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Homemade Cream Cheese So Easy a Child Could Make It

Jan
19


After posting what to some of you may seem a difficult recipe for homemade farmhouse cheddar, I want to post a cheese recipe that is so fool-proof, so simple, a five-year-old could make it. Seriously.

Hard cheeses aren’t actually that difficult, but if you don’t have any experience with the cheesemaking process, it can appear so. The process of making hard and soft cheese is similar (hard cheese just has extra steps), and once you’re comfortable making basic soft cheeses, hard cheeses will feel much more approachable. If you’re interested in the idea of making cheese but are afraid of farmhouse cheddar, this cream cheese is for you.

There are several ways to make cream cheese, but this uncooked curd method is the easiest and is a relatively light cream cheese. (Some cream cheese recipes call for heavy whipping cream, which makes a richer cream cheese, and require cooking to start the cheese.) This recipe requires NO COOKING (which is why a child could make it) and sets the curd at room temperature, which is assumed to be 72-degrees F. My house is not 72, and my cheese still set. (Your temperature should not be too much lower than 72, though. You may run into trouble if your temperature is lower than 70. In this case, the temperature in my house was around 68 and it still worked. The recommended temperature, however, is 72.)

I also experimented by freezing the half-and-half in advance to figure out if that would work. (Considering I get snowbound sometimes, I wanted to know if I could stock up cream in the freezer.) The thawed half-and-half worked fine. You really can’t mess this cheese up. It’s a great cheese to try if you’re just learning or only want to dabble in cheesemaking.

You don’t have to have a cow. Store-bought cream works just fine!

Making cheese isn’t an all or nothing proposition. Just because you bought the cream at the store doesn’t mean it’s not homemade cheese. You still have so much more control, both from a health and a taste standpoint, in the end product. You can use less or no salt. You can add your own flavorings using your own home-preserved fruits or herbs. I use my homecanned preserves to add fruit to cream cheese, such as brandied apricots. Can you get brandied apricot cream cheese at the store? (I think not!)

You can turn two quarts of half-and-half into your own gourmet cream cheese–and the effort is amazingly minimal. Especially if you get a five-year-old to do it for you. Then all you have to do is stand by with a cracker.

This recipe is from New England Cheesemaking, with notes from me.

According to the recipe, it yields about a pound. It yields more for me in actuality, over a pound and a half.

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How to make Easy Homemade Cream Cheese:

2 quarts light cream or half-and-half
1 packet direct-set mesophilic starter or 4 ounces prepared mesophilic starter
cheese salt (optional)

I use half-and-half and direct-set starter. If you’re new to cheesemaking, I recommend using direct-set as it makes life simpler. I’ve become so addicted to making cheese, I plan to start preparing my own starters, but I have a supply of direct-set on hand so I’ll continue to use those until I run out. (Starters are inexpensive. You can buy a 5-pack of direct-set starters for $5.95 here, or for only $3.00 if you order 12 packs. It’s even less expensive to prepare your own starter, which is why I intend to start doing that next. Starters keep for a long time, up to two years, in the freezer, so don’t be afraid to stock up if you like cream cheese. Mesophilic starter is also used in many other types of cheese, including farmhouse cheddar.)

Bring the cream to room temperature. (I have to set mine out for several hours after it thaws.) Pour the cream into a large pot or bowl. Add the mesophilic starter and stir thoroughly. Cover and leave it alone at room temperature for 12 hours. A solid curd will form. (This isn’t the type of cheese where you see a separation of curd and whey–it’s simply a thick, solid curd.)

If your house is not 72-degrees F, it may take longer. Since my house was a little cool, I had to let mine sit for about 15 hours. If it’s not set by 12 hours, don’t worry about it. Just give it a few more hours. When it’s ready, you should be able to put a spoon in the curd and scoop it back. (Similar to the consistency of a firm yogurt.)

Line a colander with butter muslin.

Pour the contents of the pot or bowl into the colander.

Tie the muslin corners together into a bag and hang to drain.

I tie the ends over a long paint stick and hang the cheese over a bucket.

Let it drain anywhere up to 12 hours. The consistency of your cheese will be determined by how long you let it drain. I let mine drain for about 9 hours. The longer it drains, the firmer it will be. I like a soft cream cheese most of the time–a shorter draining period is well-suited to spreads and dips. If I was planning to use it for cheesecake, for example, I’d hang it longer. Experiment with draining times to suit yourself. (There’s no right or wrong here, just what you prefer.) The cream cheese will also become more firm after you chill it when it’s finished.

Butter muslin and cheesecloth are reusable, by the way. (Butter muslin, which is finer, is used for soft cheeses. Cheesecloth is used for hard cheeses.) Rinse the cloth out then boil it in water with a little washing soda. Rinse in fresh water then hang to dry and use again! (You can purchase butter muslin, cheesecloth, starters and other ingredients and supplies from a cheesemaking supply company. The one I use is New England Cheesemaking Supply Company. You can put “cheesemaking supplies” in a search engine to find others.)

Place the drained cream cheese in a bowl and dump it out of the butter muslin. Add a teaspoon of cheese salt and mix it in (if desired–you don’t have to add salt at all!). You can also add flavorings now–if you want all your cream cheese to be the same. Or, go ahead and transfer the cream cheese to containers and flavor each container separately for your own homemade variety pack.

Leave some space in the container so you have room to mix in herbs and seasonings or fruit.

Make cream cheese with chives and onions, nuts and honey, or cinnamon and brown sugar. Add bacon bits or chopped ham. For fruit, I like to use my homemade jams.

How much to add is up to your own tastes. These containers are each about six ounces of cream cheese. (The one larger container is about eight.)

I like to use a couple of tablespoons of jam per container.

For a savory cream cheese, add herbs, garlic, onions or other minced vegetables to taste. For a rosemary and garlic cream cheese spread, I add 1-1/2 teaspoons of dried rosemary and 1-1/2 teaspoons of garlic powder plus an extra bit of salt (maybe 1/4 teaspoon) to about six ounces.

Start out adding less and test to taste until it suits you. Remember that flavor will increase as the cheese sits in the fridge, so don’t overdo it with the seasonings.

Chill the cream cheese after placing it in containers. (It’s best chilled before using, though you can use it right away.) This cheese keeps well in the fridge for a couple of weeks. Use it to spread on toast or in recipes just as you would cream cheese from the store. (Use it to make Cheesecake Cookies! Have you tried my Cheesecake Cookies? This is currently the most popular, most clicked recipe on my site.)

Depending on how often you use cream cheese, do this once or twice a month and you’ll never have to buy cream cheese again! Fresh is always better. And it’s so easy! This entire process could be done by a small child, under adult direction, and would make a really fun project. (Especially for a child who loves to eat cream cheese!)

Who wants some homemade brandied apricot cream cheese on toasted Grandmother Bread? Anyone? (Find my brandied apricots recipe here.) You know what I’m gonna do next? I’m gonna bake up some brandied apricot Cheesecake Cookies! (Yes, you can use flavored cream cheese in that recipe.)

Sometimes even I wonder why I don’t weigh 2000 pounds.

P.S. Little wants to be a cheesemaker when he grows up.

He’s a fabulous assistant in all my cheesemaking endeavors.

See this recipe at Farm Bell Recipes for the handy print page and to save it to your recipe box.

See all my cheesemaking posts here.


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Posted by Suzanne McMinn on January 19, 2010  

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  1. 1-19
    1:32
    am

    I’ve recently started making my own cheeses as well, it’s great to be able to read someone else going through the process and enjoying it.

    On a side note though, I recently made your yellow scratch cake, following the recipe to a T, BUT it turned out very thick, almost like bread. Does it really call for 3 cups of flour??? Any help you could give would be appreciated. I sooo want to be able to make up a bunch of these and keep them on hand instead of the store bought ones. Thanks.

  2. 1-19
    3:23
    am

    Cream Cheese making sounds simple with your instruction. Love your helper in the sink!
    Memo to self: buy half & half!
    ~~HUGS~~

  3. 1-19
    4:57
    am

    Interesting! I’ve seen recipes for cream cheese that only require cream and lemon juice or vinegar. What is the stabilizer for? Is it to make it last longer or something?

    I would love to make my more homemade cheese really soon. I wish I were as comfortable with it as you! Great job!

  4. 1-19
    5:30
    am

    That looks amazingly easy!!! It’s that easy to get that little bar of goodness? And it would be a lot cheaper, too, especially if you freeze the 1/2 and 1/2…..those are always on the “quick sale” because they’re outdated for that day. I just never use 1/2 and 1/2 so I never buy it, but I buy cream cheese!

  5. 1-19
    5:30
    am

    You are amazing! And so tutorial! :D I love all the things you are teaching us. Thank you.

    One of my all time favorite cream cheese flavors is salmon [here they call it salmon spread] We had baked salmon on Friday night and my daughter took the leftover salmon and mixed it with cream cheese, lemon juice and pepper in the blender and WOW! it is so good. I can imagine how yummy it would be with this recipe.

    I can’t wait to show her this – I can guarantee we will have a bunch of little containers in our fridge come next Monday.

    Thanks Suzanne

  6. 1-19
    5:31
    am

    and it looks like you found flipsides?

  7. 1-19
    5:38
    am

    Wow thanks….I love cream cheese…now I have to look up the cream cheese cookie recipe. Wonder why I have lost only one pound this year?

  8. 1-19
    5:38
    am

    Ummmmm….yummy! May have to try this.

  9. 1-19
    6:10
    am

    Jessica, I’ve even made that cake recipe and cooked it on the grill when we had our power outage and it turned out good. Are you sure your baking powder etc was fresh?

  10. 1-19
    6:13
    am

    Oh yummy! I love cream cheese. Making it myself will be an adventure. Thanks for the links to the stablizer and all the supplies. I do alot of baking with cream cheese!

  11. 1-19
    6:34
    am

    That looks so good! I llike pineapple cr cheese once in awhile.

  12. 1-19
    6:53
    am

    Mmmm. I like cream cheese layered with spicy peach chutney on a cracker. Nummm!

  13. 1-19
    6:59
    am

    I love the picture of your cheese-making assistant. I’m tempted to try making cheese. Your tutorials are very helpful and the pictures really help. Thanks for all the great ideas.

  14. 1-19
    8:19
    am

    I had to check and see what the starter looked like since I have never seen any thing around here for cheese making.
    I am soooo going to order the starter and make me some cream cheese! I love to make homemade butter so I KNOW I can make the cream cheese!
    Thanks Suzanne for all your cheese making directions!!!

    Deb

  15. 1-19
    8:55
    am

    As a single, there is no way I could eat all that cream cheese within 2 weeks. Can cream cheese be frozen?

  16. 1-19
    9:01
    am

    Annie, I haven’t tried freezing cream cheese, so I can’t say for sure. Maybe someone else will stop by who has tried that and let us know.

  17. 1-19
    9:02
    am

    Suzanne,
    I also wondered why you didn’t weigh 2000 pounds….
    UNTIL….
    I saw your “ultimate stair-stepper”…that you go up and down several times a day to feed and water the chickens, goats, sheep, donkeys and carry the firewood, get to the vehicle, etc. etc…
    I am also thinking your freezers are in the basement too…LOL
    You have already burned it off by the time you make it and eat it..
    Lucky you! Thanks for the recipe!
    PS..My Mother used one of those “long stairsteppers” for years to get to the basement to wash clothes and go to the freezer. She will soon be a 94 year old mountain woman!

  18. 1-19
    9:04
    am

    Ok, today’s post has me completely inspired! Love cheese making days!!!!

    Susan

  19. 1-19
    9:14
    am

    Freezing changes the texture of cream cheese. It’s still fine for most cooked recipes – a whirl through the blender helps with the grainy-watery aspect. For spreading — meh — not like fresh, but useable.

  20. 1-19
    9:27
    am

    Annie,
    I would not recommend freezing the cream cheese. Ours got frozen by accident at the back of the fridge and when it thawed it was crumbly and not smooth anymore. Not very appetizing. I can’t wait to try the cream cheese. My son won’t eat Peanut Butter so we substitute cream cheese. That way when my goats arrive I will all ready be experienced.
    I bet Little will be 200 pounds if he is not careful. very cute.

  21. 1-19
    10:31
    am

    I am here to testify that the cheesecake cookies are FABULOUS! I was tasked with making several dozen cookies for a birthday party at work, and tried the cheesecake cookies for the first time; they were gone in 30 minutes, everyone’s favorite out of 5 different cookies I had baked.
    I’m anxious to try my hand at making cream cheese and only wish I had an assistant as cute as Little. oh….that face :heart:

  22. 1-19
    10:52
    am

    And…. It’s another winner!!! Oh, yum!

  23. 1-19
    10:52
    am

    I agree with LauraP on freezing the cream cheese. I just use the mixer and mix air back into it. I’ve found if you’re adding things to it or using it for cooking, it’s just fine. But if you just want to spread it on something like bagels and eat, it feels grainy.

  24. 1-19
    12:24
    pm

    I may have to try this! It does look pretty easy.

  25. 1-19
    12:43
    pm

    I’m glad you’re showing how easy it is to make cream cheese! It is truly a joy to make your own cheese, and cream cheese is where I started, too!
    I found my recipe in Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. You should read her book, it’s sooo good! Annnnd it will tell you exactly why you don’t weight 2000 pounds from eating a lot of cream cheese!! :)

    You’d be proud because the recipe in that book calls for raw milk – which means I had to let raw milk sit on my kitchen counter for several days until it made it’s own curd and then strained the whey out of it. It made more of a yogurt cheese, but the cream top from the milk gave it a really nice sweet, creamy texture. It was hard work the first time I did it, but subsequent times have been easier because I know what I’m doing now. :)

    I like your ideas for adding things to it! I need to start making preserves – it scares me!! I can handle cream cheese from raw milk, but not canning! But my mother-in-law got me a canning set for Christmas, so at least I’m prepared. :)

    Thanks, Suzanne!!

  26. 1-19
    12:55
    pm

    Wow Suzanne you are awesome!! Another great adventure to share with us. :eating:

  27. 1-19
    2:02
    pm

    Oh, please post how you make your own starters when you get to it! I assume it’s like sourdough, yogurt, and other starters in that you just keep them going and dehydrate and/or freeze to preserve?

  28. 1-19
    2:37
    pm

    I have froze store bought cream cheese many times and have not have a problem with it. So it shouldn’t be a problem with homemade cream cheese….hopefully!

  29. 1-19
    2:43
    pm

    Great post! OK, I have to do this. I need to know how to make my own starter.

    That Little is so cute!!

  30. 1-19
    2:48
    pm

    Wow!! This is another thing I love to read about that I know I won’t do! I am just too lazy.

  31. 1-19
    3:32
    pm

    I nominated you for an award today on my blog. Come check it out! I hope that is ok..

  32. 1-19
    3:47
    pm

    Your cheese posts are my absolute favorites~!
    Great Demo!
    Wish my cows would share their milk!

    http://www.tailgait.blogspot.com

  33. 1-19
    3:57
    pm

    Woman! You have been blessed with a sharp and keen mind, and to boot- a very generous spirit! Not everyone would be so kind as to share all this wealth of very useful and delicious info. Thank you Suzanne!! You have inspired me to make cream cheese. I only hope I can find half and half in quart containers. They’re usually in pint size.

    And please do post your recipe for the starters. Thank you again, and God bless you! :wave: :heart:

  34. 1-19
    4:50
    pm

    Thank you… thank you… thank you for the simple directions on how to clean butter muslin. Not knowing how to clean cheese cloths (I’ve just ordered the butter muslin for the first time) I put my last one in the dishwasher – ah, that didn’t go too well. This post was awesome!

  35. 1-19
    6:56
    pm

    Oh yum! This looks good enough to eat :happyflower: I’m going to see if I can find a 5 yr. old :)
    The brandied apricot cream cheese cookies….now they sound positively decadent.
    Thanks for the easy cream cheese directions :hug:

  36. 1-19
    6:58
    pm

    Forgot to say how lucky you are to have such a cute helper :)

  37. 1-19
    8:24
    pm

    Suzanne! Hey Girl! Today’s post was awesome as ALWAYS, but my comment has nothing to do with it….I’ve been looking over all of your older posts, which had very few pix of you, but I have to say, the picture of you now as posted in the side bar, is the most beautiful! (My hair dresser keeps making my hair “less fake blonde” and she knows what she’s doing. (I’m not ready for completely natural yet – waaaaaay to much gray in mine!) You look fabulous – no, the better word is STUNNING!!!!!!!!!!!! Natural is really the best. Take Care :sun:

  38. 1-19
    10:30
    pm

    I love making this too and no you don’t have to have a cow but it is wonderful with untreated milk (aka raw milk).
    Little is adorable.

  39. 1-20
    12:57
    am

    dont toss out the whey feed it to your chickens if you have them they LOVE it! I love to make homemade cream cheese.

  40. 1-20
    6:23
    am

    Rebecca, I don’t toss whey! I use it to bake bread.

  41. 1-20
    10:30
    am

    Aedrielle,

    do you think the recipe using raw milk could be made with goat’s milk?

  42. 1-20
    8:17
    pm

    I made cream cheese when I was ten.

  43. 1-21
    11:54
    pm

    Reba,
    Of course, it can be made with goat’s milk! Check out Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, she’s got all the directions for using raw milk in all kinds of ways! :)

  44. 1-28
    7:46
    am

    Hi! I love your site! SO informative!!! I’ve got um… let’s see… SEVEN different windows of your site open to different pages right now. I have a question about the cream cheese. Someone probably already asked, but I’ll go ahead and ask again- Can this cream cheese be frozen?

    Thanks!!!

  45. 1-28
    7:51
    am

    Okay, saw the other posts. Question answered! Thanks!

  46. 2-16
    8:52
    pm

    Your Lucky to have such a cute assistant ! Do ypu have 1 cat only ? :wave:

  47. 2-16
    9:10
    pm

    Keelenorth, I have 10 cats. :)

  48. 7-10
    10:54
    am

    Everything I’ve been reading about making cheese (and have to admit have not actually tried to make yet)says not to use ultra pasteurized. It looks like your cartons say UP. Did you have any issues making softer cheeses (like cream cheese) with UP cream? Its all I can find at my grocery store. Heading out to a dairy farm today to see what they have.

    Thanks! LOVE your blog!

  49. 7-10
    10:55
    am

    floreska, I have not had trouble making cream cheeses with ultra-pasteurized. I can’t make hard cheese with it, though!

  50. 7-11
    8:33
    pm

    Just wanted to let you know my cream cheese came out AMAZING! I did find just pasteurized whole cream at the local dairy and used that mixed with their whole milk.

    I also made a batch of Marscapone cheese. YUM!

  51. 9-30
    9:56
    pm

    Can you freeze the cream cheese when it finished?

  52. 10-1
    12:02
    am

    Yes, I freeze cream cheese and it works out just fine!

  53. 10-27
    9:30
    pm

    i got my ds mesophilic starter in the mail last week and went and bought my 1/2 and 1/2 today. tomorrow, i’m making cream cheese! just a question- i’ve been storing my m.s. in the freezer as suggested…should i throw it into the cream directly from the freezer or does it need to sit out as well?

  54. 10-28
    6:29
    am

    No, you don’t need to thaw the starter, put it right in!

  55. 12-19
    5:15
    pm

    I know this is fresh> So that is a big plus. But is it cost effective? I make a lot of carrot cakes and would like to make my own cream cheese.

  56. 12-24
    1:03
    am

    Another reason not to toss whey, by the way, and this may be covered somewhere so forgive if I repeat info, is for ricotta. I take a potful of whey, add in more whole milk but you can use just about any milk, heat until it steams (I think it’s about 180 degrees, I used to use a thermometer but found it not really necessary). Begin stirring, and drizzle in lemon juice or vinegar until curd begins to form. The longer the whey sits before beginning the more acidic it will become, and less juice or vinegar will be needed. Continue stirring until the whey become generally clear again, let cool, strain through cheesecloth, and hang to finish draining…and voila! Ricotta!

  57. 1-26
    10:15
    pm

    I can’t wait to try this cream cheese recipe. I am curious about the photo of the baby chick, in the middle of the instructions?

  58. 2-1
    10:54
    am

    I did it!! :snoopy: I made the cream cheese and used homemade starter. It was easy and tastes delicious. Now I need to make bagels to go with it. Thanks CITR for motivating me!

  59. 2-20
    10:08
    am

    I came across this page of you blog while looking for a way to save my cream cheese. I used rennet, milk, buttermilk, and cream but it didn’t curd. In reading I see most people say not to use ultra pasteurized but I see that you do. SO my question is, do you know if I can take what I have and add the starter to it so I don’t have to waste, right now all I have is a cream-like concoction that smells like cream cheese.

  60. 2-20
    10:29
    am

    Hi, Cody. Well, I don’t know why your cream didn’t curd. I have used ultrapasteurized cream from the store in the past (now I have a cow and use my own fresh cream). Ultrapasteurized cream will vary from brand to brand, so it could be the brand. Or it could be a temperature issue when you’re heating the cream. I don’t know what recipe you were using, but in the recipes I use, you would add the starter and then the rennet, so I’m not sure adding starter at this later point will do anything to help. It would be best to start over and use starter.

  61. 3-16
    9:17
    am

    :snuggle: OK so my hubby and I made Beer two weeks ago, Venison and Hot Italian Sausage last weekend and we are going for Cream Cheese and Queso Fresco this weekend!!! What a lucky girl I am.
    Please enter me into your cheese kit contest.
    PS I enjoy your blogs
    Mrs H

  62. 3-24
    7:52
    am

    I read on my mesophilic starter would do up to 2 gallons of milk. So I started my cream cheese last night but tripled the amount of half and half so I could make a larger batch. I know it’s only been about 8 hours but I’m getting worried… it’s not started to curd at all yet. It seems just as runny as when I put the starter in. Should I not have tried to make a larger batch?

  63. 3-24
    7:59
    am

    Andy, I’ve never tried to increase it, so I don’t know, but also I don’t look at the pot after just 8 hours. That’s not long enough. Is it storebought milk?

  64. 3-24
    8:01
    am

    Yes it’s the same half and half that was shown in the photo.

  65. 3-24
    8:07
    am

    Andy, if it doesn’t work, then my guess would be that it’s because that’s ultra-pasteurized cream. It worked fine for me in the regular size recipe. I’ve never tried it in a larger recipe using the same amount of starter. Ultra-pasteurized isn’t recommended for cheesemaking, but I found I could use it for cream cheese fine, but again I didn’t increase the recipe. It’s possible that’s the reason, though I’d still give it some more time.

  66. 3-24
    9:21
    pm

    How long is too long do you think to wait for it to firm up? It’s getting firm but not completely there yet and it’s been 22 hours. At what point should I call it a loss? I’m worried about it spoiling. It doesn’t smell bad or look bad it’s just not firm enough yet.

  67. 3-25
    6:41
    am

    Andy, wait at least 24 hours and see if you can put it in some butter muslin to drain. It’s not going to go bad yet.

  68. 6-6
    2:27
    pm

    Have you ever tried making a non-dairy cream cheese?

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