A how-to for cream cheese seemed like a good way to continue the yogurt recipe I posted a few days ago. This is not whipped cream cheese, but it does substitute well for the block kind and is a tad bit softer; perfect for spreading. And the only ingredient you need is yogurt! This cream cheese keeps in the fridge for 2 – 3 weeks.
Here are some very cool aspects of making your own cream cheese.
1. It costs lots less money! I bought a 32 oz. tub of organic low fat yogurt for $3.59 at the local health food store. It makes approximately 8 oz. of cream cheese. An 8 oz package of Organic Valley Cream Cheese would cost me roughly $4.00 at the same store. And since there is almost no labor or time involved in making the cream cheese, this is a deal. I know, it’s only a $0.41 difference, but it can add up. Plus see item 2.
2. I get both cream cheese and whey. Whey is that yellowish clear liquid that pools on top of the yogurt in your container after you take out a scoop. Although it is pretty tart, it is also packed with calcium, protein, trace minerals, and probiotics. It is incredibly easy to digest, too, and you can actually get used to the taste :-). Not that I drink it by the glassful, but I certainly do drink sips of it when it pools on top of the yogurt.
Whey is also used for lactofermentation, which is forthcoming post topic, but, essentially, adding it to grains and letting them then soak for 8 or so hours greatly improves the ability of your body to absorb the nutrients from the grains. Whey can also be used to make “buttermilk” for cooking. Whey lasts for a month or more in the fridge; because I use it to soak my oatmeal each night, as well as my grains, I usually run out of it before it would have a chance of going bad. Sometimes I make cream cheese because I need the whey, not the cheese!
3. Simple ingrient list. My homemade cream cheese has 1 main ingredient: yogurt. This then includes organic milk and organic powdered milk. That’s it. Oh, and lots of healthy probiotic bacteria doing all sorts of good things for my body. Philadelphia cream cheese includes stablizers, salt, xanthan gum, and other isolated ingredients (instead of just using real milk). Even the Organic Valley kind has salt and locust bean gum.
4. Kind of cool to do! Eventually I want to venture into making other cheeses, like Mozzarella and such, but in the meantime, making my own yogurt and cream cheese is a good way to start. This also has endless flavor variations. You could add honey, cinnamon, and crushed almonds for a truly decadent combo. Or try some honey and peanut butter. Plain old strawberry jam mixed in would give you strawberry cream cheese. You could do dill and chives and all sorts of herbs.
32 oz plain yogurt*
Cheesecloth or thin handkerchief, strainer/colander, bowl, spoon, drink jug or other tall cylindrical-ish container
* I did use store bought cream cheese for this because I wanted to do low fat cream cheese and I have not yet made low fat yogurt (nor do I want to; I like my full fat yogurt, thank you very much). But I’m making this into an Alfredo sauce, and it seemed prudent to cut down on the fat a little bit here and keep it with the other ingredients for the sauce.
Place the colander in the bowl. Make sure that they are sized so that the colander does not rest on the bottom of the bowl, but is kind of suspended over the bottom but with 1/2 of it still in the bowl. Line the colander with the handkerchief. Dump the yogurt into the colander/handkerchief. Cover and let rest for 12 hours or overnight.
In the morning, tie the ends of the handkerchief around a spoon handle, and suspend the bag of yogurt over a container. I set mine in such a way that it is in the drink jug but still hanging. You can also hang it from a cabinet handle and just position the bowl underneath it. I find the drink jug method easier because it stays out of my way and the cat doesn’t try to eat it. Pour the whey into a glass container.
Let rest for about 6 – 12 more hours. Remove the handkerchief and cheese and put the cheese into about a 2 cup container. Store in refrigerator. Pour the whey in with the rest of the whey already in the glass jar and also store in the refrigerator.
Voila! Cream cheese.