Who doesn’t love cream cheese?
Cream cheese is one of those ingredients that is perfect for dishes both savory and sweet; perfect on a bagel or in something more complicated like stuffed chicken.
There have been seasons in my life, while traveling to different countries, when I haven’t had the convenience of buying certain items from the store due to a country’s trade partners, imports/exports, an maybe just an ingredient’s popularity in a certain area.
Several years ago, while visiting Tajikistan in Central Asia, I enjoyed learning so many substitutions and tricks, and tasting different dishes from the land. Life in that country in many ways is very rural, even in the city, and the Tajik diet is heavy in dairy products.
It was there where I learned how to make homemade cream cheese, by watching the home cooks that I lived with, who would share their tricks and techniques with me - those who also shared life with me. They are dear to my heart.
This recipe is simple and super easy to make! I learned it from one of the strongest women I have ever met, a sweet woman called Nulifar. She’s a mother of three remarkable children, a wife to an amazing man, a hard worker, hospitable; there are things in life that don’t need translation to a different language to be understood, and her love for those around her, her strength and wisdom are in that category. She simply never stops; she is always doing something: teaching, learning, cooking, sewing, giving … I learned a lot from her, even in times of silence.
I miss Tajikistan often, and I pray that one day God allows me to go back and visit those who became dear friends to me while I was there.
Meanwhile, here is a recipe of homemade cream cheese, enjoy it!
Quick homemade cream cheese
(About 300 grs.)
1 liter of whole milk *
1 lemon, juiced (or about 2 Tbsp lemon juice)
salt to taste
* It is very important that it is Whole Milk, because the cheese is made from milk fat.
Usually I get about a third of cheese of the full amount of milk (3 cups of milk = about 1 cup of cream cheese)
Mesh cloth/cheese cloth
In a medium pot over medium-high heat, warm the milk until it starts boiling. As soon as it starts boiling add the lemon juice and turn off the heat.
You will notice that the milk begins to "break," separating the fat from the water.
Place a piece of mesh cloth over a strainer and strain the white curds, filtering all the "water." (The “water” that it releases can be reused to bake cakes and other items – don’t throw it away.)
Try to squeeze as much as possible, and carefully rinse with cold water. Squeeze well again, making a "ball" with the cloth.
At this point the consistency should be close to dry cottage cheese. Put the cheese in a blender with a pinch of salt. Blend until creamy, or until you get the consistency you are looking for. Adjust the salt and your cream cheese is ready!
Store it in a covered container in the refrigerator, and just remember that this cheese is homemade and it has no preservatives, so its life will only be about a week or so.