Technically, traditional cream cheese is made by adding special starters or cultures to cream. An easier process can be done at home. When whey is slowly strained from yogurt, the result is a thick, spreadable “yogurt cheese” that is just like cream cheese. The strong flavor of this smooth, cream cheese-like schmear, adds a wonderful depth to everything it accompanies. All you need is a quart of yogurt, a strainer, a clean dish towel, a bowl, and you’re in business.
- 1 quart yogurt
- 1 strainer
- 1 clean dish towel
- 1 bowl
- optional mix-ins savory (chopped herbs, dried onions, and granulated garlic) or sweet (honey, cinnamon sugar, or pureed berries)
1. Place the strainer on top of a bowl and line it with the towel, or cheesecloth, if you have some on hand. Spoon the yogurt into the strainer, making sure to bring the cloth up and around the yogurt, which will prevent it from spilling onto the counter. As the whey drips into the bowl, the yogurt in the strainer will firm and thicken.
2.If you don’t have a strainer, place the yogurt in a dishcloth and tie the towel around a wooden spoon. Rest the wooden spoon over a tall jar so the towel
enclosing the yogurt is suspended in the jar. The whey will drip into the jar as the yogurt in the towel thickens.
3.The cheese should be ready in about 5 or 6 hours, but you can leave the bowl on the counter so the cheese drains for up to 12 hours, or longer. The longer it drains, the thicker the cheese will be.
4.When ready, transfer to a bowl or glass jar. Briefly mix to smooth out the texture, adding a little bit of whey if the cheese is too firm for your liking.
Refrigerate the cheese for up to a week.
5.A variety of mix-ins, whether savory (chopped herbs, dried onions, and granulated garlic) or sweet (honey, cinnamon sugar, or pureed berries), can be added to make an endless assortment of homemade cream cheese spreads that will make every bagel addictive.