Oh my goodness. My life was changed forever when I made my very first batch of homemade, from scratch cream cheese recently. I don’t know how I got through 38 years of my life without ever trying this. I honestly never thought to try I suppose, but man oh man, am I glad I did.
I also have a confession to make. I have never bought, or used cheesecloth. I’ve lived in the city most of my life. So why would I, right? Maybe for a craft? I don’t do that either, so probably not. I actually had to look online to see where I needed to buy it from and which aisle in the store they sold it. Go ahead and laugh, but I’ve never had a reason to use it. Until now.
I live a different life than I used to in Vancouver, but as we continue to build up our Homestead, I truly am trying to make it part of my life. Not just the actual living on a 40 acre ranch, but trying new ways of cooking and using this land to make life simpler, more enjoyable, and use what it offers to benefit our family.
While scrolling through Facebook one day, I saw that our cousin Hannah had posted a recipe she found, for homemade cream cheese. Her reviews of how easy it was and how wonderful it turned out really peaked my interest. She’s a baker and homemaker as well, and her reviews inspired me to try something new. Thanks Hannah!
I went to the website where she found the recipe, and I love it. It’s called Gemma’s Bigger Bolder Baking and this lady is great. She has a huge selection of recipes that I can’t wait to look into further, and I have a few saved and ready to try.
Here’s the online recipe to check out, and below are the ingredients, and ‘how-to’, copied from her site:
Ingredients: (copied from site)
4 cups (32oz /1000ml) whole milk (full fat, not low fat)
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice (lime juice or white vinegar)
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon salt (read notes)
Instructions: (copied from site)
1. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, heat the milk on med-high. Stirring constantly until it starts to a rolling simmer.
2. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the lemon juice 1 tablespoon at a time, in 1 minute intervals. Continue stirring constantly.
3. Continue cooking until the mixture curdles. Stir constantly till the mixture has separated completely, this should take just a few minutes. There will be a green liquid on the bottom and thick curdles on top. Remove from the heat. This should happens within a few minutes.
Lay a sieve with a cheesecloth over a large bowl. Pour the curd mix into the sieve. Let it strain and cool for about 15 minutes.
4. Transfer curds to a food processor and process until curds have come together and are totally smooth and creamy. It will take around 3-4 minutes. Keep going if your cream cheese is grainy.
5. Add salt and taste. Add more if you want more flavor. Now is also a good time to add herbs, garlic or any other flavors you like.
6. This cream cheese must be stored in the fridge. I always use it within 7 day but can last as long as up to 2 weeks.
SMALL CURDS: I have heard feed back that lemon juice yields a smaller amount of curd than vinegar, and this may very well be true for pasteurized milk. Choose a white vinegar, cider vinegar/white wine vinegar will do it. When using lemon juice use it fresh from the fruit.
Salt: Just add 1/4 teaspoon of salt and then taste. If you would like it saltier, then feel free to add more.
Here’s how mine turned out:
I wanted a really good, full fat milk, so instead of just buying whole milk from the store, I drove to an actual dairy farm that’s close by and purchased a gallon of raw, unpasteurized milk. If you are local to the Arlington WA area, you might recognize this brand from the Old Silvana Creamery. It’s not white, so you won’t get that Philly Cream Cheese look like you expect when you buy it from the store. But it’s natural and raw. This is the good stuff.
I poured out my 4 cups of milk.
I got my tools ready ready on the counter as well. A large bowl with a metal strainer.
Then I figured out my fancy new cheesecloth. Hey, it’s my first time! I used half of what was in the package. I found out I probably didn’t need that much in the end, but now I know. Next time I’ll cut that half, in half again.
Then I laid my cheesecloth inside of it. I felt so rustic. And like a wife of a Homesteader.
Then I cut up my lemon, and actually used two. I wasn’t sure how much I would need at first, so better safe than sorry.
Two lemons gave me ¼ of a cup of fresh lemon juice. I kept my tablespoon measure handy and ready to use.
I turned my large cooking pot up to medium high and poured in the milk.
As per the instructions, stir constantly so the milk doesn’t burn. As it got hot, I kept stirring and made sure to stir the bottom of the pot at all times, to keep it moving.
It started to boil, so I turned the heat down just a little bit so it would just stay at a nice steady simmer boil.
I then added the first tablespoon of lemon juice.
Not much changed after the first tablespoon, but I waited a minute and then added the second.
After the second, it did start to curdle ever so slightly. Then I added the third tablespoon another minute later and then it really curdled up nicely.
There were big chunks forming, and I let it simmer for another 3 minutes or so.
I took it off the heat and had Rob help me pour the milk over the cheesecloth and strainer. Mainly because I go too fast and get clumsy.
And I wanted a good “action shot” so you could see the beautiful curdles. So pretty.
The yellowy liquid drained out perfectly into the bowl and we let it sit there for 15 minutes to fully drain. The instructions say that the liquid will be a ‘green color’ but this milk stayed pretty yellow. Mainly because it’s a raw Guernsey milk and it’s not going to have the same color as a whole milk from the store that has been pasteurized.
15 minutes later, the curd was dry and well stuck together.
I transferred the curd into a small food processor.
Turned it on and let it mix until it became creamy and blended together nicely.
Here it is in all it’s creamy glory.
If it’s a bit grainy still, and not totally smooth, just blend it a little more.
I split the cream cheese into two parts in ramekins, as I wanted to try two different flavors. I’d say it rendered about a full cup of cream cheese.
With the first, I kept it simple and just used salt to taste.
For the second, I added salt to taste, and then pepper.
A teaspoon of minced garlic.
A sprinkling of parsley.
And about a tablespoon of fresh chopped chives.
The taste was fantastic. So rich and creamy and hands down, the best cream cheese I have ever had in my life.
Because we all liked the garlic and chive flavor the best, I went back to the simple salt version and added some fresh chopped basil and a teaspoon of minced garlic to that one. The herbs just send it over the edge. Simple is good, but the herbs make it taste so incredibly fresh. It was the right choice.
So I actually ended up with two herbed cream cheeses and all three of us were pretty happy about it.
Then Rob had a great idea. Crackers with cream cheese are great, but how about spreading that creamy goodness over some toasted homemade french bread I had made the day before! Oh Rob, this is why I married you. Because we both love the same things. And we have the best ideas when we put our heads together.
So tasty, so fresh and beautiful. I can’t wait to make this again and try different flavors. And to my Mum – the best baker / cake maker in the universe – how about we make fresh cream cheese around christmas and make a cheesecake from this stuff. Please and thanks.
I’m over and out. And off to eat whatever is left of that stuff in my fridge.
– The Homesteaders Wife