February 14, 2011

Making cream cheese

The other day I tried making something I never even thought was an option: making cream cheese!!! And, let me tell you, it was beyond a success...it was incredible! I will definitely be making this from now on. It's super simple, super delicious, MUCH more nutritious than store-bought cream cheese, AND slightly more inexpensive. It has a bit of a sharper flavour (which I actually prefer) - it actually tastes like cheese (go figure). You should really give it a try.

This cheese is made with any plain yogurt you can buy at the store. As you know, good quality yogurt is packed full of probiotics which help maintain your immune system. The great part about making cheese from yogurt is that you keep all these probiotics IN the cheese. Store-bought cream cheese has very little (if any) probiotics, because of the pasteurization process. Yogurt is pasteurized as well, but the process is different and the beneficial bacteria have been allowed to survive.

Yogurt Cream Cheese

You'll need:

- plain yogurt (I used balkan style, 6% plain yogurt, $3)
- cheese cloth
- mason jar
- bowl
- string

 Step One:
Dump the entire container of plain yogurt into 4 layers of cheese cloth in a bowl.

 Step Two:
Tie a string securely around the cheese cloth to make a "ball" of yogurt.  Leave the string long enough so you can hang it from something.
 Step Three:
Hang the bag of yogurt to drain.  It's easiest to do this at night just before you go to bed, and in the morning your batch of cream cheese will be ready!
 Step Four:
Let the whey (the liquid) drain off the yogurt for around 8 hours.  Yogurt is still safe to eat if left out overnight.  If anything, it will only increase the good bacteria count, which is a wonderful thing!
 Step Five:
After the 8 hours, you will notice the bag of yogurt has stopped dripping and it has decreased in size by about half.  At this point you can gently squeeze out any excess liquid and feel to make sure it is at the firmness you want.

Step Six:
Untie the cheese cloth and scrape the cheese into an airtight container you can keep in your fridge.  It's ready for eating!

You will be left with more than a cup of cream cheese and alot of whey.  Whatever you do, don't get rid of the whey, that can be used too!  In fact, it's also full of beneficial bacteria and nutrients!

What you can use the whey for:

- add it to raw smoothies to bump up the nutrient value
- drink it straight (it tastes like yogurt water)
- add a part of it to your water when cooking rice or other grains*
- use it when soaking grains, seeds and vegetables to help them become more digestible
- feed it to your pets
- add it to your bath water
- use it in recipes in place of water or milk*

* It is better if you can avoid heating it because the good bacteria will die off at high temperatures, defeating the purpose of using the whey.

See?  That was pretty easy, wasn't it?

Happy cheese-making!

Oh...and...the great thing about this is that you can try adding different seasonings into the cheese to suit your taste!

- a bit of sea salt
- honey and cinnamon
- dried dill 
- get creative!

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