Did you know you can make your own cream cheese? It’s true! You can have easy homemade cream cheese in just 30 minutes!
I like a lot of things about our new-ish home in the Bay Area. Pretty perfect weather, unmatched natural beauty, access to some of the best local wine and produce around (we have orange and lemon trees in our yard!)
But right now, I am especially happy we are not dealing with the cream cheese shortage the East Coast is having! You may have the best bagels, but what is that without schmear? A cruel twist of fate, that’s what. I mean I love
bacon, egg and cheese on an everything bagel as much as the next hungover person, but come on.
Luckily, cream cheese is easier to make than you think. There are different ways to do it, and this may not be the most authentic option, but it is quick. And I know when you need schmear, you need schmear! Have no fear, you do not have to wait for schmear (sorry about that.)
What is Cream Cheese?
But let’s back up a little. What is cream cheese anyway? Cream cheese is a mild, soft, spreadable, slightly tangy cheese made from cow’s milk or cream or a combo. It’s perfect on a bagel, but also great in desserts (hello cheesecake), or dips or in sauces.
Who Invented Cream Cheese?
You may be surprised to learn cream cheese was not invented by a Jew. I’ll allow some time for you to process this. Cream cheese is a derivation of the French cheese Neufchatel. A farmer in the 1870’s in upstate New York (not Philadelphia!) named William Lawrence partnered with a grocer to make a richer version of the French cheese. Eventually a cheese broker (a real thing) named Alvah Reynolds reached out to Lawrence to package the cheese under the name Philadelphia Cream Cheese because Philly was know as THE city for cheese. Smart marketing.
As cream cheese becomes more popular, Breakstone’s enters the schmear game in the 1920’s and soon they were paired with the bagels and lox we know and love today.
How Do You Make Cream Cheese?
Ah yes, the reason we are all here. All you need is full fat milk or cream or a combination. Bring it to a simmer and add acid such as lemon juice. This causes the milk to curdle, which is what we want! Strain the curds with cheesecloth and let the whey (that’s the liquid) drain for 15 minutes. They process the curds in a food processor until smooth. Add salt to taste and it’s schmear time!
How Do You Make Flavored Cream Cheese?
I’m glad you asked! I have a whole post on how to make flavored cream cheese here.
Homemade Cream Cheese
- 2 cups full-fat milk
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- Salt to taste
- Set aside a large heat-proof bowl with a cheesecloth-lined strainer ready for straining.
- In a large heavy-bottomed sauce plan, bring the milk and the cream to a simmer (not a boil) stirring constantly. Make sure to use full-fat milk here or it won't curdle. You can also use all milk.
- Reduce the heat to medium and gradually add the lemon juice while stirring until the curds separate from the liquid like magic!
- Pour the mixture through the cheesecloth and let drain for 15 minutes.
- Process the curds in a food processor for a few minutes until smooth, adding a little of the whey liquid or cream if it's too thick. Season with salt to taste or add the flavors of your choice! You can use it right away or refrigerate until ready to serve- the cream cheese will thicker in the refrigerator. The cream cheese will keep refrigerated for 7-10 days.