Do you feel seriously indulgent if you eat cream cheese? Especially sweetened, laden on a cake or made into a dessert! Well, you needn't when it's cream cheese (otherwise known as yogurt cheese, curd or labne) dripped from homemade 24 hour yogurt. You might be surprised to hear, cream cheese is actually easy to make at home. No special equipment is required! And it has one ingredient, homemade yogurt.
Like many traditional food preparation techniques, cream cheese takes some forward planning. It requires a minimum 6-8 hours to drip. Overnight is perfect. When the water content (whey) is dripped out of yogurt you are left with cultured, creamy, white, delicious cheese. If you want a soft, spreadable consistency, keep the drip at the shorter end. The longer you leave it the drier it becomes. After 24 hours the cheese will be quite crumbly. Creamy, spreadable or crumbly, it is brimming with health-giving probiotic goodness.
Any plain Greek yogurt can be dripped! However making cream cheese from homemade yogurt is a ‘show-off’ treat that exceeds any store bought variety. No, supermarket cream cheese will have probiotic goodness that matches the homemade kind. It’s sure to impress your taste buds, your gut and friends alike. You might also like to try this traditional Middle Eastern goat milk labneh.
There are many uses for whey in a healing kitchen, so don’t throw it out. Pour it into a jar and store in the fridge.
There are many ways to strain yogurt and you may need to get creative with your set up. In hot weather, it is best to let the yogurt strain in the fridge.
1. Spread your cloth on a clean surface or over a dinner plate (to catch the escaping whey) and spoon the yogurt onto the centre of the cloth.
2. Draw up the four corners of the cloth and gently scrunch together to form a pouch. Whey may begin to drip through immediately. Do not squeeze as this blocks the cloth and slows down the natural separation and drip process.
3. Use a rubber band to tie the cloth approx. 8 cm above the yogurt line.
4. Push the wooden spoon through the rubber band knot and place it across the jug like a rafter, allowing the yogurt pouch to hang down from it inside the jug. Make sure the bundle isn’t hanging down to far – you want it clear of the whey that will collect at the bottom.
5. When it has stopped dripping you can unravel your bundle and place the cheese in an airtight container in the fridge. It’s ready to eat as is or it can be transformed into some other culinary fancy. The possibilities are endless.
In the refrigerator cream cheese keeps for about 1 month and whey for up to 6 months.
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Or purchase our comprehensive Yogurt Handbookfor loads more recipes.