Jun. 2012 25

Creole Cream Cheese

Over at nolacuisine.com there is a great recipe for Creole Cream Cheese.  This looks quite similar to Quark and has some smart suggestions for the home chef about how to add a culture to the mix if you do not have a professional bulk set or direct set culture to work with. Essentially the recipes suggest using some buttermilk or yogurt to provide the culture.   The types of bacteria in each are slightly different from each other but either should provide a good soft cheese.  You may want to scrutinize the label of the yogurt or buttermilk to assure that the product contains active cultures.  It is also always a good idea to use fresh ingredients rather than that old yogurt from a couple of months ago hiding far back in the fridge.  😉

Homogenized Milk

There also is a comment made about whether homogenized milk will work.   Yes it will.   The point is not particularly relevant for this recipe because it calls for skim milk which has nearly no fat anyway.  Homogenization’s purpose is to reduce the diameter of fat globules so that they remain in suspension rather than rising to the top and forming a cream line.  I suspect this recipe will work well with whole milk as well as reduced fat milks.

The really important thing to look for is milk that has good “undamaged” milk proteins.  There are a number of processes that can damage milk proteins: old milk, freezing, dried milk and high or ultra high temperature pasteurization.  Any of these issues will cause problems getting a good set to the milk.  When milk proteins are fresh and undamaged, they have the ability to bond together to thicken and form a smooth custard-like texture.  Damaged proteins may create a curd that is grainy or runny.  You may be able to make cheese from these types of milk, but results will be a lot better with fresh milk that is either unpasteurized or pasteurized with a low-temperature technique.   Both of these are a bit harder to find and are unlikely to be at a large supermarket.  You can find many sources for great raw milk here: http://www.realmilk.com/


There was a question about whether this could substitute in recipes, such as cheesecake, for store-bought cream cheese.  Generally yes, but you may need to reduce the amount of additional liquids, as store-bought cream cheese is typically pressed to remove some more of the whey, where this recipe uses simple draining to remove some of the whey.  This recipe will result in a wetter product.


The precise amount of rennet needed for soft cheeses is a little loose especially because the strength of a rennet batch can vary and there are double strength and quadruple strength rennets.   I would suggest roughly 1 milliliter of single strength calf rennet for each gallon of milk.  You may find that you can use a little less but 1 ml per gallon is a good starting point.  I use one of those little plastic doodads from the drug store that are used to measure children’s liquid medications.  They are measured in milliliters and are reasonably priced.  It is a good idea to disperse the rennet in about a quarter cup of water just before adding the water and rennet to the milk because the rennet is pretty concentrated and starts working very quickly.  Rennet does not like alkalinity and tap water is often a little alkaline.  If the rennet sits in tap water that is alkaline for several minutes, the rennet will lose some of its potential to firm up the curds.  If you can use distilled water instead of tap water that will help.  If not, simply mix the rennet into the water immediately before putting the rennet-water mix into the milk.  That way the rennet is not exposed to the alkaline in the water long and the natural buffering ability of the milk will neutralize the alkaline water. The extra water just drains out with the whey which is mostly water also.

I use liquid rennet because it is easy to adjust the recipe to varying amounts of milk.   A small container of liquid rennet shold last a long time in a refrigerator (several months).  Given that 1 milliliter will dose a gallon of milk, a small 3 ounce bottle will last a long time for most people.  There are forms of rennet that come from vegetable or microorganism sources that will meet the needs of vegetarians and these are also normalized to meet the terms “single strength” and so on.  These are less suitable for cheeses that are to be aged for long periods because they generally result in some bitter flavors, but they may be fine for fresh cheeses like cream cheese.

Two Critical Factors in Cheesemaking

Time and temperature are critical issues to control for consistent results with cheese making.  If you vary the time or temperature much you will create a different product.  If you wait too long after putting in the rennet, the curd will be much firmer.  Strangely this results in a softer cheese in the end because you will have problems draining much whey from this firm curd.  Conversely if you wait a shorter time and have a much softer curd, you will be able to drain a lot more whey from it, resulting in a firmer cheese.   This may have been the cause of the putty-like cheese one commenter mentioned.

The rate of temperature drop after you heat the milk and put in the culture will have a large effect on the resulting cheese.  Most good bacteria flourish between 70 degrees F and 110 degrees F with the best growth somewhere between those extremes. .  If you heat the milk to 110 degrees and then let it come down to room temperature several things will bear on the rate of change.  If the room temperature is low, as in winter, the cultured milk will rapidly cool.  If the pan is sitting on a metal surface then the temperature will rapidly cool.  If air is flowing briskly by the pan the temperature will rapidly cool.  I would consider putting in the culture when the temperature reaches 70 degrees on the way up, and raise the temperature only to about 105 degrees (the pan will be warmer than the milk and continue to provide some heat).  Then I would set the pot on a hot pot holder and put a blanket or large towel around the pot to hold the warmth in.


There was a question about whether real milk left over from making butter could be used as the source of culture.  In this case the answer is a definite maybe.  You can make butter or you can make cultured butter.  If you make cultured butter then the answer is YES.  The byproduct of cultured butter is cultured buttermilk.  If you just put cream in a churn and try to use the resulting milk the answer is NO.  The byproduct of making butter from fresh cream is essentially skim milk.  The point here is to get a good source of beneficial bacteria, which fresh cultured buttermilk and fresh yogurt both have.  Simple milk or cream that has not been cultured will not have much of the good bacteria you want.  You can also buy good direct set cultures as well as rennets online at cheese suppliers such as New England Cheesemaking and Dairy Connection.  Professional cultures like this cost a little more but deliver more consistent results.  However I have made cheese using yogurt as the starter culture many times with good results.   For fun I once made a bottle of clabbered milk by adding some yogurt and aging it at room temperature for a day, and I then used that as a starter to make a couple of hard cheeses.   I do not recommend that as a usual practice as the results can be highly variable.  It was just an odd experiment that happened to work ok that time.

Happy Cheesemaking!!!

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