11 August 2017

Cheese making post no. 1 : Cream Cheese

This marks the beginning of a new venture for Rhubarb & Ginger - cheese making!  Not your actual cheddar (although I don't rule anything out!), that's a bit advanced for me just yet. No, I'm starting with soft cheeses.

You see, for my recent birthday my hubby bought me all the extra paraphernalia I needed for cheese making - cheesecloth, a digital thermometer, some vegetable rennet and the very important book of recipes. The book came from Lakeland and is written by Gerard Baker, a chef who I have seen on t.v. on occasion but who has more recently been on active duty as a chef and lecturer in Antarctica!

Home made cream cheese with smoked salmon & cucumber panino
So, getting back to the cheese.  I chose this recipe for Cream Cheese to start with as it seemed fairly simple and I could pretty much guarantee that so long as the cheese at the end of everything was good, the menfolk would eat it. All of which is fairly critical as I suspected we were going to have quite a bit to wade through!

The process itself is really very simple, which is nice.  You do need some particular items in order to make clean, untainted cheese - such as stainless steel pots, pans, a colander and cutlery, glass bowls, cheesecloth and a digital thermometer to ensure that the milk mixture reaches the right temperature. You also need to ensure that everything is absolutely spanking clean and free from all chemicals, so rinse - rinse everything copiously with clean water.

My first go - edible but unexceptional
Now I will admit that this was my second go at making cheese - the first one was a bit of a failure.  However, it was worth the failure as it taught me a lot about how to heat the milk, what quantities I can easily cope with and what to expect from the curds themselves. I shall pass on as much as I can in this blog post, so that your first go will be rather more successful.

So, the initial process is to heat the 500ml of whole, full fat milk and 500ml of single cream (light cream in the USA, table cream in Canada) together in the one pan. You're not heating it very much, just to 29°C, so the easiest way (avoiding the possibility of burning the milk on the bottom of the pan) is to employ a Bain Marie style arrangement with a pyrex bowl containing the milk/cream mixture sat on the top of simmering water in a pan underneath. This way, if the contents heat too quickly or too much, it is easy to remove from the heat.  In fact, my milk/cream zoomed up to 34° at the speed of light and I had to place the bowl in a sink of cold water to bring it back down to the right temperature.  Ah well, live and learn.

Home made cream cheese with smoked salmon and cress
oven bottom muffin
It was important to reduce the temperature as the next step was to add the live yoghurt (I used Yeo Valley yoghurt and very nice it was too!) and had the milk/cream been too hot, it would have killed the live cultures within it.  So, in goes the 200ml yoghurt and half a teaspoonful of diluted rennet.  Make sure to stir gently but regularly so that the rennet is mixed in quickly and effectively as it begins working quickly.  One of the things I learned in my first attempt with rennet was that my rennet - it is vegetable rennet - is very weak.  As a result, I used twice the amount required.  You will only know how your rennet performs by using it, unfortunately.

Following 30 minutes of exercising of what little patience I possess, I took a look inside the bowl.  Honestly, the satisfaction of finding a bowl full of coagulated curds and whey is quite ridiculous and almost as good as the next stage of cutting the curd.  It is worthwhile popping your (very clean) little pinky finger into the curd to check whether it splits cleanly before cutting the curd.  If it doesn't break cleanly, leave it for another 15 minutes or so until it does.

The next stage, cutting the curd, is my favourite bit.  ~shrug~  I have no idea why. Anyway, find yourself a super-clean, fine bladed, stainless steel carving knife type of knife and cut the curds into squares (well, rectangles in fact, but they look like squares from the surface!).  Believe it or not, this helps to release the whey from the curd.

A word about cheesecloth.  If you're using a new piece of cheesecloth, it is essential to give it a good rinse through to ensure that any loose threads have been cleared before using it in anger.  I usually do this bit before doing anything else and leave it sat on the side in a dish.

So the next bit is to line your stainless steel colander with cheesecloth and place it over a big bowl.  Then gently spoon the cut curds into the cheesecloth. About now, you should start feeling a little bit like a cheese maker.  *chuckle* Immediately, you will see the whey begin to drain from the curds - which is what you're after.  If you're in the U.K., you can probably leave the cheese out of the fridge for the next six or seven hours as it drains.  However if you live somewhere hot, it's best to put it in the fridge.  Good luck with finding room for a large bowl and colander in the fridge.  We had to play some serious fridge tetris to get ours in!  Take a look at it from time to time and drain off the whey.  I kept mine and drank it with a little cherry syrup added.  Major lushness.

You will need to put the cheese into the fridge overnight (complete with colander and bowl), however at around the 8 hour mark, it is worthwhile very gently turning the sides of the curd to the middle, just to ensure that the centre of the curds get to drain properly.  I did this just before it went into the fridge.  Sneak a flavour now too - isn't it divine?

The following day, simply peel the cheesecloth away from the cheese curds and spoon them into a storage bowl with good fitting lid.  Hey presto - your cream cheese is ready for use.  Break out the smoked salmon and celebrate, you're a cheese maker!

The yield you will get depends entirely on the degree of milk solids in your milk products.  I'm afraid I can't tell you how much mine made because we'd eaten a third of it before I remembered I should have weighed it.  I guess if you think of a standard 180g pack of Philadelphia cream cheese, I must have made approximately four of those - so around 700-800g in total.

What all this fuss has been about - home made cream cheese!

Another thing is your milk.  Without doubt, raw milk is the best.  However, finding it is like finding rocking horse poo.  So don't be worried about using homogenised, pasteurised milk - it's what I used.  So long as the cream is accompanying the milk, the cream molecules will be able to help the homogenised cream molecules work in the required fashion for cream cheese.

I suppose I'd better provide a smaller, more concise version of the above recipe, *chuckle*, but I'd recommend if you're new to this process, you read all the above before getting cracking.


Ingredients :

500ml whole, full fat milk
500ml single cream
200ml live plain yoghurt
0.5 tsp rennet, diluted in 15ml warm water.

Method :

To begin with, rinse a large piece of cheesecloth through and place to one side in a bowl.

Place a large pyrex bowl over the top of a saucepan containing a small amount of simmering water.  (Or use a double boiler, if you're lucky enough to have one)  Add the milk and cream to the bowl and slowly bring to a temperature of 29°C (84°F) stirring gently all the time.

Remove from the heat and stir the yoghurt into the milk mixture.  Mix the rennet with the water and stir them into the milk mixture, making sure to stir right through to the bottom of the bowl.

Set the bowl aside in a warm place for 30 minutes.  The milk should have coagulated into curds and whey.  Test the curds by inserting your pinky finger to break the curds.  If they break cleanly, proceed to the next step.  If a bit of a ragged break, leave the curds for another 15 minutes.

Take your knife and gently cut the curds in a chequer board pattern, so as to create squares.

Line a stainless steel colander with the rinsed cheesecloth and set it over a large bowl.  Gently spoon the curds into the centre of the colander.  You will see the whey begin to drain.  Set the cheese aside to drain, checking it from time to time and emptying the bowl of whey.

At the end of some 8 hours (or overnight), gently fold the cheese from the sides to the middle, so as to help the draining process.  Place the whole lot (colander, bowl and all) in the fridge overnight or until the curds have virtually stopped draining.

Spoon the drained curds into a super-clean, lidded storage container and plan your lunch.

Printable version


  1. It looks great thank you for the recipe..im nit sire how ill go with cheese but would love to give it a go

    1. All I can say is take each stage steadily, there is no rush with cheesemaking. So long as you give yourself lots of time to work out any problems that may occur, you should be fine! :)


I love to receive messages from you all, so if you can spare the time, comment away!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...