how to make your own (gut-friendly!) cream cheese

Posted on March 27th, 2012

This could possibly go down as one of my favourite recipe shares ever. It involves one ingredient. It’s satisfyingly wholesome and River Cottage-y to make. It produces no wastage AND results in two invaluable edibles. And it’s super superfood-y and gut-goodish. I could go on… 

I’m talking about homemade cream cheese.

The stuff from the box is terrible. It’s extracted by placing milk under high pressure, and contains very little goodness. The homemade version is essentially the by-product from extracting whey from milk or yoghurt (I do it with yoghurt), with extra gut-guarding goodness from the lactic-acid bacterial processes involved. Aaaaand, it tastes immeasurably better and creamier. Note: different yoghurt brands may produce different amounts of curd and whey. Generally, a cup of yogurt will yield approximately 1/3 to 1/2 cup yogurt cheese and produce about 1/2 cup whey.

The cheese:

* spread it on biscuits and toast with a sprinkle of rock salt on top

* mix in some fresh herbs and oil, or pesto, to make a dip

* put a blob in an endive leaf and top with some smoked salmon or grilled sardines and chives

The whey:

Make sure you keep the stash of whey. Whey is great stuff and I’ll be writing about what you can do with it down the track. For now:

* store it in the freezer to use for fermenting your own saukerkraut and probiotics (as I say, more to come.)

* add a tablespoon to your smoothie in the morning. It’s full of minerals and will help digestion.

* use it when you soak your grains – a tablespoon or two in the water will help break down and neutralise most phytic acid and give the added benefit of providing the beneficial bacteria to begin pre-digesting the grain for you.

* use a dab of it on a pimple. Seriously works.

homemade cream cheese

  • one tub of plain, full-fat organic yoghurt (Make sure you buy a really good quality organic one – I found it simply doesn’t work too well with commercial brands)
  • a large nappy-sized square of cheesecloth or muslin. You can also use a clean chux. Or even a T-shirt*

 

Pour the whole tub of yoghurt onto the centre of the cheesecloth or muslin. I placed mine over a strainer, over a bowl.

Bunch the ends like you’re tying a sack (remove the strainer) and hang over a bowl. You’re going to be straining out the whey, leaving a beautifully creamy curd in the sack (that sounds wrong, somehow). I tied mine with an elastic band and then to a wooden spoon placed across a large bowl. Others have hung from a cupboard doorknob or a chandelier!

Drain for 12-24 hours, at room temperature. The longer, the thicker and drier it becomes. Sally Fallon suggests “four hours will produce a thick cream-like texture, six hours will result in a product closer to commercial sour cream, up to 12 hours produces an even firmer product and after 24 hours you can be sure almost all the whey has drained out”. Also, the cheese will continue to ferment if left out, creating a tarter product than if the fermentation is slowed in the fridge.

I used a thick set “Greek style” yoghurt which has generally undergone a whey straining process already, so it didn’t produce huge amounts of whey.

You can store the cream cheese in the fridge for up to a month. The whey can be kept for up to six months, or frozen.

* Sally Fallon provides a helpful a rundown of different whey straining techniques if you’re interested.

Possibly the easiest recipe to try…let me know how you go with it.

 

 

 

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  • http://www.Theveggiemama.com Veggie Mama

    Much nicer than the recipes that use rennet… which I avoid. Thank you!

    [Reply]

  • seeker

    Thanks Sarah,
    Yay! I was just googling how to make yoghurt actually, so I’ll make this too – I have a plan to try and make yoghurt from Cleopatras milk, so now Im thinking I’ll do that and then make this from that too! How “whole”some will that be?! But I think I have to use some yoghurt in the milk to use as a starter to make the yoghurt, darn it! Do you know of anything else I could use as a starter for making yoghurt without using bought yoghurt, and if not, what’s the best kind of yoghurt to buy – keffir or something?! Clueless but excited! If anyone can advise Id be delighted! Have a great day y’all! :)

    [Reply]

    samantha Reply:

    the best yoghurt is paris farm full fat natural. It has no milk solids (which means it hasn’t been heated. Barumba tastes much creamier but has milk solids. I still eat it anyway but Pars Farm is better for making whey). It’s pretty easy to make whey from Paris Farm yoghurt, just hang it until it stops dripping, I think last time I made it, it took about 5 hours? Maybe a bit longer. Easier than with Cleo as you have to let the milk separate first, so you have to wait an additional 3 days or so. Don’t buy store made keffir, it has a whole heap of ingredients that are not natural.

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    seeker Reply:

    hey thanks for that samantha! I’ll try with that one as well – I was going to try the Cleopatra’s milk yoghurt in the Thermomix, which makes it all a bit easier, apparently?!

    I was listening to Allison Siebecker on Sean’s blog radio (which I picked up from yesterday’s post), and she was saying that when making yoghurt it’s best to leave it to ferment for 20-24hours for optimum bacteria production.
    This will probably sound really unenlightened (cuz I am!!), but is the process of separating the curd from the whey the fermentation as well? I guess it is but I don’t want to assume anything, I’d like to have it for Wednesday!! To follow Allison’s advice, am I supposed to leave it draining for 24hrs, and unrefrigerated. I don’t want to poison anyone!!

    Another related question .. Sarah do you just buy muslin from somewhere like Spotlight – and then do you boil it first to clean it or anything? Do we need to worry about chemicals in the muslin?! Or is there a proper cheese cloth that can be purchased that doesn’t need any extra care? If anybody knows more about cheese cloths Id love to find the safest and best one! Perhaps I am over worrying?!

    Cant wait to make this cheese!

    Thanks again folks! :)

    [Reply]

    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah WilsonSarah Wilson Reply:

    Seeker, you can make the cream cheese with the raw milk as well…no need to do yoghurt first

    [Reply]

    seeker Reply:

    oh gosh i feel a bit silly now! yes of course!! i made it all a bit too mathematical & complicated for myself and then couldn’t understand my own process!
    Thanks for your patience with me!! :)
    xo

    [Reply]

  • Open minded

    This is essential Labneh. A middle eastern soft cheese made my straining yoghurt. Its can be used in sweet and savoury dishes and its yummy.

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  • Mona

    This was my first ‘recipe’ from Nourishing Traditions, bought after you talked about it a while back. I love it and use yoghurt from my (London) farmers’ market. I have tried it with cow’s milk and buffalo milk. It tastes much better made with cow’s milk!

    [Reply]

  • Kimberley

    Brilliantly simple recipe. Thanks for sharing Sarah. I managed to get some organic raw milk & cream on the weekend and am almost giddy with excitement with all the things I can make. This will be added to the list if my slow-cooker yoghurt turns out…

    [Reply]

  • Nicole

    Yum! I have been wanting to make this for ages. Currently buying it from my local lebanese pizzeria – the sell it in 500g tubs. It has a little salt added and is incredibly tasty!

    [Reply]

  • http://restrictingmykitchen.com Emma

    Totally combining this with the ‘how to make your own yoghurt’ recipe over at Stonesoup (so I can make my own lactose-free yoghurt), then will use it to make this! Yay, will finally be able to make my own lactose-free cream cheese! Cheesecake, I’m back, baby!

    [Reply]

    Aimee Reply:

    where is “like” button? I was thinking of combining it with Stonesoup’s recipe as well~

    [Reply]

  • Mel

    Silly question but where do you buy cheesecloth or muslin (guess somewhere like Spotlight??). Can it be washed and recycled or a throw away job? And agree ‘creamy curd in the sack’ sounds very wrong :)

    [Reply]

    Carrie Reply:

    I use my leftover organic muslin receiving blankets from my son. And yes I wash them, but I use Charlie’s laundry soap http://www.charliesoap.com/ and not sure if it’s available outside north America. And I made my own yogurt in my crock pot from here http://girlsguidetobutter.com/2010/02/crock-pot-yogurt/

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    Kirrilee Reply:

    I was just about to ask the same question! Is it best to buy this in material shops, or do natural food shops also sell it?

    [Reply]

    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah WilsonSarah Wilson Reply:

    yep, spotlight. or buy a bandage from a chemist.
    yep, wash and recycle.

    [Reply]

    Jane Reply:

    I didn’t have muslin and was dying to give it a try so used my oldest, thinnest tea towel and it worked a treat.

    [Reply]

    Jane Reply:

    Kitchenware shops sell muslin, sometimes in a 3m length, just chop into a square shape otherwise you will have too much fabric to strain the yoghurt through :)

    [Reply]

  • Christina

    this is also the same recipe to make labne…. roll it into balls and roll it in some yummy herbs or dukkah spices for “cheese balls”

    [Reply]

  • http://www.jayniesdump.wordpress.com Jaynie

    Creamy curd in the sack! tee hee ! great recipe :)

    [Reply]

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  • Naz

    Will definitely be trying this out, just recently did a cheese making class (ricotta and mozzarella) so have been wanting to make those at home as well.

    Looks like a weekend project :)

    [Reply]

  • seeker

    I’m on a roll now … does anyone know if you can make butter from milk? I know it’s usually made from cream, but if I was thinking if I used raw butter … in the thermomix which might make it easy? Love to hear from anyone who’s done this/knows about it ..
    Thanks a mill,
    :)

    [Reply]

    seeker Reply:

    orrrr … maybe cleopatra makes cream as well as milk?!!

    [Reply]

    seeker Reply:

    duurrr im getting too excited… that was meant to say if i used raw milk instead of ‘if i used raw butter’ – so if i used raw milk, there might be enough cream/fat to turn it into butter as opposed to the supermarket pasteurised milk … and i hope that makes sense now? otherwise i guess just buying a good organic pure cream would be the next best thing, i’d love to make my own raw butter though – unlawful perhaps, but better, non?!

    [Reply]

    eden Reply:

    You can make butter from cream. Just beat the cream as if you were whipping it, only you go past the whipped stage. Just keep beating until it turns into butter. Hey presto!

    I don’t think milk would work, though. Have to buy the cream of your choice.

    [Reply]

    seeker Reply:

    thanks eden, i bought some cream so i’ll give it a go today! :)

    [Reply]

  • Lou Lou

    Hi Sarah, this sounds much like the process for making labneh. Does it really taste like cream cheese or does it turn out a bit different (more like labneh)?
    Thankyou for sharing!!

    [Reply]

  • Susan

    I make it all the time, especially when I have friends over. I roll the cheese into golf ball size rounds and pile them into a jar. Add some crushed chilli, garlic and other spices such as fennel or black pepper and top the jar with olive oil. Great with crusty bread and you can use the left over oil to cook with!

    [Reply]

  • Kat

    Showing my ignorance a bit here perhaps, but how would this go for people (i.e. me) who are dairy intolerant?

    [Reply]

    Amber Reply:

    Hi Kat, it might depend whether you use yoghurt or milk (as described in the above comments) to make it and how intolerant you are (and what part of dairy you’re intolerant of!). If you’re lactose/casein intolerant and you use milk, I think that could be problematic, as you’re essentially concentrating the milk. If you use yoghurt (which usually contains little lactose because of the bacterial action) and can normally tolerate it, it should be OK.

    [Reply]

  • http://www.readme.net.au/blog Amber

    Great tip, this one! I find it’s also good for just thickening up watery yoghurts (if you minimise the straining time).
    Sarah, is there any reason why you do the draining at room temperature? Is it to get the cultures going again? I’ve always just done this in the fridge in the past… am a little wary of leaving dairy out in Brisbane temperatures.

    [Reply]

  • Aimee

    My Mom has given me a similar recipe and calls it “yoghurt cheese”. Does anyone know if this (cream cheese recipe) is the same process and/or thing?

    [Reply]

    Emma Galloway Reply:

    totally the same thing, also know as labneh and insanely beautiful.

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  • http://www.cassandrallen.blogspot.com Cassandra

    I rolled mine into little balls with herbs and stored in a jar of olive oil in the fridge. Didn’t last long though, too yum!

    [Reply]

  • Emily

    I can’t wait to try this! My favourite yoghurt is Meredith Dairy sheeps milk yoghurt which I think would be perfect for this recipe as the only ingredients are milk and cultures.
    I second the question whether it’s necessary to do it at room temperature too?

    [Reply]

    seeker Reply:

    hi emily,
    I’m not sure but i thought it needs to be at room temperature and even a little bit warm for the bacteria to grow & multiply – if its in the fridge, perhaps the cold inhibits their growth. i sure hope I’m right as I’ve had mine out all night and will only drain it tonight (going for a 24hr fermentation) – i even kept it warm in a rice cooker for a while and then switched it off.
    i also got help here http://youtu.be/SM3h-tFsg4U as i was using a thermomix

    yes, i am a little nervous about poisoning myself but i won’t know til i try it!!
    will report back, if i’m still here!!
    :)

    [Reply]

    seeker Reply:

    the help site moved – sorry it’s now here: http://www.superkitchenmachine.com/2009/2883/how-to-make-yogurt-thermomix.html

    [Reply]

    seeker Reply:

    ps. Im still alive and that was possibly the best thing Ive ever made – & I cook lots!! Creamiest cheese ever, easy to make and tastes superb! Sarah, you are a gem! Thank you! :)

    [Reply]

  • Katherine Boicos

    After having made this cream cheese, use it to make a beautifully perfumed spiced middle eastern dessert called sikarni, i obtained this from “Good Chef Bad Chef” :

    i imagine this would be a very healthy and satisfying alternative to ice cream whilst still hitting the palate when it comes to a refreshing and creamy dessert.

    ingredients:
    3 cups of drained greek yoghurt “cream cheese” (calls for 12 hours overnight to drain)
    ¼ cup Natvia (honey optional to taste)
    Pinch of cinnamon
    Pinch of black pepper
    ½ tsp cardamom
    ¼ tsp nutmeg
    ½ ts saffron (optional)
    1 cup pistachios, raw and unsalted

    Place the “cream cheese” into a mixing bowl. Dissolve saffron in a little luke warm water. To the yogurt mixture add Natvia, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom, nutmeg, dissolved saffron, and half the pistachio nuts, chopped. Fold through thoroughly. Chill overnight in refrigerator.

    To serve, scoop a cup of chilled dessert into a serving plate, topped with a generous amount of unsalted, shelled, whole pistachio nuts.

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  • http://eatingplansforweightloss.info jan

    This sounds delicious will definitely try it out.

    [Reply]

    Katherine Boicos Reply:

    probably a little touch of rosewater through the mix, and some little mint leaves over the top to finish would add another lovely middle eastern flavour element. :-)

    [Reply]

  • Sylvia

    So cool. I used to make this all the time, and was just wondering yesterday why I ever stopped. Then I received your “Sweeter Life. On a Friday” email and there it was!
    The universe is definitely telling me something!

    [Reply]

  • Sunny

    In lebanon and throught the middle east we call this Labne! So delcious an d more-ish.

    [Reply]

  • julie

    I’ve been checking out the yogurt makers in safeways (or coles) are these OK? Is the powder that you buy to put in Healthy? It seems ok with no additives. Has any one tried it?

    [Reply]

    Lea Reply:

    Hi Julie,
    I have used that yogurt maker before, it has that tang that real yogurt does, but I stopped using it as I was concerned that it starts as a powder. i did find another website from up the Sunshine Coast that have cheese and yogurt making kits. It looks more old fashioned, but still starts from a powder for yogurt. If I can remember what it’s called it reply it to you.
    I would love to know how to make it from scratch also!

    [Reply]

  • Marie

    My 11 year old daughter and I followed your cream cheese making instructions and we are totally hooked. It was such an urban adventure for us. We used Paris Creek yoghurt. My mother came from post war Europe and I remember her doing this exact same thing. She would open the oven door all the way and tie the muslin to the oven door handle over a bowl. So nice to be reminded of this and to do it with my daughter. She took it to school for her recess with some blueberries. Thank you. What you do matters.

    [Reply]

  • http://www.xx.com Pip

    If you haven’t made this recipe yet – give it a go! I once tried a fancy labnah recipe that used buttermilk and yogurt but this is much nicer. I was worried about it being left out of the refrigerator for 24 hours but all worked perfectly! Much nicer than any cream cheese/labneh I have ever had before. Total convert. You pretty much rock my socks Sarah!

    [Reply]

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  • Sue

    I make all my lactose free and non dairy yoghurts using 30g of glucose powder (Lotus brand) per 1 litre of long life (UHT) lactose free milk or coconut cream (Kara brand). I use an electric yoghurt maker (Easy Yoghurt, which holds just over 1 litre). I warm the liquid of choice in the microwave for about 90 secs and then stir in the glucose powder and the starter culture. For the first batch of each, I used a commercial, dairy free culture which I obtained fromGreen Living Australia (http://www.greenlivingaustralia.com.au/yoghurt_culture_soy.html). Subsequently I store about 100 mls of each batch in the freezer to use in the next one.
    The coconut cream yoghurt is so thick that you can stand a spoon up in it, and only produced 200ml of whey when I drained it to make cream cheese. I make yoghurt from both full cream and skim lactose free milk, but if you want to make cream cheese, it is better to use the full cream one. Even so, I ended up with 600ml of whey after draining my last batch, but it is delicious and great for making cheese cakes or just as a spread with some salt and fresh or dried herbs folded into it.
    I imagine both of them would also make excellent fruit cheeses with the addition of nuts and dried fruit.

    [Reply]

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  • http://mymezzaluna.com Edwina

    Hi Sarah, I am wondering what this will do to those of us with leaky gut. I have a feeling it should be good, even though we have to avoid dairy. Your take on this?

    [Reply]

  • Kim

    Can’t wait to try this cream cheese ….. looks delicous

    [Reply]

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  • Mez

    Hey Sarah I was checking out your page last week and saw a link to another clean eating book (not the mag). Think the lady’s name was Lee or Leanne. Can you help me?

    Cheers

    Mez

    [Reply]

  • Kelly

    This is NOT cream cheese! This is yogurt cheese, also known as farmer’s cheese. Cream cheese cannot be made without rennet.

    [Reply]

  • Maria Crystal-Paige

    Hi Sarah,
    Hope this finds you well….just to say
    Thanx for your v. generous & inspiring website…came across it as I’m focusing on a hi alkaline diet for health & well-being. I appreciate you sharing all your knowlege & ideas & the wonderful recipies you create. Can’t wait to make the cheesecake!
    Have you thought of substituting the Phillidephia cream cheese with your own delicious looking cream cheese? .. am going to try it myself..will let you know how it goes.
    Best Wishes for 2013

    [Reply]

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  • Jodi

    Why use store bought yogurt when you can make your very own right from the start (with a bit of left over yogurt)
    http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2013/01/homemade-yogurt
    It’s so creamy and delicious!! And no additives. Just milk and a bit of yogurt to “start”.

    [Reply]

  • Cheryl Metcalfe

    Sarah, can I use the whey for making my coconut yogurt, at the moment I use 2 probiotic capsules

    [Reply]