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Cream Cheese (or I better get a job soon)

OK now I know I really need to find a job. I'm making cheese now. I've made mozzarella, I've made ricotta so why not try something a little more complicated.  Why not try to make cream cheese?  It really is not that much more complicated than mozzarella or ricotta. It's just as easy. You just have to source the ingredients - and like I've said before I've got nothing but time to source ingredients. Off to the web of knowledge (aka the internet). I found the ingredients here.
All the ingredients except for a pot, strainer, cheesecloth, and a bowl

Of course I already had the recipe from Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese. It is a book that gives you recipes for all sorts of things that you would never think of making (that's where I got the Worcestershire recipe from). Or if you look at it in another way-all sorts of ways that you could potentially kill off your loved ones by making a mistake with one of the recipes. Perspective - you know.

I have so many recipes tagged to try in this book. If only I could figure out a place to hang pancetta, I would be so making that. While the basement is cool and dry, as the recipe recommends, it's just sort of dirty and the thought of food sitting down there for a week (even though it is wrapped in cheesecloth) just sort of makes me sick. So I will have to think further on that one. Maybe if I could think of some sort of container to put it in that would still allow air circulation-might have to put the Sous Chef onto this project. My only criticism of the book is that I do make the butter. I think the taste is so much better than the stuff you buy in the store!

Anyway the cream cheese recipe:

Cream Cheese (Adapted from Make the Bread, Buy the Butter)

1 qt whole milk
1 qt half-and-half
1/4 t mesophilic culture (conveniently the size packet I bought)
2 drops liquid rennet
1 t kosher salt

Apparently cleanliness is next to Godliness in cheese making - so make sure everything is clean. 

In a pot with a good fitting lid, heat the milk and half-and-half to about 80 degrees. It should be barely warm. Sprinkle the mesophilic culture on the surface of the milk. Wait 1 or 2 minutes for the culture to rehydrate. Stir with a slotted spoon using an up-and-down motion. Add the rennet. Stir using the up-and-down motion again. Cover with the lid and let it sit for 24 hours undisturbed at room temperature.
Sitting undisturbed for 24 hours*

See smooth not lumpy
Strain and cover with a clean towel
Place strainer lined with cheesecloth over a bowl.  Spoon curd (it's not clumpy curd like the ricotta-it is smooth) into the strainer. Cover with a clean towel. Let sit for 8 hours.
I had to pour off the whey as it came up to the bottom of the strainer

Discard whey. Stir salt into the cream cheese and store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator. DONE!

*Disclaimer:  I have to say I did not leave it undisturbed for the 24 hours - I kept peeking.  I was expecting the curd to be more like the ricotta and I kept thinking I did something wrong since it was so smooth looking (aka I was going to kill everyone in the household with this stuff). But 24 hours later when I started to spoon it into the strainer, I realized that it looked like watery cream cheese so I must have done it right. Plus it's now been more than 24 hours since I've eaten it and I feel fine.

Now a few words of advice.  I was scared that I was going to add too much rennet since it is only two drops. I put the drops onto the 1/4 teaspoon first and then stirred it into the milk. I bought the animal rennet - there was an option of buying vegetarian.  Since the vegetarian isn't living at home, I thought I would just go for the animal, which has been used in cheese making since the dawn of cheese. I'm storing the rennet in the refrigerator and the remaining packets of mesophilic culture in the freezer. So there will be more cream cheese coming. There is also a recipe for Marscapone in the book that I want to try so I bought the tartaric acid for that. I'm storing the tartaric acid in the refrigerator (cool, dry place).

Now I've heard that it is very difficult to make cheese in a kitchen that you also make bread in - due to the extra yeast flying all around.  So I don't think I'll be making anything more complicated - such as cheddar or Camembert.

It came out quite creamy and has a little more tang than the benign tasting stuff you buy in the store. I first tested it out on just a piece of toast with some jam. It was delicious!  Make sure you have a plan to use the cream cheese because it does make quite a bit - it almost filled a quart container.


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