Cream Cheese

This post is part of series on different ways to use, transform and preserve fresh milk. Main article here.

This recipe is for cultured cream cheese. Industrially made cream cheese uses thickening agents. What you’ll be making is the real stuff: milk, cream, cheese culture and salt. I use both mesophilic culture and animal rennet. Similar to how I make yogurt, I use a trick I learned from Sandor Katz in his book Wild Fermentation and keep the milk warm in an insulated cooler while it ferments.

I’ve doubled this recipe with success, fermenting in two quart jars vs one half gallon container at a time. This is a great project to start before bedtime and finish in the morning.

My recipe is adapted from here.

Recipe
Yields about 9 oz/250 grams of cream cheese

Ingredients

2 cups/16 oz milk
2 cups/16 oz heavy cream
2 drops of animal or vegetable rennet dissolved in 2 Tbsp of water
1/8 tsp mesophilic culture
1/4 tsp sea salt

Tools

Meat or candy thermometer
Insulated Cooler

Method

Pre-warm your insulated cooler by filling it with 2-3 inches of 90F water. Close the lid.

Gently heat milk and cream in a heavy bottomed pot on the stove until it reaches 75F. Remove from heat. If you overshoot the temperature, stir until the milk and cream are 75F. If your milk is too hot, you risk killing the mesophilic culture.

Sprinkle the culture over the milk and cream. Let it sit for 2-3 min.

Pour diluted animal rennet into the pot and stir using gentle up and down motions.

Transfer the cultured milk and cream into a glass quart jar. Seal tightly with a lid and place in the pre-warmed cooler.

Low tech fermentation solution

Check your jar after 12 hours. The milk and cream should look thick, about the consistency of plain yogurt. When you turn your jar it should slowly move down the sides. If it’s not ready, place back into the cooler for another 2-4 hours.

When you’ve achieved yogurt consistency, it’s done. Time to strain.

Place a colander inside of a bowl with some clearance on the bottom. Line with a cheesecloth and slowly pour the contents of the pot over the colander.

Wrap the curds into a ball and tie onto a kitchen sink faucet, a cabinet handle or cheese strainer with a bowl underneath.

Strain until the wrapped cheese is no longer dripping, about 4-6 hours, retightening the ball once or twice to wring out excess liquid. The consistency should be thick, not watery or runny.

Transfer to a bowl, add the salt and refrigerate. Your cream cheese will continue to thicken as it cools.

Save the creamy whey you’ve collected and place in a jar, cap tightly. You can get another batch of cream cheese with it!

Stays good in the fridge for two weeks. Great in homemade cheesecake and other desserts.

Troubleshooting

If your milk and cream still haven’t thickened after 16 hrs, try emptying your cooler and refilling it with 2-3 inches of 90F water. Wait another 4-6 hrs.

If you’re still not getting results, save the cultured half and half in the fridge for another use. Sometimes ferments don’t work out. Don’t get discouraged!

Leftover Whey Bonus Batch

Let your jar of saved whey sit on the counter at room temperature for 24-48 hrs. It will continue to ferment.

Check for whey and curd separation after 24 hours. The whey will settle at the bottom of the jar with the milk and cream floating on top it.

Strain exactly the same way you did with your batch of cream cheese. This second batch will be a little more sour and have a runnier consistency. I like to mix it with herbs and use as a vegetable dip. Save the collected whey for another use.

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