Saturday, May 14, 2011

Making Neufchâtel Cheese

Actually it is American Neufchâtel, which is a low-fat cream cheese. I plan to make cheesecake with my American Neufchatel, but it also makes a good base for adding herbs or garlic to use as a spread. (Real Neufchâtel is a soft, slightly crumbly, mould-ripened cheese made in the region of Normandy in France. It looks similar to camembert, with a dry, white, edible rind, but the taste is saltier and sharper.) 

The recipe is very simple:
2 gallons of skim milk
1 cup cultured buttermilk or yogurt or raw milk clabber (I used non-fat buttermilk)
1/4 tsp. liquid rennet (or half a rennet tablet dissolved in 1/4 cup cool distilled water)

Whisk buttermilk until thin, and whisk in the rennet. Then whisk the mixture into the milk. Allow to set at about 72ºF for 10-12 hours. I started mine in the evening so it could mature overnight... otherwise I'd be doing the draining well into the night!

Curds after overnight maturation. Notice the yellow whey gathering on top.

Soft Curds (partial amount) Draining

The next morning, ladle the curds into a butter-muslin (or fine cheesecloth) lined colander and allow to drain. You might have to scrape the inside of the muslin as the curds will form a film that slows or even stops the draining.

When it has drained the consistency you want, put the curds in a big bowl and add salt one teaspoon at a time, tasting until you get the flavor you like. I added just 2 teaspoons of salt, which is barely salty enough for my taste. (I will adjust if necessary when I make the cheesecake.) Salt keeps the cheese from tasting too bland, and helps it keep longer. 

Wrap in waxed paper or recycled plastic food containers and refrigerate. My 2 gallon batch weighed 53.3 oz., or 6½ packages of store-bought cream cheese only better, and without additives to thicken it.

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