After a lot of research, a few kitchen mishaps, and figuring out what worked best in my kitchen with my supplies, I had success in making homemade cream cheese! Once I managed to get through the (fun) experimental glitches (“Oh! You look like a chemist!” …really, Mom? Is it the floral print apron, or the giant sterling serving spoon? ;-) out of the way, I was rewarded with a rich, whipped, flavorful cream cheese.
Some techniques call for several hours (12-24) of letting the cheese “rest” before straining out the whey, and an additional 12 hours of straining…I tend towards the impatient side, and was unable to wait that long. Fortunately, I didn’t have to. What I am learning about making soft cheeses, and what I have learned about baking breads, is that there is some room for experimentation. I like to start with a recipe (or several) and adjust it as I go…
As far as flavoring, the options seem to be as boundless as your own taste and creativity. You could omit the garlic and chives, or substitute any fresh herbs you like. Kristina and I are still growing our little seedlings in the window for our herb garden, so we opted for chives, which have been growing like mad next to a rose bush in the yard. Last fall, Grampa and I dug up a cluster of wild garlic chives and planted half in a pot to keep in the kitchen, and transplanted the other half in the garden. Guess which survived the winter? There was something very special that made me feel more connected to him when I used the chives we had cultivated.
This was worth the effort, and much like bread, it seems that most of the work is in the waiting…
2 cups whole milk
1 ½ cups heavy cream
6-8 ounces plain homemade yogurt
1 packet mesophilic culture
3 drops liquid vegetable rennet diluted in 1/8 cup water
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Salt to taste
*my recipe yields about 8 ounces of cream cheese, but now I wish I had doubled it! Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for upwards of a week…if you don’t eat before then.
1) Pour milk & cream & yogurt into a double boiler, and gently warm to about 85-90 degrees. Sprinkle mesophilic culture on surface, wait about 3 minutes, and then stir in thoroughly. Pour in diluted vegetable rennet, stir, turn off heat, cover & let sit 2-3 hours at room temperature.
2) The curds and whey will have separated;you will see a clear yellowish liquid, and solid white clumps that should have pulled away from the edges of the pot. Break up curds gently with a spoon, then pour into a colander lined with cheesecloth.
3) Allow majority of whey to drain out, shifting the cheesecloth and pushing curds around with a spoon occasionally to encourage complete draining. Gather the edges of the cheesecloth and very gently twist it closed to form a sack. At this point, you can either hang the cheese above a bowl/sink to let it finish draining, or transfer to a yogurt cheese maker (a very fine sieve that sits in a container). I left mine for about another hour before…
4) Sprinkling in about 1/8 teaspoon of sea salt and whisking it with a fork. Then, mix in chives and coarsely chopped roasted garlic.