For my unbirthday Amanda was kind enough to start me on my journey of cheese by buying me the Basic Hard Cheese Kit from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company. One of my 101 goals is to make cheese at home. I’m not sure why other than it’s part of my DIY nature and I like things fermenting in my house. Anyway the easiest recipe that I could make with my kit was Cream Cheese.
I had personally never really considered that cream cheese was real cheese, but it does use the same mesophilic starter that real cheeses use, so I’m considering it a real cheese. Plus that means I get to cross it off my 101 things list!
The nice thing about making cheese is that it really doesn’t require many exotic ingredients. Cream cheese is just made from plain old half & half from Trader Joes, plus the starter that came with my kit.
The first step is to bring the half & half to room temperature in a hot water bath in the sink, and then add the starter.
After 12 hours you have a smelly puddingsome goop that you put into cheesecloth to drain. The liquid that drains is called whey, and what’s left are the curds. In cream cheese the curds are really tiny so I doubled up the cheesecloth.
I was scratching my head for a while trying to figure out how to drain the cheese in a spot far away from the cats. Then I remembered I had my beermaking stuff at home and came up with this contraption: the draining cheese rests on my beer stirring spoon, balanced on my brew kettle. It worked wonderfully! Look Alton Brown, that spoon is no longer a unitasker.
Once the cheese has drained for 12 hours (or in my case, 18) then it starts resembling cream cheese finally. I pressed it into the plastic mold that came with my kit to form it into some kind of shape.
And look what resulted: a beautiful hunk of cream cheese! The taste was fairly good, but a little more sour than I like I think that may have been due to the extra draining time that I did because it was still soggy after 12 hours. But otherwise the texture was right on, and it tastes great on Panera bagels 🙂
With one cheese down, I’m now planning on my next lacto-bacterial adventure. The entry-level hard cheese is “farmhouse cheddar”, so I’ll probably give that a whirl. It takes about a month to age, which will necessitate the purchase of a wine fridge (wafna!). I also want to make Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, in preparation for the Great Home Pizzamaking Adventure.