Cream cheese is a fresh cheese made from milk and, you guessed it, cream. Cream cheese usually contains fat content of about 30%-33% depending on the regulating body. Since it is a fresh cheese, it is meant to be consumed as is and aging it is not recommended. Cream cheese is usually consumed as a spread on bread, bagels, and crackers. Aside from being used as a spread, cream cheese’s claim to fame probably comes from its use in cheesecakes.
Cream Cheese Trivia
- Cream cheese is one of the few types of food that has a whole section dedicated to it in the FDA regulations handbook.
- Cream cheese was first produced in the United States in Philadelphia in 1872.
- Not so shockingly, the best-selling commercially produced cream cheese brand in the United States is the Philadelphia brand cream cheese.
- Cream cheese was accidentally developed when William Lawrence was trying to replicate Neufchâtel cheese and ended up with cream cheese instead.
Cream Cheese Buying Guide
While it might be tempting to just grab the first package of Philadelphia cream cheese you see on supermarket shelves, there is actually more to cream cheese than commercially produced pre-packaged ones.
Hand-crafted and small-batch cream cheese isn’t as smooth as the commercial varieties but it packs a lot of flavor. The reason why commercial cream cheese has that super creamy texture is because of the different gums and stabilizers that are added to the cheese.
These additives actually can help if you use the cream cheese for use in traditional cheesecake applications. If you use artisan cream cheese in baking cheesecakes with cream cheese as the primary ingredient, you may have some textural problems as the moisture may sink to the bottom and it may curdle.
But if you’re planning to use the cream cheese as a spread, then artisan cream cheese is the way to go. Not only is the flavor a lot fuller and more complex than your commercially available ones, but the texture is much lighter and creamier. The extra money you’ll spend on artisan cream cheese is well worth it if you’re going to eat it as a spread.
Cream Cheese Production & Farming in Texas
Due to the high number of small dairy farms in Texas, you’ll never run out of choices when it comes to purchasing artisan cream cheese. You can find artisan cream cheese in farmers’ markets or at farmsteads that allow customers to visit and purchase their products.
Another advantage of purchasing locally made artisan cream cheese is that you’re going to be assured that the cream cheese is going to be really fresh. Not only fresh, but the milk is also sourced from livestock that has been responsibly raised.
You can also find local artisan cream cheese in local coffee shops and bakeries that serve bagels, they will usually advertise the fact that they either use home-made cream cheese or locally sourced. Nothing can be better than a warm bagel with freshly made cream cheese.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:
Not only is locally made cream cheese tastier, but it’s also made with natural ingredients. Commercially produced cream cheese though is another matter altogether. Let’s go through a breakdown of one of the most popular cream cheese brands in the world and you’ll understand why we don’t recommend using it unless you really have to.
- Modified Milk Ingredients – Now this alone raises a large red flag. It doesn’t really say that whole milk is used in the creation of the cream cheese. This means that instead of whole milk, the milk has been processed and broken down into its individual components. By processing milk and breaking them down, this allows commercial producers to increase the shelf life of the product and to keep costs down.
- Bacterial Culture – This is not an issue as a starter culture is used in all cheese making.
- Salt – No issue here.
- Carob Bean Gum – This is an emulsifier that is used as a thickener and emulsifier to give that commercial cream cheese that familiar and luxurious mouth feel of cream cheese.
- Sorbic Acid – This is a preservative added to prevent mold growth and to extend the shelf life of the product.
So there you have it, no sight of real milk and cream is used to make the cream cheese. It’s just processed milk components, emulsifiers, and preservatives.
Enjoying Cream Cheese
As mentioned earlier, cream cheese as a spread works extremely well on bagels. Aside from bagels, cream cheese can be used as a dip for pretzels, toasted bread, finger sandwiches, or in wraps. Cream cheese is also great when mixed with cheddar cheese and pimiento cheese to make the creamiest pimiento cheese spread you’ve ever tried.
For commercially produced cream cheese, please refer to the packaging for storage instructions. For artisan cream cheese, store in an airtight container in the fridge for one to two weeks.
Make Cream Cheese at Home:
This is a simple faux-cream cheese, while not as rich and luxurious as commercially made one or traditional artisan cream cheese, this will work in a pinch if you’re stuck at home and need cream cheese.
One Liter whole milk, full fat
Two to three tablespoons lemon juice (if not available, white vinegar can be used)
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the milk until it reaches a rolling simmer, stirring constantly.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the lemon juice (or vinegar) one tablespoon at a time in one-minute intervals. Keep on stirring.
Continue stirring until curdled completely and the mixture has separated. There should be some liquid on the bottom and solids floating at the top. Turn off heat.
Strain over a strainer with a cheesecloth on top. Let drain and cool for about 15 minutes or until cool.
Transfer solids (curds) to a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth and creamy.
Add salt to taste. (You can also add your choice of herbs and spices to add flavor to your homemade cream cheese)
Use as you would any other cream cheese. Store in the fridge and use it within seven days.
Pairings with Cream Cheese:
Cream cheese is a soft and mild cheese much like Camembert and brie. That being said, it is best paired with a fruity red like a Beaujolais or a fruity red.
Not to be repetitive, but cream cheese is really good when paired with bagels.