Making Cream Cheese

Who loves cream cheese?  I like it with served with a drizzle of sweet chilli sauce or spread on crackers with some sliced heirloom tomato and a basil leaf.

Well curd nerds, you are going to love this version.  It is so tasty and is easy to make, with very few ingredients unlike processed cream cheese which has a list of ingredients as long as my arm.

Like any great cheese, making cream cheese takes a little bit of time.

This is a cheese that I have been meaning to make for a few months, but it has been just too hot here in South Eastern Australia.  Luckily, this weekend has been mild with temperatures in the low 20’s (C).

I managed to source a non-homogenised full cream milk at a local supplier in Bacchus Marsh (Jonesy’s Milk), which was just a delight to use for cheese making.

So on to the recipe and method.

 

Cream Cheese

Ingredients;

  • 4 litres (1 gallon) full cream (whole) milk
  • 1/8th teaspoon, (heaped smidgen) Mesophilic direct set culture type MA or MO30
  • 4 drops liquid rennet in 60 ml (1/4 cup) of non-chlorinated water
  • 2 teaspoons cheese salt
  • If using homogenised milk, add 1 ml of calcium chloride in 30 ml of non-chlorinate water.

Method;

Sanitise all equipment by boiling in hot water or a weak bleach (20 ml of bleach to 4 litres of cold water)

In a large pot, pour in the milk and add calcium chloride solution if necessary and stir thoroughly top to bottom for 30 seconds.  Warm the milk to 30°C (86°F).

Add the culture, stir well for one minute top to bottom.

Add 3 teaspoons of the rennet solution (discard remainder), and stir for two minutes.

Cover and allow to rest at room temperature (about 21°C or 70°F) for 18 hours.  After resting, it will have the appearance of a block of soft curd with whey.

Line a colander with cheesecloth (I doubled it over twice to make it four layers thick), or butter muslin.

Ladle the curds into the cheesecloth.

Making Cream Cheese - curds

Note the yoghurt like consistency.  It also tastes slightly sour, but not quite like a natural yoghurt.

Then form a bag and allow to drain for 12 hours.  Don’t forget to tie a double granny knot by gathering the opposite corners of the cloth, otherwise it may slip and fall.

After 12 hours, untie the cheesecloth, and remove the cheese from the bag.

Work in the cheese salt with a clean spoon, a little at a time until all used.

making cream cheese
Cream Cheese
 Refrigerate the cream cheese in an airtight container.  When chilled, you can make small logs, roll in finely chopped fresh herbs and slice, or just spread on bread or crackers.

Delicious.  Once you have tried fresh home made cream cheese, you will never eat the processed stuff again.  It is delightfully creamy with a slight tang.  Just perfect!

So, a show of hands please.  Who is going to give this cheese a go?

Parmesan Technique

Cheese making can be daunting and confusing when you first start out.  I know that it was for me, but I found that by taking a basic cheese making course before I made any type of cheese really helped me learn enough to get started in this hobby.

I realise that many people do not have the opportunity to attend a class, so this is the main reason why I offer to answer readers questions as best I can.

Today’s question comes from Nadim in the UK, who has lots of questions about starting out on his cheese making journey, mainly about Parmesan technique.

Hi Gavin

I am Nadim from UK, I recently seen your web blog and it is extremely help for home-made cheese maker, I am a fan of cheese but when tried at home cheese making, but after looking at your blog, you have now inspired me to make it at home!, I want to try either with parmesan or cheddar, but I am stuck with few question, if you please could help me with this then I shall highly appreciate.

As this shall be my first time so i was thinking if it is possible I make cheese in small wheel, probably 300 g – 500 g..? or it has to be in minimum 1 kg wheel..?

I am currently living in share house, so i wont be able to buy wine fridge, do you think if I can store cheese in wooden box in my balcony for aging ..? or any other recommendation ..? I have read somewhere that normal kitchen fridge would not be suitable due to its lower temperature,bacteria contamination and moisture..

Also could you please tell me what would be minimum best time to try the cheese..? 9 months is bit long time, not sure if I would be patient enough to wait this long after making my first cheese!!

last but important, do I need to rotate and wipe out cheese every week even after waxing.? what if I wax it after removing from brine water and drying out..?

looking forward to hear from you soon. thanks

Nadim

Good questions Nadim.  I will answer your questions in respect to making Parmesan cheese.

The wheel on the left is a 3 week old Parmesan before waxing.  The other is a Caerphilly.

 

Recipe size – If making parmesan, I would stick to using the full 8 litres of milk that the recipe asks for.  The cheese does shrink quite a bit, so you end up with about a 800 gm wheel of cheese at the end.

Maturation Temperature – It doesn’t really matter how you keep your cheese at 13°C as long as you can maintain it over the long aging period of 9 months minimum.  Some people use basements, some use insulated boxes, some just use a cupboard lined with greaseproof paper.  It doesn’t matter  how, as long as you keep the cheese at the target temperature.

Aging time – For a 1 kg wheel of Parmesan, the minimum time before trying would be 9 months.  The longer the better really.  In the last week, I tried a two-year-old Parmesan, and it was extremely tasty, much better than one aged for only a year.  If you want to make a cheese that is full of flavour and has a short maturation time, try a Caerphilly.  I highly recommend this semi-hard cheese for beginners, which is very tasty.

Waxing – If you do decide to make Parmesan, then for this sized wheel I highly recommend that you wax the cheese after 3 weeks of aging.  Normal wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano weigh about 38 kg when fully mature and are able to maintain their moisture content.  For a much smaller wheel like the one in my recipe, you need to wax the cheese so that it does not dry out whilst aging.

During the initial 3 weeks without the wax, wipe the surface with a brine solution daily to prevent/inhibit mould growth.  The cheese needs this 3 week period without wax to dry out a little, otherwise if you wax it straight after brining and air drying, it would be far too moist and whey will collect between the cheese and the wax, ruining the flavour of the Parmesan.  After waxing you do not need to do this as the wax coating prevents oxygen from reaching the cheese which does not allow the mould to develop.

Summary – Hopefully this post has been informative to all beginners as they take their first steps towards milk’s immortal!

For all readers, let me know via a comment if you would like more of these types of post.  I would love some feedback, good or otherwise.

How to Make Camembert

Camembert is one of the more trickier cheeses to attempt to make.  It is not for the faint hearted, even if you have a bit of experience under your belt.

I can honestly say that I have only gotten this cheese to taste right two times out of the four times that I have made it, so you can take this post with a grain of salt if you like.

However with that said, one of the two attempts of making this cheese that I did get right, I lucked-in and recorded this session via a video tutorial of the process, and have some photos of the aging process.

Here is the video to begin with so you understand the process of how to make Camembert.  It is quite different to semi-hard cheeses and does not require a press.

So that is how you make it.
Here is the recipe;

How to Make Camembert

 Ingredients
  • 7.6 litres (2 US gal) full cream milk
  • ¼  teaspoon Calcium Chloride (if using homogenized milk), dissolved in ¼ cup (60 ml) cool unchlorinated water
  • ¼ teaspoon mesophilic direct set starter culture
  • 1/8th teaspoon Penicillium candidum
  • ¼  teaspoon (2 ml) liquid rennet dissolved in ¼ cup (60 ml) cool unchlorinated water
  • Cheese salt

Utensils

Sterilise all equipment in the large pot with about 3 litres of boiling water for 15 minutes, except cheese hoops.  Use a very weak, diluted bleach solution for the hoops and rinse thoroughly with fresh water.
  • Cheese hoops
  • 4 sushi mats
  • Stainless steel ladle
  • 8 litre stainless steel pot
  • Small saucepan to use as a double boiler (as per video)
  • Cafe Thermometer
  • Curd knife
  • Stirring spoon
  • Cheese paper/wrap
Method
(If using homogenized milk, add the Calcium Chloride.)
  1. Heat the milk to 32°C (90°F), then stir in the starter culture, and the Penicillium candidum.  Cover and allow to ripen for 90 minutes.
  2. Whilst maintaining the target temperature (32°C), add the rennet and stir for two minutes top to bottom.  Cover and let sit at target temp for 60 minutes or until you have a clean break.
  3. Cut the curds into 1.25cm (½”) cubes, and gently stir for 15 minutes at target temp.
  4. Let curds settle for 15 minutes, maintaining temp, then drain off the whey to the level of the curds using the ladle.
  5. Place the all four hoops on two of the sushi mats, and gently ladle the curds into the hoops until you reach the top.  Cover both pairs with the remaining sushi mats.
  6. Let drain for one hour at room temperature.  As in the video, you will notice a fall in the cheese as the whey expels.
  7. Flip over the cheese, using the mats, holding top and bottom to ensure that the curd does not come out of the hoops.  Make sure the curds do not tear.  Flip the cheeses every hour for 5 hours.
  8. Gently pull off the hoops and lightly sprinkle with cheese salt and gently rub all over, and allow to rest for 10 minutes for the salt to absorb.
  9. Place cheeses, which will still be on a mat, into your ripening box, and store at 7°C (45°F) at 85 percent humidity, and into your cheese fridge.  The normal fridge will work at a pinch, but maturation will be slower and will take usually take about 8 days for the mould to form.
  10. After 5 days mould should appear on the surface.  Turn the cheese over, put back in the ripening box and back into the cheese fridge.  Continue to age for another 7 to 10 days.  The cheese should have a good layer of mould on the surface.
  11. Take the cheese out of the ripening box and wrap it in cheese paper/film/wrap.  Allow the cheese to continue to mature at 7°C (45°F) for another 3 weeks.  Test one cheese to see if it has a mild flavour.  If so, then store the remainder at 4°C until consumed.  If not, wait another week, as the flavour gets stronger with age.
Camembert aging in ripening box.

Tips and Tricks

One point of difference from the video.  You may have noticed that I kept filling up the hoops with curd as it drained away.  I would not recommend this any more   Fill it up once, and maybe top it up once more after 15 minutes, but no more, because the cheese will be too heavy and will collapse in on itself during aging.  Get extra cheese hoops if necessary.  I was quite lucky that these ones turned out okay.

You must keep the cheese separate from all the other cheeses in your cheese cave.  So to do that, you can use something like this nifty two layer box.  In the bottom layer, I put a sushi mat and a little bowl of water to increase humidity.

If you can source a fine weave food safe plastic mat, you will find that the cheese will not stick as readily to it, as it may to sushi mats.  I find that the plastic stand that I use in my cheese ripening box helps to avoid sticking.

Camembert in ripening box (top view)

Drain any water that collects at the bottom of the container, making sure that the cheese does not come in contact with it.  The water will inhibit mould growth, which at this stage is a bad thing.

Your cheese should look something like this before you wrap it in cheese film.  A consistent white mould all over the cheese.  There should be no black mould.  If there is, just pick it off with a sterile knife.  Don’t wipe with brine or vinegar as this will destroy the white mould layer.  Then make sure you use the cheese wrap.  It helps to slow the mould so that it doesn’t ripen too quickly. I made it once without the cheese paper, and the Camembert was far too ripe for my tastes.

If aging in a normal kitchen refrigerator, the cheese will take a little longer to form mould and age.  Make sure that you check it regularly until you get an even mould all over the surface.  Then use cheese wrap as mentioned above.  It may take until week 4 to fully mature, but still check at the 3 week mark.

Also, if this cheese is matured above 7°C, the flavour will be overpowering and stink to high heaven!  Make sure you keep it below the this temperature.

Summary

Hopefully, I have given you enough information to successfully make Camembert.  This cheese is worth the perseverance if you do not get it right the first try.  The taste is amazing once you master the skill of making Camembert.