Don’t tell Philadelphia that we’re making Cream Cheese

This is my 3rd, cheese-related post of the series. Unlike its predecessors, unlike almost all of my prior blog entries, there is no side story, no anecdote, to tell. Yes, Mom sometimes served us cream cheese but don’t all Moms do the same? Although it’s true I’ve made this cream cheese for Zia, it’s hard to build a story around her saying, “I like it.” Looking beyond the 2 Bartolini Girls, there just aren’t any cream cheese yarns to report coming from the old two-flat. Moving more to the Present, in all of my sleepless nights, cream cheese never played even the smallest of bit parts. To be honest, I don’t even recall a single instance where I snacked on cream cheese in the wee hours of the morning. Most shockingly — and, for once, disappointingly — Max has never done anything to disrupt or despoil my cream cheese operation nor its end-product. And Lucy doesn’t speak cheese, so, she is of no help whatsoever. As a result, I’ve got nothing. Nada. Butkis. So, then, how did I come to make cream cheese? One day about 2 year ago, while looking at the Fankenhauser Cheese Page, I clicked on the words Cream Cheese. Within days, the Bartolini kitchens were making cream cheese. Hardly the quaint tale of a bygone time that you’ve come to expect, now is it?

So, with no story to tell, I’ll get right to the business at hand. The ingredient list mentions that salt is optional but strongly recommended. I would definitely add salt should you decide to make this cheese. Not only will it prolong the cheese’s shelf-life, but it tastes so much better. Believe me, a salt-free cream cheese is one, extremely bland cheese. Beyond the salt issue, there’s but one thing more worthy of mentioning. While I was away, guest hosting for Jed at sports-glutton.com, I happened upon his post dedicated to the fine art of making NYC-style bagels. Thanks to Jed and that post, the Bartolini kitchens actually baked all the bagels pictured within this post.

By the way, home-made mascarpone is next on the cheesy schedule and, like today, I’ve got nothing.

Before attempting to make this cheese or any within my recipe collection, please refer to my Cheesy Stuff page. Chock full of cheesy details, it provides information about ingredients, cleaning/sterilizing equipment, spices & seasonings, a few tips, and sources for supplies and information.

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Home-Made Cream Cheese Recipe

yield: 2 pounds

Ingredients

  • 1 quart whole milk – never ultra-pasteurized
  • 1 quart whipping cream – never ultra-pasteurized
  • 1/4 cup cultured buttermilk – no substitutes
  • 1/2 tablet Rennet dissolved in 1/4 cup distilled water
  • 1 to 2 tsp table salt, more or less to taste – optional but strongly recommended

Directions

  1. Place the milk and cream into a clean, sterile pot with a lid and heat over low to med-low heat until it reaches 70˚ . Stir frequently.
  2. Add buttermilk, mix thoroughly, cover, and set aside for 15 minutes.
  3. Add rennet, stir, set aside for at least 8 hours, or overnight, at a room temperature from 70 to 75˚.
  4. If properly prepared, the mixture should have gelled after waiting the specified time. Sprinkle the salt over the top of the gelled mixture. Briefly use a whisk to gently stir the mixture, creating pea-sized curds.
  5. Cover a large strainer with a clean, sterile handkerchief.
  6. Gently pour the curds into the handkerchief and let drain for 30 minutes.
  7. Grab the handkerchief’s 4 corners, tie them, and use them to hang like a sack over the sink or a large pot. If your kitchen is exceptionally warm, place everything into the fridge to drain.
  8. Drain until the cream cheese is the consistency you prefer. To hurry the process, carefully twist the “sack” to force the whey out of the cheese.
  9. Place cheese into container(s) and refrigerate. The cream cheese will remain fresh for about 1 week, less if unsalted.

*     *     *

Notes

Because of its relatively short shelf-life, I rarely mix other ingredients into my cream cheese unless it will be used up entirely within a day. To do otherwise, I feel, opens the door to contaminating the cheese because of a slightly over-ripe berry or piece of fruit.

I’ve tried cooking with this cream cheese and it “broke,” liquified, both times. I have used it successfully, however, in a variety of refrigerated cheesecakes and spreads.

*     *     *

Adapted from Emeril’s Homemade Creole Cream Cheese

and

     the Fankhauser Making Cream Cheese webpage.

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105 thoughts on “Don’t tell Philadelphia that we’re making Cream Cheese

    • Thanks, Roger. My experience with making these cheeses is far too short to have many yarns to relate. That’s OK. In this case, the cream cheese itself is very good and that’s all that really matters.

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  1. Well I am glad you didn’t let a little thing like a lack of back story stop you from posting this. The cheese sounds and looks delicious- and on home made bagels, too! Neither of these things are available here in Turkey, so I’m tempted to try my hand as well.

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    • Thank you. The cheese recipes I’ve shared aren’t that complicated nor hard to follow. If they were, I wouldn’t attempt to make them. Although this particular cheese may not be available in Turkey, I bet there’s a similar cheese (neufchâtel is very similar) that’s made in your area. I hope you find one or try to make it. You will not be disappointed.

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  2. i think the lack of story made a good story! Lovely recipe and as soon as I can get hold of rennet in non industrial quantities (in London in 10 days hopefully!) I will give your version a try. Here you buy it in the chemist and the instructions start something like “add a pinch to 50 litres of milk” 😉 I think it´s sold for the goatherds to use up their milk 😦

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    • Thanks, Tanya, but wait a minute! You’re returning to London for a visit? That’s great and I’m so happy for you! If I could send you some rennet, I would but I fear that it would never clear Customs. I thought I had problems when I’ve had to convert a recipe that calls for 5 gallons (18 litres) of cow’s milk. What would I do with all of that cheese? But 50 litres? No way! You’ll be happy to know that our next cheese will be mascarpone and it doesn’t require any rennet at all. 🙂

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    • You’re more than welcome! Still you really should try to make butter. It is the easiest thing in the world to do. Seriously. After you do it and taste the results, I’m sure you’ll make some again and again. It’s really that easy. In fact, none of the cheeses that I’m blogging are hard to make. Make some butter and then make some ricotta. You’ll be hooked, for sure.

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  3. We were just talking about trying to make bagel with sprouted wheat the other day. Our daughter’s favorite is Parmesan cheese–the aroma of one of those in the toaster just about do me in. You have inspired me (with Jed’s recipe) to make my own. 🙂

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    • It was a dreary Saturday, Judy, when I decided to give Jed’s recipe a try. It’s a mighty stiff dough to work with but the bagels are the best I’ve ever eaten. That Sunday morning I feasted on freshly made cream cheese and toasted bagels. Incredibly good!

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  4. I honestly never thought anyone could make homemade cheese before! You are certainly changing my mind about that! Sounds like a process, I got a bit tired around Step 3, but I guess that’s when you go to bed and start again the next day 🙂 You’re amazing John and homemade bagels too! I’ve made bagels so I know there’s plenty of steps in those too. You’ve been a busy guy lately. But the end result I’m sure tastes so fresh and delicious!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • C’mon now, Linda. You prepare things that are far more complicated than this cheese. In fact, the bagels gave me more problems than did making the cream cheese. Perhaps I can tempt you with next month’s mascarpone recipe? All you need is a little cream, a little half and half, and a bit of lemon juice. Better still, make some ricotta. You will love it and it, too, is an easy process. Come into the cheesy light, Linda! 🙂

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  5. Now you’ve done it! I haven’t had my breakfast this morning and I don’t want anything… except your bagels and this cream cheese! And I don’t have time to make it myself… Fantastic (even without a “back story”) post today, John! I’m looking forward to your mascarpone (had to look up that spelling) recipe as well, I think I know a few recipes where that will come in handy. But in the meantime… oh, how I would love a little spoonful of this to go with my toast and jam this morning…

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    • I must admit, Smidge, the bagels were a last minute decision. The weather was lousy that Saturday and I had a batch of cream cheese draining. I’m so glad I did! That Sunday’s breakfast was just too good! I’ve never tasted a bagel as good as each of those were. Well worth the effort.

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  6. I’ve never tasted homemade cream cheese, but can imagine it must be so much better than some of the gelatinous cream cheeses I have tasted. And on homemade bagels, too? Wow! Cannot wait for the mascarpone lesson…that might be the tipping point for me in making some homemade cheese…love that stuff!

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    • I’m telling you and others, Betsy, just try to make one of them — the ricotta is a very good starter recipe — and you’ll be amazed, both by how easy it is to make and how good it tastes. The ricotta got me started and it’s great!

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  7. Cheese is still on ‘the list’ of must makes…but I’m not sure where I would buy unpasteurized milk in Toronto. It seems that the Government kills the supply whenever it pops up. It’s so bad, that people buy Cows or shares of a cow so that they can have raw milk. Can you use any other type of milk?

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    • Here in Illinois, all milk must be pasteurized, too. You can use pasteurized milk, Eva, just not ultra-pasteurized. The latter is processed at a higher temperature and it changes the dairy product making it harder to form curds. If you can find regularly pasteurized milk, from a local dairy — not milk that’s been shipped across the country — you’ll do fine. Although I use a couple local dairies, I’ve also had good results with Whole Foods’ dairy, too. I hope this helps.

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  8. Both your bagels and homemade cream cheese look divine. Sometimes, certain recipes just don’t lend themselves to a story. I had writer’s block with my s’mores cookies. No story, no interesting tidbit, nothin’. I am so impressed you went whole hog and made both the cream cheese AND the bagels. You are very industrious.

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    • Thank you, Geni. I’ve not been making cheese long enough to have any back stories and no one in my family has ever attempted this. (Well, Zia now makes all her own ricotta using the recipe I posted. It’s that good!) And, really, the important point I’m trying to make is that cheese making is easier than many believe. Sure, the hard. aged cheeses are much more involved — and I’m avoiding them completely. The cheese recipes I’m sharing are all very doable for just about anyone.
      BTW, your s’more cookie recipe is something else!

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  9. I WILL try this! It sounds wonderful. And I have a bagel recipe I’ve been saying I’d like to try for over a year, so you’ve now given me the necessary inspiration. I will really look forward to the mascarpone, one of my favorites! I love your “visitor” map and all the flags, too! What a cool representation of your readership. 🙂 Debra

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    • The bagels were an impulse but I’m glad i made them. Be aware that it is probably the stiffest dough you’ll ever work with. But, no kidding, these were the best bagels I’ve ever eaten! This cream cheese recipe, just like the ricotta and goat cheese recipes, is quite simple. Mascarpone is, too, and none will give you any problems. As for the map, it’s a new addition. If you’re interested, just click on my map and you’ll go to the website. You can generate a map like mine and/or a counter like that on the side of my posts. I’m more than willing to help if you need it. Drop me an email and we’ll have it on your webpages in minutes. It’s that simple!

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  10. John? I don’t know what happened to the comment I left here earlier today? I see that you read it but it’s not showing up. Anyway, I won’t repeat myself but just say I’m adding this to the list of Cheese-maker John’s recipes I must try! (And thanks for suggestions on where to buy the rennet.) Heading out of town but anxious to get started one day soon!

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  11. How do you stir frequently if the lid is on the pot? lol…I always chuckle about that when I read this in a recipe. Yet another entry I have personally been afforded the taste tester title on…so yummy with the homemade strawberry and grape jams.

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  12. I’m just fascinated that you make cheese! I think the whole process scares me a bit – similar to making any kind of preserve. But I can just imagine how fabulous it would taste. And very nicely done on the bagels as well! 🙂

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    • Kristy, the bagels were far more difficult to make than any of the cheeses. The bagels are well worth the effort but that is the stiffest dough you’ll ever work with. However, put the two together and it is a wonderful dining experience. I was in heaven and, yes, I’ll do it again. And, as I’ve said to you before, try the ricotta recipe. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is and how good the ricotta is. You’ll be hooked like I am.

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  13. Cream cheese and bagels! That’s a great picture with the salmon and strawberries too 😉
    I love going into Bagel Bake in the East End of London (traditionally the Jewish Quarter) and watching them poach hundreds of bagels, before baking them.

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    • Thanks, MD. Bagel Bake looks like quite the place. I live near a Jewish section of town and need to get over there and do some exploring. Jed’s recipe has spoiled me and I’ve not bought one since. Short of baking them myself, my best shot at a good bagel has to be from one of the bakeries over there. Fingers crossed!

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  14. Kudos to you my friend for making bagels, not an easy task to undertake. Many thanks for the shout out and for provide Liz and I with a cream cheese recipe for the next time we make bagels. My brain is already working on variations to experiment with. 🙂

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    • Thank you for the recipe! I have to admit that I swore never to make another bagel more than a few times while kneading that dough. I couldn’t see how anything edible could possible result. It just didn’t seem to be going as planned, or like the recipe said it should. I pressed on, however, boiling and baking them as directed. Well, tasting that first bagel still warm from the oven won me over! That night I ordered the dry malt from W-S and now, whenever I make more cream cheese, I’ll be making bagels, too.

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  15. I love cream cheese!! And I love all the cheeses you’re making, even if they don’t have a story behind them 🙂 Looks like your bagels and cream cheese came out wonderfully. Keep up the yummy cheese making! 🙂 I look forward to your mascarpone post

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    • Thanks, Stefanie! Making cream cheese is far easier than making bagels but were those bagels ever good! They are definitely worth the effort and loved them with freshly made cream cheese. That was some Sunday morning breakfast!

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  16. You lucky duck…homemade cream cheese AND bagels?! Yummy. My wheels are turning but I think if I tried to make it with goat’s milk it would just be another goaty cheese. 😦 So for now, I’ll have to live vicariously through you. Ha!

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    • Thank you for commenting. I realize this isn’t exactly your cup of tea, to put it mildly. More to your liking, however, I’ve got a recipe for feta that uses either goat’s or cow’s milk. I’ll try making it with goat’s milk and see how it turns out. If it works, I’ll post it sometime after mascarpone. Stay tuned … 🙂

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      • Well, the majority of blogs I follow are not gluten-free. I still very much enjoy seeing what everyone is making and eating! Many of the recipes I post are regular recipes that I have converted to allergen free recipes. I love you blog! I look forward to the feta AND the mascarpone. 🙂

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        • And I love your blog, too. If anyone plans on entertaining, you must have at least a few gluten & dairy-free recipes on-hand, just in case. Your blog is the perfect resource for such an occasion.

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  17. Philly doesn’t stand a chance. I KNOW your cream cheese has superior texture and taste.
    And homemade bagels? Your cheese on those must have been a perfect match.
    I honestly doubt I am going to make this anytime soon but I like knowing how and I look forward to your next cheesy installment.

    Like

    • Thank you, Ruth, for your vote of support! This is a cheese post but I keep going back to those bagels. They really were that good! With your schedule, you needn’t worry about making any kind of cheese. You haven’t the time. You should think about making pasta! 🙂

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  18. To me, cream cheese is a building block. The first thing I liked about it was cheesecake. The next thing was cream cheese frosting. And then I tried sundried tomato schmear made with basil and cayenne, plus the soaking liquid from the tomatoes. That turned me into a cream cheese fan. I know yours is better than the gummy stuff in the box…

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    • I like how you think, Sharyn! Once you get back on your feet — and I mean that literally — consider making some cream cheese. Any one who can make tangerine curd can certainly make cream cheese. And by the way, you sundried tomato schmear sounds incredible! I gotta have me one of those!

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  19. That is such a witty and funny title to a blog! You had me laughing when I saw it when I came home late last night. I was too tired to do any reading and went straight to bed but couldn’t wait to read your post today. I love cream cheese and I don’t know why but I have never thought about making my own! Thanks for a great and informative post (as usual!)

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  20. Okay Dinah Shore and the musical towel. It took me awhile. I can’t name that tune in one note, though. And I am scanning the comments and rereading your post and knowing I am missing the visual clues. She was the spokesperson on TV? Help.

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    • I got that as Christmas gift from a cousin who is a garage sale aficionada. It’s a kitchen towel from the “Dinah’s Place” collection and has “Someone’s in the kitchen with me” written on a musical scale. For almost 6 years, I’ve sent out a weekly email, Music Monday, in which I present a musical selection to start off the week for some friends and family members. She saw the towel and thought it the perfect bridge between my 2 interests, music & the kitchen. This past Monday, the musical offering was Dinah singing “Hooray for Hollywood” as my tribute to the Oscars. Although a number of my blog’s followers are on the Music Monday mailing list, none noticed her or made the connection. You’re the only person to see the towel and recognize Dinah. Thank you for that. I know a few people who’ve got some ‘splaining to do! 🙂

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      • Yeah, what’s up with that? Your musical crew missing the clues? I loved the partial letters and face. It stuck in my brain after I wrote my first cheesy comment and I kept thinking about the face and towel. Thanks for filling me in.
        What do you have to do to qualify to receive the Music Monday email? I need a boost to start the week and I can’t think of a better way.
        Did I tell you that I used to follow Far Side everyday in the paper and it made my day.
        Now I look forward to reading your comments, John! Love your witty and original thoughts.

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        • Welcome to the Music Monday Family! It’s the least I can do since you are still the only person to mention Dinah! The mailing is a blind copy so your email address is secure and will remain private. I try to send the “missive” before people leave for work. You’re not the only Eastern Time Zone member so I should be able to send you off with a tune — with any luck, an ear worm to accompany you throughout the day. 🙂

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    • You’re right, David. The cheeses that I make are all very much straight-forward. The only one that’s even a little involved is the mozzarella recipe and that’s why it will be covered last. One should have a little experience dealing with curds before attempting it. Still, if you get the time and make ricotta, you’ll never buy it again. I haven’t since I came across the recipe.

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    • No problem, Marie. These recipes aren’t going anywhere and right now you’ve certainly got your hands full. Besides, as I’m telling everyone, when you get the time, start with the ricotta. You’ll love it!

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  21. I liking your cheese making posts! I never grew up eating cream cheese but my kids just love it. For breakfast they love Italian bread toasted with cream cheese, strawberry jam with fresh strawberries on top. One day I’ll be daring and try to make this homemade! I look forward to your marscapone post!

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    • Maybe it’s a Motown thing because we, too, had cream cheese and jam countless times growing up. We loved it and you’ll love this cream cheese, if you get the time to make it. (With 3 boys, I give you credit for even considering it a possibility. 🙂 ) As for the mascarpone, I’ve got a “sack” of it draining into my sink even as I type this. It’s going to be “featured” in my weekend’s meals, one way or another!

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    • None of the cheese that I will highlight is that hard to do. The problem, for many, is finding the time to make them, as you pointed out. I will say, though, if you can find the time, it is a worthwhile endeavor. 🙂

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    • Thank you, Giovanna! That weekend with freshly baked bagels and homemade cream cheese was a good one! I have to do it again and hope you give it a try sometime. Thank you for passing me the ABC Award. I’ll get to work on it ASAP! 🙂

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  22. Home made cream cheese and bagels. Genius. Inspiring. Tasty.
    One day I will make cheese and when I do so I know who’s pages I’ll be turning to. Thank you John. Regardless of a story or no story your posts are always written with humour and flair. Claire

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  23. Lovely lovely lovely. this sounds a lot like the labneh that i make. Though i begin labneh with yoghurt. When we eat it on crackers i chop in green onions and pepper!!! YUM!!! This is a lovely simple recipe I hope lots of people try it as it is just so good.. in fact it reminds me of summer, summer IS coming right? that is not SNOW in the forecast!! c

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    • Hey, Celi! Labneh from yogurt was the first thing I attempted. After that I tried ricotta, and so on. Now, I use yogurt to inoculate the dairy product(s) when I make feta and one of the three types of mozzarella. I use buttermilk in the same capacity. I have convinced a few of our blogging buddies to make ricotta and each is a convert. I think a few more will try to make mascarpone once I post the recipe in a couple weeks. It’s another very simple recipe to follow with great tasting results. I just finished making a batch yesterday and this has turned into a mascarpone weekend! YAY!

      Boo for the snow! Time for Old Man Winter to seek warmer climes to foul. He should take his cue from the current month’s name and “march on out of here!”

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    • Pssst! Don’t tell anyone but I, too, have some Philly in the fridge. I still have a few more cheeses to demonstrate. Maybe one of them will interest you enough to give it a try. They’re easy enough and you won’t be sorry with the results. Thanks for commenting!

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  24. I am deeply grateful to you for teaching me how to make ricotta but now I have a list of John’s amazing cheeses to try. The only problem is I don’t think I can find cultured buttermilk here but I will surely keep looking
    Thank you for the inspiration John

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    • You, Sawsan, are very welcome. I’m quite happy that you like the ricotta recipe. I am sure that you can buy these cultures online. You need to look for “Mesophilic Culture”. Some of the sources listed on my Cheesy Stuff page sell it but I do not know if it can be shipped internationally. Not all cheeses require it and the amount needed depends upon the type of cheese you’re making, as well as whether it is a hard or soft cheese. There are a number of ways to create the curds and flavor the cheese. Some cheeses will use plain yogurt while others, like the ricota, need vinegar. Mascarpone relies on lemon juice to curdle the dairy products and feta needs both yogurt and buttermilk. If you find Mesophilic Culture and need help, I’ll gladly assist you in any way I can.

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  25. Cream cheese and bagels! Don’t worry, I’m from (the suburbs of) Philly and I give it my seal of approval. 😉 I have one question: how come you’re not smoking your own lox?

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    • Thanks for the seal! Every few months I take a look around the back yard to see if I can find a good spot for a smoker. Living in the city, our yards are “postage stamp” sized and I’ve made mine even smaller by building a dog run. Believe me, when I get a smoker, salmon will be Item Number One to get the full treatment.

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  26. Pingback: Home Made Ricotta Cheese (from the Bartolini kitchens) « Kitcheninspirations

  27. Who would ever complain about multiple cheese-related posts? Nope, not me!! Wow, homemade cream cheese…I’m extremely impressed. Sounds like a bit of a process, but so worth it. I’m sure it was much more delicious than Philadelphia’s cream cheese! 🙂

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    • To be honest, Caroline, making the bagels was much more difficult. That dough is the stiffest dough I’ve ever worked with and more than once I was going to give up. Once made, though, they were delicious, especially with the cream cheese. I’ll definitely make both again at the same time.

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  28. We actually got some stuff to try to make mozzarella – and I think those tablets are in our kit! Which means, if all goes well, we can try cream cheese, too! Yay! I love the idea of making things from scratch. It makes me happy. 🙂

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    • Welcome to the cheesy club! If you’re referring to Rennet tabs, you can get them online should you run out. A liquid version, even a vegetarian, is also available. I can point you in that direction, if need be. I’ve seen the mozzarella kits although I don’t use them. I’ll be interested in hearing how you do. I plan on blogging about how to make mozzarella (without a kit) but, first, we’ll be making mascarpone and then feta. Good luck with your mozzarella! You’ll be surprised how good it tastes!

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    • Well, by now I think you can guess that I’ll encourage you to try to make each of these cheeses. As I’ve said, try making the ricotta first. You will see just how simple it is to do and how great are the results. After that, these other cheeses are just a little more involved and you’ll be very pleased with the cheese you make. Guaranteed!

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    • Those bagels were the bet that first evening! Next time I’ll bake them first thing in the morning and just eat them all day. You’ll find that the dough is the stiffest dough you’ll ever knead. I made a half-recipe and was ready to throw in the towel and certainly couldn’t se myself making them again. And then I tasted one freshly baked. Suddenly, that dough wasn’t so bad and I’ll definitely make them again, especially when I’m making cream cheese.

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  29. Pingback: Parmesan Sprouted Wheat Bagels | Savoring Today LLC

    • I use Junket tablets. I find that they are cheaper than other rennet forms, they have a longer shelf-life, and they work better than the others I tried. Depending upon where you live, your grocer might carry them or you can probably find them on the web. I hope this helps and good lucK!

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  30. Pingback: Hey, Bella! I’ve got Mozzarella! | from the Bartolini kitchens

  31. Pingback: How to make Ricotta Cheese from Whey | thekitchensgarden

  32. Pingback: The long wait is over. Today we’re making Italian Mozzarella! | from the Bartolini kitchens

  33. John, you are incredible with the recipes. One of my favorites are bagels and cream cheese; and I have only eaten Philadelphia brand. This looks phenomenal with the fruit!

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    • Thank you, Judy. Home-made cream cheese is really quite good and the bagels were better than I thought they’d be. Combined, they were a real treat. To be honest, seeing our comment reminded me of both. I think I need to make me some bagels & cream cheese. 🙂

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  34. How fantastic! I am inspired to make my own cheese now–and perhaps my own bagels as well! 🙂 I am looking forward to a delicious breakfast and will have you to thank for it!

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