at room temperature, your cream cheese should have coagulated and should now be covered by a bit of whey, looking something like this:

Cream cheese, coagulated after 24 hours of ripening

I’m working in my sink:  Dimly, behind the pot in the sink, you can see the large colander I’m going to use to drain the cheese.  I’ll line that with about a quarter-yard of fine weave cheesecloth, butter muslin, and ladle the curd into it.  Once I’ve transferred the curd to the cheesecloth-lined colander, I’ll tie up the corners around a stiff wooden spoon and hang it over a bucket to drain for another 24 hours.  Once that’s done, I’ll stir in the salt and the cheese will be done.  The draining arrangement looks like this:

Cream cheese tied and draining

Unbundle and stir the cheese once in a while to move more of the whey to the outside.  I like to salt the cheese, stir the salt in and then let it finish draining for a few hours.  The salt helps remove more moisture from the curd.  In the end, you wind up with this:

Stirring in the salt into the nearly drained cream cheese

When finished, spoon the cream cheese into a clean container and refrigerate.  You’ll get around a quart of cream cheese from this recipe.  The resulting cheese is light, tart, flavorful.  My family likes to eat the cheese on bagels, baked potatoes or pretzel thins.

It’s an easy, tasty way to get started in cheesemaking.  It’s what got me hooked.

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Cream Cheese Making Part 1: Ripening

For a while, I’ve wanted to make sourdough bagels, the main reason being the recipe and procedure I’m about to share.  I don’t really make cream cheese, rather Neufchatel:  All the flavor and far fewer calories, something I can appreciate at my age!

Cream cheese – I’ll call my Neufchatel that throughout this post – is very easy to make, an excellent starter cheese.  It’s a lactic cheese – acid developed over about 24 hours is the primary coagulation method but it’s helped along by just a bit of rennet.  It requires a couple of things you might not have, a starter culture and rennet.  I use milk and cream from the supermarket, calcium chloride from my brewing supplies.

Ripening the Milk for Cream Cheese

The process takes two full days, one to ripen the milk and another to drain the coagulum – the jelly-like stuff that forms due to acid and rennet action on the milk.  So I’ll split the post into two parts.

Here’s what you’ll need to make the cheese:

  • Some kind of sanitizer.  I use Star San because I have it and it’s easy.   A dilute bleach solution works well, too.
  • A pot large enough to hold a gallon of milk and a pint of cream with room for stirring
  • A spoon to stir with
  • A way to heat the milk without scorching it.  I use the stovetop on low heat, you may want to use a water bath or some other way.
  • Measuring spoons down to 1/8 tsp (or eyeball using a 1/4 tsp measuring spoon)
  • A large colander capable of holding a gallon and a pint
  • About a half square yard of butter muslin (best) or fine cheesecloth (okay)
  • A way to hang the cheese in the butter muslin to drain

Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon whole milk.  I use the cheap stuff from King Soopers.
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream.  I use the cheap stuff for this as well.
  • 1/4 tsp 30% (by weight) calcium chloride solution.  You can buy this or mix it up yourself if you have food-grade CaCl2 around.
  • 1/8 tsp Mesophilic Aroma B starter.  I’ve used 1/4 tsp Flora Danica starter but the cheese didn’t come out as good.
  • 3 drops double strength rennet diluted in 1/4 cup cool, non-chlorinated water.
  • 1/2 tsp salt.  Since there’s no further ripening of this cheese, either iodized or plain salt will do.

Here’s how you make the cheese:

  1. Sanitize everything.  You’re working with milk and know how quickly it can spoil, microbes like it that much.
  2. Heat the milk and cream to 86 degrees Fahrenheit.  Stir in the calcium chloride solution as the milk is warming.
  3. Sprinke the starter over the top of the milk.  Let it rehydrate five minutes.  Then stir in.
  4. Prepare and add the rennet solution.  Stir into the milk for one minute.  Let the milk stand at room temperature for 18-24 hours.  I usually let it go 24.  I’m sure there’s a way to measure the pH to know when the proper acidity has been reached.  I never have tried to find out.

That’s it for Day 1 of the process.  More to come tomorrow….

Rennet, water dechlorinated with a few drops of milk, infrared thermometer