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.
* 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
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.