I insisted actress/writer/forensic psychologist, Dr. Cynthia Lea Clark, return immediately as my guest on Vegetarian Cooking For Carnivores after she told me about her mother’s homemade cream cheese. What a great concept: making your own cream cheese! I haven’t tried it myself yet, but when I do I’ll report back. Making things from scratch gives you the power over not only what goes into your food, but it also saves you money.
CYNTHIA’S MOM’S CREAM CHEESE – makes about 36 ounces
1 gallon skim milk, at room temperature
1/2 cup cultured buttermilk, at room temperature
1/2 tsp vegetable rennet (6-8 drops)
In a large non-metal flat container, combine all the ingredients and stir slowly for 1 minute. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit undisturbed at room temperature for 16-24 hours. The longer the mixture sits, the firmer the cream cheese will be. When the cheese is firm, line a large sieve with a tea towel, buttercloth, or several layers of cheesecloth, and pour in the cream cheese. Place the sieve over a container to catch the whey, making sure the container is deep enough that the bottom of the sieve isn’t resting in the whey. NOTE: save the whey to use in place of water in baking or making oatmeal. Let this drain in the refrigerator for 6-8 hours, until it’s the consistency you prefer. Then place in a covered container. This will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks. It can also be frozen. Frozen cream cheese loses some of its creaminess for spreading on bagels, but it works wonderfully in baking.
Of course, once you make the cream cheese, you have to use it, so I included a fabulous recipe for Apricot Bread that has cream cheese as an ingredient.
APRICOT BREAD – makes 2 loaves
3/4 cup butter, softened
8 ounces (1 cup) cream cheese, softened
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 15 oz cans apricot halves
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup walnuts, chopped & lightly toasted
Briefly drain the apricots in a sieve – you don’t want the apricots TOO drained. Then dump them into a food processor (or blender if you don’t have a food processor). Pulse a few times to puree them.
Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese, and sugar until fluffy. Add in the eggs and vanilla & beat to blend. Add in the apricots and beat to blend. Add in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and (say it with me): beat to blend. Stir in the walnuts. Pour the batter into 2 greased loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour. Test for doneness by pressing down on the top – if it springs back, it’s done. Let the pan sit on a rack or a cold stove for 20 minutes before removing onto a wire rack to completely cool.