Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Homesteading Question #5 - Making Cream Cheese

Here's my final posting on making cheese, in this case cream cheese. Of the three cheese I know how to make (mozzarella, cheddar, and cream) this is by far the easiest.

Start with two quarts of light cream and heat to 86F.

Add 4 ounces of mesophilic starter (I freeze mine in cubes) and stir until the cubes melt.

Cream cheese requires rennet, but in a very, very diluted form. Take three DROPS of rennet and add to 1/3 cup cool water.

Add one teaspoon of the diluted rennet and mix thoroughly.

I poured the cream into a bowl and covered it with a lid to keep out anything that might be floating around (wisps of dog hair, dust, whatever). Now it has to ripen for twelve hours at 72F, which can be a challenge.

I tucked the bowl of cream into our gas oven, which has a pilot light and therefore stays warm. But if the door was closed, it was too warm, so I taped a little note to the oven door asking that it stay open. This kept the cream at a consistent 72F. If your day is warm, you might be able to just keep the cream on the kitchen counter for that time. If it's a hot day, perhaps you can find a cool spot (basement? washroom?) to keep it.

I finished this step a little after 6:30 in the morning. Then I just went about my day until evening.

After twelve hours, I poured the contents into the largest bowl I have. Believe me, use your largest bowl. The next step is to take a separate pot of water and heat it to 170F. Heat at least two quarts of water, probably three to be on the safe side.

Once the water has reached 170F, start adding it to your bowl of cheese. You'll need to add enough hot water to raise the temp of the cheese to 125F. This is why you'll need the largestbowl you have. By the time I was done and the temp was correct, this white bowl was full to the brim. It looks like nothing more than a watery mess at this stage, but don't worry.

Line a colander in the sink with a clean old pillowcase (I like the "thinner" fabric pillowcases because they drain better).

Pour the whole watery slop from the bowl into the pillowcase. Have someone hold up the edges if need be. Honestly, you'll think you're pouring the whole bowl down the sink because it drains so quickly, but don't worry. What remains in the pillowcase are the cheese solids which will need to drip dry.

Next you'll have to hang the pillowcase to drain for about twelve hours (overnight in my case). This is how I hook the pillowcase around my cabinet center. Obviously you'll have to come up with whatever method works in your kitchen.

A full pillowcase, just hung to drip overnight:

The next morning: finished dripping.

Yield is 8 ounces, half a pound.


  1. Wow! That's a lot of work for only 8 ounces! I don't generally eat cheese (vegan for the most part at home), but I do make tofu. Fortunately, I don't have to be quite so precise about temperatures! But now I have much more appreciation for cream cheese when I do eat it (not that any I ever eat is homemade, but still, it's a process nonetheless, even on machines).

  2. This is a great example of using the tools at your disposal. Something I specialize in. Well done Patrice!

  3. Oh my! I don't know why, but I always thought cheese making was somewhat simple. I was wrong. Kudos to you!


  4. is it possible to use something else instead of rennet?(pig)Thanks! KY in MO.

  5. Actually, so far as I know most rennet is derived from calf. I know the old timers used the lining of a very young calf's stomach - the calf could not have started solids yet and must still be exclusively milk-fed. They would dry the stomach lining and then use a tiny piece, about the size of a thumbnail, to separate the curds and whey. More than that I can't tell you, never having tried that technique myself.

    But if you're concerned that commercial rennet is derived from pigs, I'm fairly certain I can put your mind at ease. Don't take my word for it though - you may want to contact a cheesemaking supply company and ask, just to make sure.

    - Patrice

  6. You say light cream. How do you seperate your cream? I just use a baster and suck the cream off the tops of the 1/2 gallon jars. Bust it is a mix off all the cream. Do you think it really matters?
    I have got it so we buy no dairy products from the store. I make all the cheese but am looking for a smooth texture soft cheese. I tried the non cook cream cheese and it didn't work so well. Just thought I would ask.

  7. Anon 4:38, I often do exactly what you do -- either use a baster or a ladle to remove the cream. The longer your fresh milk is in the fridge, the heavier the cream will be which rises to the top. One day old milk has nice cream; two day old milk has even heavier cream. Three day old milk, which it might be starting to go "off," has very heavy cream, etc.

    Now how they separate this for store-bought "heavy" cream, I don't know... but I use fresh cream (from one or two day old milk) for making cream cheese.

    I've never tried the non-cook cream cheese, but I've had excellent success with the cooked version. I was looking for something akin to the store-bought Philadelphia brand and was told this method is the closest, which turned out to be correct.

    - Patrice

  8. I made cream cheese by accident. I was experimenting with canning milk the Amish way and discovered a nice secret the Amish didn't mention. You can your milk or heavy whipping cream in sterile jars and water bath them for an hour. Take them out of the water bath immediately to stop the cooking process. Put them on your shelf and in due time they will turn into sour cream (milk) or cream cheese (heavy whipping cream). When needed pull the jar and drain overnight just as you described above. Then whip it up and add your satl to the cream cheese. I start out with 1/4 tsp till I get it to taste like the Philly brand.

  9. so if i was to experiment with store bought cream, what might you recommend? Also what would you recommend for keeping the milk at 72 degrees? you said you put it in your oven with a pilot light, but i only have a regular electric stove & oven. would a crock pot on the warm setting work?

    also what in the world is rennet? and mespolic starter? & Where would I get this kind of stuff?

    How long would this cream cheese last in the fridge if not used right away?

    of course i live in the city & don't have a milk cow. however it seems interesting to try.

    sorry for so many questions this time.