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Cream Cheese Kit from FarmSteady

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 18 October 2016 at 15:13
Cream Cheese Kit from FarmSteady

Cheesemaking is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, probably since childhood, if I think about it. The couple of times that I picked up a book on
the craft, however, it seemed like a very esoteric process, involving certain equipment and ingredients that I knew little or nothing about. The interest
waxed and waned over the years, and eventually withered on the vine in favour of other pursuits.

In 2010, I created this forum and watched with renewed enthusiasm as some members reported on their efforts at making various cheeses. Once again, I became
interested, and even took the step of buying a used book about home cheesemaking. After trying to read it, however, I was once again lost in a sea of jargon,
the “necessity” of specialised equipment and dire warnings about what would happen if something went wrong. At the time, it appeared to me that this is
something that simply involves too much commitment, so the book was put on the shelf, where it collected dust.

A few years after that, The Beautiful Mrs. Tas got a birthday present for me that I really enjoyed: a beer-brewing kit from Brooklyn Brew Shop:

www.brooklynbrewshop.com

You might be wondering what brewing beer has to do with this, but please bear with me!

Brewing beer is another activity that I had long wanted to do, but had held off on, for many of the very same reasons that precluded me from diving into
cheesemaking. However, when I looked into the details of this brewing kit and did some looking around on Brooklyn Brew Shop’s website, I discovered a couple
of things that quelled this self-imposed intimidation.

The first is that this kit brewed genuine, all-grain beer. It was not some sort of “toy” or “novelty” product; it was the real thing, scaled down to a
manageable size and presented in a way that was understandable. It made such an endeavour accessible and opened my eyes to the fact that brewing doesn’t have
to be complicated unless I want it to be. Further, it got me to thinking about just how old this ancient process is, as Brooklyn Brew Shop takes an approach
that accentuates the art and craft of brewing, rather than the science; more monastery than laboratory; more monk than engineer. This increased the appeal to
me even further, as the fundamentals, traditions and and the self-sufficiency involved in homebrewing resonated loudly with my “rustic” or “peasant” approach
to anything to do with food and cooking. It also opened a very enchanting door into my family’s own past and traditions, but that is a story for another
thread.

The second thing that I couldn’t help but notice was the sheer enthusiasm that Brooklyn Brew Shop has for brewing beer, which immediately translated to me as
helpful encouragement. Aside from the general love of beer and brewing, there was the unmistakable message that “we made this, and you can, too!”
Every point in the instructions, every video describing their beer varieties and the process of brewing beer...even the labeling on the box that the kit came
in was calling, motivating and inspiring one to go forth, brew beer and share it with the world. They not only showed a person that brewing beer could
be easy; they also removed any and all doubts that a person might have about brewing beer. The only thing that one had to do was simply toss those doubts to
the dustbin and Make Some Beer.

And that is just what I did. I brewed my first beer - a Chocolate Maple Porter - and it was great! Oh, it wasn’t perfect, by any means, but the few things
that were wrong with it were nothing compared to what was right with it...and, it tasted great! Based on that success, and with growing confidence, I brewed
some more - an Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Stout, a Smoked Wheat, a Grapefruit Honey Ale...the list goes on….

Now, I’m brewing beer regularly, which is something I’ve always wanted to do; better yet, I’m loving it, not frustrated with it, which inspires me to learn
more, to brew better beer...and to keep brewing beer. I’ve progressed from brewing pre-packaged ingredient mixes to following recipes to coming up with my
own creations, and it is all thanks to The Beautiful Mrs. Tas for getting me started, and to Brooklyn Brew Shop for the inspiration and motivation.

So, when Brooklyn Brew Shop launched a new endeavour centered around gardening, foraging, baking and (here’s where we come full-circle) cheesemaking, it was
only natural that I would be interested.

This project is called FarmSteady:

www.farmsteady.com

FarmSteady currently offers three kits to introduce these concepts; a kit teaching one how to make four Italian cheeses (Ricotta, Mascarpone, Mozzarella and
Burrata), a kit for Soft Pretzels and Beer Cheese, and a kit for Everything Bagels and Cream Cheese. I ordered all three kits as soon as I was able to, and
now that the hustle and bustle of summer travel has subsided, I will work my way through them, using the information and skills that I acquire to hopefully
grow in the art of cheesemaking even further, just the same as I did with the beer kit.

After reading the instructions and asking a few questions, I determined, rightly or wrongly, that the Everything Bagel and Cream Cheese kit would be the best
(read that as easiest) place for me to start. The first step, then, is making the cream cheese, so that its tangy goodness will be ready to spread on
those savory, freshly-baked bagels!

Cream cheese as we know it appears to have originated in England, but it quickly spread (no pun intended) to other places. This, from Wikipedia:

Quote Early prototypes of cream cheese are mentioned in England as early as 1583 and in France as early as 1651.Recipes are recorded soon after 1754,
particularly from Lincolnshire and the southwest of England.


During this period of North American colonisation, it was only natural that cream cheese would travel across the pond and - as so often happens here -
eventually grow into a thriving industry:

Quote Recipes for cream cheese can be found in U.S. cookbooks and newspapers beginning in the mid-18th century. By the 1820s, the dairy farms in and around
Philadelphia had gained a reputation for producing the best examples of this cheese. Cream cheese was produced on family farms throughout the country, so
quantities made and distributed were typically small. Around 1873, William A. Lawrence, a Chester, New York, dairyman, was the first to mass-produce cream
cheese. In 1872, he purchased a Neufchâtel factory and shortly thereafter, by adding cream to the process, was able to create a richer cheese that he called
“cream cheese”. In 1877, he created the first brand of cream cheese; its logo was a silhouette of a cow followed by the words “Neufchatel & Cream Cheese”. In
1879, to create a larger factory, Lawrence entered into a partnership with another Chester merchant, Samuel S. Durland. In 1880, Alvah L Reynolds, a New York
cheese distributor, began to sell the cheese of Lawrence & Durland and called it "Philadelphia Cream Cheese."

[url]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cream_cheese[url]


The rest, as they say, is history.

Following is my account of making my first batch of cream cheese; I would count it as a pretty substantial success, so hopefully my experience will inspire
others to pick up one of these kits and give it a try.

Making this cream cheese was very, very easy; even better, it consumed almost no time at all, on my part, as the cheese itself did nearly all of the work.
I’d be surprised if I put in an hour’s worth of total time, and that includes taking the photos. The entire process is broken up into three parts, separated
by hours-long periods that leave a busy person such as myself to attend to family, household and work duties.

Once again, I will apologise in advance for some of the photos; the camera on my phone alternates between taking some of the best photos I’ve ever seen...and
some of the worst. In all cases, I’ve done my best to illustrate the steps of this process with the best pictures possible, and for every photo that you see
here, there are about 5 or 6 that I deleted.

With that, here’s all you need to take your first step into making cream cheese:



1 quart of whole milk (avoid ultra-pastuerised)
1 quart of heavy cream (avoid ultra pastuerised
1/2 cup of plain yoghurt with live cultures
1/2 of a rennet tablet
1/4 cup of non-chlorinated water
1 teaspoon of kosher salt (or to taste)

Not pictured is a square of cheesecloth that is 18 inches on each side; it is, I believe, made of cotton cloth woven at about 90 threads per inch.
Alternately, of course, you can use the gauzy-looking cheesecloth that is often sold in grocery stores; a double layer of this (each layer placed
perpendicular to the other) should work just as well.

Additional equipment includes a double boiler (I used a cooking pot placed inside my Dutch oven), a rubber spatula or scraper, measuring spoons and cups, and
- most importantly - a kitchen thermometer.

Let’s get started!

The first thing I did was to set up my improvised double boiler, floating a cooking pot on some water in my Dutch oven. I then heated the water to 100
degrees before adding the milk and cream to the pot inside:



Once the milk and cream is added, you want to gently mix them together for half a minute or so.

The heat of the water slowly raised the temperature of the milk and cream mixture, taking about 20 minutes to bring it to 90 degrees. I adjusted the heat on
the stove as necessary in order to maintain a slow, steady rise. If you happen to reach 90 degrees before the 20 minutes have passed, remove the pot from the
stove and let both the milk/cream and the water cool a bit, then maintain it as well as you can.

While this was happening, I broke off half of a rennet tablet and dissolved it in 1/4 cup of non-chlorinated water. The water that I used from a local spring
just south of town, but you can use any bottled water, or leave out some chlorinated tap water overnight, if necessary.

When the 20 minutes had passed and the milk had reached 90 degrees, I mixed in 1/2 cup of plain yoghurt with live cultures:



You want to gently stir the ingredients together for half a minute.

I then added the dissolved half-tablet of rennet with the water, and gently stirred the mixture for another 30 seconds.

That’s about it for the first stage of this process!

At this point, I removed the pot from the water bath and put the lid on:



I then covered the pot with a tea towel:



It was late, so I set a timer on my phone for 12 hours and went to bed, allowing the curds to form undisturbed at room temperature.

After a productive morning around the house, my phone reminded me that 12 hours had passed, and that it was time to resume the making of the cheese. To
begin, I lined a small colander with a dampened cheesecloth:



I set the colander into a mixing bowl, in order to catch the whey.

I then took a look at how my cream cheese was developing, and was pleased to see that it had thickened up very well:



Next, I poured the curds into the cheesecloth in the strainer, allowing the whey from the mixture to drain into the mixing bowl.



Once the draining slowed down to a slow drip, I gathered the four corners of the cheesecloth and tied each opposite corner together, forming something like a
bag. Next, I suspended the cheesecloth (and the curds) over the bowl in the sink:



As you can see here, I wasn’t able to close up the gaps, due to the amount of curds and whey; more on that in a moment.

From this point, you want the curds to hang, drain and dry for 6 to 8 hours. Since I had some gaps that were exposed, I covered the cheesecloth with a tea
towel for about half of this time. Later on, the draining and drying had continued to the point where I could re-tie the corners more closely together so as
to completely close up the “bag” created by the cheesecloth:



As you can see, I also moved the hanging cheesecloth to the table, suspended beneath a wooden spatula.

In my case, the draining and drying appeared to take about 8.5 hours; at this point, I moved the drained whey to another container (to save for some other
purpose), then washed and dried the bowl. I then set the cheesecloth into the bowl and uncovered it, revealing this:



I am no expert, of course, but that looks to me like some beautiful, luxurious home-made cream cheese!

The rest of the process was just as easy as everything else had been up to this point. I poured, scooped and scraped the curds into the bowl, getting as much
as possible off the sides of the cheesecloth. I then gently stirred in one teaspoon of kosher salt until it was well-incorporated.

With that, I was essentially finished:



At this point, you can - if you wish - add any number of goodies to the mix. Some suggestions from FarmSteady include diced scallions, dill, and jalapeños; I
am guessing that the possibilities are endless and limited only by your imagination and tastes!

The cheese was still a bit soft at this stage, but it was definitely much thicker and “cheesier” than it had been before hanging and drying. I snatched a wee
taste, and it was as good as...no, it was much better than any cream cheese I had ever had. It was tangy. It was creamy. It was addicting! I had to
stop myself from sampling it again and again, because I knew that if I got started, I might not stop, and I needed it for the bagels I am going to make!

With great discipline, I portioned the cream cheese into two containers:



I then put the containers in the refrigerator. You want the cream cheese to chill for a couple of hours, at a minimum, before using for using or eating it,
so that it can firm up and become spreadable. To confirm this, I checked on the cheese the next morning, and found that it was indeed firm, yet soft enough
to spread, just like the cream cheese that we have bought before. This cheese will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for up to two weeks, but I am guessing
that it won’t last that long.

And with that, my first foray into cheesemaking came to a victorious end!

I will make the bagels as soon as possible - this weekend at the absolute latest - and report on how the cream cheese works with them. I suspect that it will
be a match made in Heaven, and am eager to try this.

I hope that you have seen how easy this is, and that you learn from my mistake! If you’ve been wanting to try making cheese, simply do it.

Period.

Don’t put it off, don’t wait until things are “just right,” and above all, don’t be intimidated. This kit (and the others offered by FarmSteady) can help you
take that first step to actually getting it done. Everything to make this cheese (and others, if you choose) is there, including something wonderful to
spread it on. It’s pretty hard to beat that, by itself, but what you don’t see in the kit might be even more valuable: inspiration. It’s easy, it’s
rewarding, and it’s a great way to take a first step into a world of self-sufficiency.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. As always, comments and feedback are welcome and encouraged. Above all, if you want to give this a go and have any
questions, please post them here; if I don’t know the answers, I will find them for you.

Enjoy!

Ron
TasunkaWitko - Chinook, Montana

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BEAR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 October 2016 at 01:37
We now need a bagel recipe!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 October 2016 at 12:47
Soon!
TasunkaWitko - Chinook, Montana

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Wing master Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 October 2016 at 16:25
That looks good Ron.

I am kinda thinking cheese cake.

Wing master
I have always considered myself to be quite the bullshitter, But ocasionally it is nice to sit back and listen to a true professional......So, Carry on.
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