Maybe it’s a clever marketing ploy but there is something about a bagel without cream cheese that just seems lonely and sad. Thus, when the family and I discussed making bagels for breakfast a few weeks ago the conversation naturally turned to needing cream cheese to go with said bagels.
We could have gone the store bought route as we have done countless times in the past. But that just didn’t seem to jive with our new found self-sufficiency mojo. Naturally, we set out to make our own cream cheese. In a lot of ways, I truly consider fresh cream cheese to be my “gateway drug” into cheese making and plan to make much more of our own cheese in the future.
This cream cheese recipe is the perfect starter recipe for anyone who’s ever thought about making their own cheese. It requires no special equipment, starter cultures or complicated ingredients. In fact, the only difficult thing about making this recipe is trying to plan it around your schedule because it takes about 5 days to make fresh cream cheese.
When writing the final recipe below, I tried to include the ideal times of day to do each step so it won’t drastically interfere with your daily routine. This is key because trust me, the last thing you want to do is be up at 3am to deal with an unruly cheese culture. This recipe is pretty straightforward and the only potentially unusual tool you will require is some cheese cloth. The basic loosely woven grocery store variety will do just fine for this recipe.
This was actually one of my insane foodie projects where I felt bigger was not better. While that type of logic may work for more shelf-stable products like sea salt and savory lard it just didn’t seem like a good idea to keep an intense of dairy products on hand. Thus, I cut the original recipe in half. However, if you are making cream cheese for baking or to feed a crowd this recipe can easily be doubled to make about a pound (or the equivalent of two 8 oz. packages of store bought cream cheese).
The final verdict after making this recipe? It tastes remarkably fresher than the stuff you can buy in the store. However, it really only stands out when the homemade cream cheese is one of the main events. When we used some to make cream cheese frosting we really couldn’t notice a difference in taste. And will we make it again? ABSOLUTELY!
Active Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Prep Time: 5 Days
Yield: 1/2 pound (8 ounces) of cream cheese
Recipe inspired by: Lonely homemade bagels yearning for a fatty, yet tasty companion.
2 cups (475 ml) non-ultra pasteurized half and half
1/2 cup (117.5 ml) non-ultra pasteurized whipping cream
1 tablespoon (14 ml) buttermilk
Salt to taste
Recipe for making your own Cream Cheese:
Making Cream Cheese. Day 1: 6:00-8:00pm. In a small saucepan, heat creams to 90° F (32° C). Remove from heat and stir in the buttermilk and pour the mixture into a sanitized mixing bowl, preferably glass or nonreactive metal.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Snuggly wrap a few kitchen towels around the bowl and place the bowl in a warm area. Let the bowl sit for twenty-four hours. After 24 hours, the cream mixture should have the consistency of a firm yogurt. It should not move when the bowl is tilted to the side. If the mixture still has some movement (like in the middle picture above), the culture needs more time to develop. Let it sit for another 6-12 hours (or overnight if it’s too late).
Cream Cheese – Day 2: 6:00-8:00pm. Once you have a firm mixture, pour it into a cheese cloth-lined colander with a catch bowl underneath to catch the whey as it separates from the mixture. Allow it to drain for 15 minutes, then fold the cheese cloth over the cheese. Drain the whey out of the catch bowl and place the colander back over the bowl. Cover it with plastic and place it in the refrigerator for 12-14 hours.
Cream Cheese – Day 3: 6:00-8:00am. Remove the curd from the refrigerator and pour it into a medium mixing bowl. The cream cheese should be much firmer than the last time you saw it. Stir in salt to taste and add the herbs if you are making spiced cream cheese.
Line your colander with fresh cheese cloth. Pour the curd back into the colander. Wrap the colander with plastic wrap and place it back over your catch bowl. Place the cheese back in the refrigerator and let it sit for 36-48 hours, depending on the firmness you desire from your cream cheese.
Day 5 – 6:00-8:00pm (+/- 12 hours depending on firmness). Place the finished cream cheese in a plastic or glass container and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
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How to Make Cream Cheese at Home (She Simmers – Thai Food, Et Cetera)
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Homemade Cream Cheese So Easy a Child Could Make It (Chickens in the Road)