Cheese · Cheesemaking · Cream

Cream Cheese – Uncooked Curd Method

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I made cream cheese to serve on Mother's Day.  I served some of it plain and some flavored.  My mother was so impressed that she ordered her own copy of Home Cheese Making

There are four different cream cheese recipes in the book, and in the interest of time and my sanity, I made what looked like the simplest version – the uncooked-curd method.  (The others are the cooked-curd method, Swiss-style, and French-style.  I'll discuss those as I work my way through them eventually.)

To make cream cheese you first need – surprise, surprise – cream.  Light cream or half-and-half will work, but the thing is, it must not be ULTRA-pasteurized.  That's the main thing.  Pasteurized = successful cheesemaking, ULTRA-pasteurized = UNsuccessful cheesemaking.  I ended up buying pasteurized cream from a local dairy, as I couldn't find any in the grocery store. 

So here's what you need:

2 quarts pasteurized light cream or pasteurized half-and-half

1 packet direct-set mesophilic starter or 4 oz prepared mesophilic starter

Cheese salt (optional) (I didn't use any)

Herbs (optional) (I used a variety of add-ins, which I'll go into at the end.)

Before I get to the how-to portion, I have to share with you the little description from the book:

Easy to make, rich, and creamy, this cheese is one even your kids can make and enjoy.

And it's true.  I could have let Julia or Alex do a lot of the work for me (and maybe, since it was for mother's day, I should have), but I ended up doing it myself because I wanted to.  Alex probably wouldn't be interested anyway, since he's not fond of cream cheese.  Just wait, Alex, those cheddars will be ready to try soon!  Well, kind of soon….

Okay, so you've got your pot and other equipment all nice and sanitized.  Now you just bring the cream to room temperature (72 degrees F) (I did this in a pot on a heat diffuser over a medium flame).  Add in the starter and mix thoroughly.

Then you cover the pot and let it all set at 72F for 12 hours.  A solid curd will form.

Really, that's it, mostly.

So I did that Friday evening and let it sit overnight.

The next morning, time for the unveiling.

Here's the pot of cream, wrapped snugly in a towel because yes, I'm one of those cheesemakers who insist that the cheese wear a sweater just because I'm chilly.  They complain about me to their friends all the time.

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I removed the towel.

I guess you call this part a strip-cheese.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Sorry.

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I removed the lid.  And really, when I'm making any kind of "let it set overnight" sort of cheese, this is the moment where the music swells and…and…there'd be a commercial break if this was prime time drama.

But since it's not…here's how it looked:

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We have curd!  Creamy, nicely set, curd.  Phew!  See how, in the picture below, there's no liquid rushing to fill in that little indentation where my finger was?  Success!

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Next, you gently scoop out the curds into a muslin-lined collander.  At this point the curd is set, but it's still too wet, so you need to strain it for a while to get rid of the excess moisture.

I could have just dumped the whole pot into the collander…but I thought it would be nice to see how it looked if I spooned some of it out first.

So here I go.

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Pretty, isn't it?  Makes you want to go out and get your own pasteurized cream, doesn't it?

After that, I poured – gently – the rest of the curd into the collander.

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Yum….

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I tasted a bit, of course, and it was light and sweet and made me think of whipped cream, only not AS light as that.

So here's the cheese in the lined collander.

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Next, I tied the opposite corners together and ran the handle of a wooden spoon under the knots.

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Like this:

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And then I hung the cheese in a tall pot to drip for most of the day.  The book says to let it drain for up to 12 hours, and recommends changing the bag (the butter muslin) once or twice to speed up the process.

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I changed the muslin after about 8 hours.  Here's how the cheese looked at that point:

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A bit more hanging…

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And about four hours later, I peeled the muslin away and the cream cheese was done.  Still creamy and smooth, but less watery. 

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Time to divide it up and flavor some of it for the next day.

I divided the cream cheese roughly in half, and then divided one half portion in two.  I left the other full half plain, and flavored the two quarters thusly….

I used about 4 oz lox, several sprigs of dill (from the garden) and several chives (from the garden) in one batch.

And a day or two earlier I'd sauteed some onions and red bell pepper for something we had for dinner that night, and I had some of the onion/pepper mixture left, so I chopped up oh…maybe a quarter of a cup of that and blended that into the other quarter portion of the cream cheese.

All the cream cheeses went into the fridge to chill overnight.

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And the next morning I took the cheeses out about an hour before we ate, just to let them soften up a bit before we all (except Alex) smeared them on our bialys.

I have to say, this was some yummy stuff.  Definitely worth the search for a pasteurized cream source!

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5 thoughts on “Cream Cheese – Uncooked Curd Method

  1. wish I had time to do all that! I take the short cut, and just add stuff to store bought, I’m sure it tastes like cardboard compaired to yours!

  2. Actually, this one wasnt a whole lot of actual work at all – most of the labor involved the cheese sitting in a pot or the cheese hanging in some muslin. The most time-consuming work I did was mixing the yummy stuff in at the end. Sort of like making bread – you do a little bit of something, then you go do other things while the bread (or cheese) does its thing…come back, do a little something more, then go do other things. Soft cheeses are pretty nice like that.

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