By Melissa Wynn
Part 1 of 3
When my sister and I decided to learn to make cheese I expected a long and carefully followed intellectual process. I was in charge of figuring out what we needed to buy and learning the basics. So one night I curled up with my computer and notebook and started watching “how to” videos on the internet. Imagine my surprise when I learned that many cheeses can be made in a few simple steps with very few ingredients and a bit of waiting.
First I found that I would need a place to purchase a few cheese making supplies such as the necessary cultures and cheese cloth for draining. I decided to order online since I was already on that mission when I was watching the videos but many of you will be able to buy locally at health food, cooking or home brewing specialty stores.
I ordered mesophilic culture, organic vegetable rennet, powdered citric acid and cheese salt. My order contained enough supplies for several batches of a variety of cheeses that we will feature throughout this series. To my surprise my total bill was just over $30.00 to make several pounds of cheese that won’t contain any artificial additives or preservatives. Add in the cost of milk, heavy cream and or half and half and making your own healthier cheeses is truly comparable to buying off the shelf.
I chose to start with a simple spreadable cream cheese that did not require any heating of the milk product. The culture I purchased was double acting so I doubled the amount of liquid in the recipe. Please enjoy your smooth and wonderful home made cream cheese from the recipe below. Dill, berries, ranch spices or a variety of other fruits and spices can be added at the end to make wonderful spreads for your bagels.
You will need:
1/2 gallon half and half
1/8 teaspoon or one packet of mesophilic culture
1/2 Teaspoon Cheese salt or fine sea salt, more if you like it a bit salty
Very tightly weaved cheese cloth, butter cloth or an old fashioned style white and clean tea towel. ( I used the tea towel, see photos.)
Pour the half and half into a non-metal, glass or ceramic container. Sprinkle in the mesophilic culture and salt. Stir slowly with a wooden spoon until the powder and salt are fully dissolved.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave to sit at room temperature for 18 to 24 hours.
At this point your mixture should be the consistency of a good, thick greek style yogurt or a newly opened container of sour cream. This is known as the curd. A yellowish liquid will settle around the edges. This is the whey.
Transfer your curd and whey into your cloth of choice and hang or suspend the cloth so that the whey can drain away. I hung mine with a wooden spoon over a soup pot but you could also use a colander in a mixing bowl as long as the whey cannot reach the bottom of the cloth.
Leave it draining for 14 to 24 hours until it is the consistency that you desire. The longer you drain the “dryer” and stiffer your cream cheese will be. Transfer your cream cheese into an air tight container and refrigerate. Makes about 2 pounds.