Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Homemade Cream Cheese

I'm not a big cream cheese person (although I am a big cheesecake person) but I saw an article on making your own cream cheese on Little House in the Suburbs and since I'm always down for easy ways to create new things, I figured I'd give it a shot.

I went to Wally World and purchased some plain active culture yogurt. I forget with brand, but I basically picked the one that had only "Milk" and "acidophilus" as ingredients. I picked up two cartons, and also got some cheese cloth. I snagged several yards of cheese cloth as it's used for a lot, and well it's cheap so why not.

When I got home, I realized I still had an unreasonable amount of strawberries left over from the Jam Wars, and decided to try and make myself some strawberry cream cheese. I admit I pretty much set myself up for another good-intention-gone-awry but it all worked out in the end. I cut up, mashed and drained about a cup of strawberries (My intent was to add this to 32 oz. of the plain yogurt), then toss them and said yogurt into a blender.

This is the step I will scratch off on my next batch. My thinking at the time was blenders are for blending, therefore I will have uniform strawberry cream cheese. The theory worked, but also thinned down the yogurt ridiculously. I ended up adding the other portion of yogurt to try and get a somewhat thicker consistency, which didn't work. I just ended up with more strawberry milk-like stuff. Next time I do this, I'm going to directly mix the strawberries in with the yogurt. No blending.

I pour a small amount of the strawberry smoothie into a bowl lined with cheese cloth. Gathered the edges (so much as I could) wrapped it around a wooden spoon, being sure that the bottom of my ball was about 2 inches off the bowl bottom to allow it to drain. Obviously this wasn't the most secure, so I threw on another spoon for balance and threw a heavy glass lid on top just to be sure. It looked fairly ghetto, but hey it worked.

NOTE: I started with a fairly small amount as I was unsure of my success, and I'd rather screw up small, then big.

I let this hang over night (the longer you hang it, the thicker it gets) and was very surprised by how good it look this morning. I didn't get a ton of cheese from it, as a lot seemed to be trapped in my ineffectual cheese clothing. It tasted good, sweeter then I figured from the initial smoothie-thing tasting which was a pleasant surprise. Nice texture, and overall very yummy.

This foray gave me enough confidence to tackle the remaining smoothie-thing. I had it in a regular mixing bowl covered in my fridge, so it had a chance to re-establish a bit of it's yogurt like qualities. I tossed in a couple tablespoons of sugar because I like my flavored cream cheese sweet. Well really, I like anything sweet. I also decided to switch out the cheese cloth in favor of a tea towel. I haven't used cheese cloth enough to really know my way around it, and I seemed to lose a couple of tablespoons of the original batch that way.

I plopped the whole mess into a bowl, this time when I gathered the fabric I rolled it hobo-pack style before tying it on the spoon. This worked much much better. In hind sight considering how much smoothie-thing I used, I probably should have used my crawfish pot, seeing as it's much deeper, so I don't have to drain the whey occasionally.

Overall, I think it worked pretty well. And I will definitely add this to my regular to-make list.

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