How to make cream cheese

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Did you know you can make your own cream cheese at home? We’ll show you how.

Homemade cream cheese is one of the easiest ways to get started in cheese making. Warning: Once you try this, you'll never want store-bought again!

How to make cream cheese at home

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 gallon whole milk (not ultra-pasteurized, raw is best)
  • 1/8 teaspoon calcium chloride (if you don't have access to milk that isn't ultra-pasteurized) 
  • 1/2 pint heavy cream (no less than 35 percent fat content, ultra-pasteurized is OK)
  • 1/2 packet mesophilic or mesophilic-type culture
  • 2-4 drops animal or vegetable rennet
  • Salt to taste
  • Add-ins (optional) 

Supplies:

  • 2 large stockpots
  • 1 dairy thermometer
  • 1 large slotted spoon
  • 1 clean cloth large enough to cover the stockpot
  • 1 chef's knife
  • 1 paint stick or wooden spoon
  • Cheesecloth
  • 1 large colander
  • Cheese molds (old butter or whipped topping tubs work well if sanitized)

Directions:

  1. Before you make the cheese, clean and sanitize everything. Since cheese making relies heavily on bacteria, introducing extra bacteria could affect the results.
  2. In a large stockpot, heat your milk to 86 degrees F. If you had to use ultra-pasteurized milk, add the calcium chloride. Also add the mesophilic culture and rennet. Stir with a large spoon.
  3. Remove the pot from the heat. Dampen the cloth with hot water and ring it out thoroughly. Cover the pot with the cloth, allowing the thermometer to peek out. Let the cultured milk mixture sit for 12 to 24 hours, never going below 68 degrees F. The milk is properly ripened when small pools about 2 or 3 inches in size form on the surface. These pools are whey.
  4. Line the colander with two layers of cheesecloth (leave it in the sink if you plan to discard the whey or place it over another large pot if you plan to keep it) and carefully transfer the curds to that. Allow it to sit for 1 or 2 hours to drain the whey.
  5. Tie the corners of the cheesecloth to a paint stick or wooden spoon and suspend the cheesecloth over a large stockpot to finish draining. The room it's kept in should be between 68 and 74 degrees F. Allow it to sit for another 10 to 20 hours, opening every 3 or 4 hours to move the cheese around so it doesn't stick to the cloth for too long. If you'd like, add a bit of salt (no more than half a teaspoon) for flavor the last time you open it and stir. It's done when it's to the consistency you like it.
  6. Place the cheese into the molds and stir. This is the time to add more salt or any add-ins you want.
  7. Store it in the fridge for a week to a week and a half.

Add-in ideas

You can add just about anything you'd like. Try the ones below alone or together.

  • Fresh or dried herbs
  • Green onions
  • Cooked, chopped bacon
  • Bite-sized berries or fruits, fresh or cooked with a bit of sugar (add the juice, too!)
  • Jelly or jam
  • Pumpkin puree (regular or spiced)
  • Nuts
  • Real maple syrup
  • Garlic

Tip! Many grocery stores don't carry cultures or rennets, but you can buy them inexpensively online, often in kits!

Recipes that use cream cheese

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix the Fish. You can follow her on Twitter @HireHeather.