The easiest cream cheese recipe, ever. Have a pot of cream cheese in your fridge by the end of the day!
When we moved to Zimbabwe, I started working on my master’s dissertation. I was so privileged to have the opportunity to obtain my third degree, but academia can be very heavy and brings with it a feeling that you will never reach the end. I also felt like I wasn’t contributing to our income. What I did to help these feelings, was to make cream cheese and I sold it to people around town. I hardly made anything from it but it was fun and at least I could tootle off to the small shops and buy little bits and bobs for the cottage that we lived in at the time.
While I was making and selling cream cheese, I didn’t share my recipe. But now that I have a ‘real’ job, I am happy to let everyone know how I used to make my cream cheese!
The funny thing is that most people thought it was a major process that took a lot of time and skill. This is the easiest thing to make, especially for those of us living in Southern Africa. Because the most essential product is in every grocery store. For those of you overseas, I am not sure if you can get maas or lacto in your shops. I would be interested in hearing what product may work best for you and is readily available.
Like I mentioned, Mass or Lacto is the most essential ingredient to making your own cream cheese.
Maas or Lacto?
To me, maas and lacto are the same thing but have different names. In South Africa it is called maas and in Zimbabwe it is called lacto. Personally, I find maas a lot creamier, but I think that has more to do with how Zimbabweans make lacto.
What You Will Need To Make Cream Cheese
- Muslin cloth, tea towel or cheese cloth
- A sieve or colander
- Bowl to catch the liquid, unless you hang the sieve over a sink
- Seasoning: garlic & herb, sweet chili sauce, freshly crushed garlic, salt, pepper, tomato sauce, or chutney
- Storage container
How To Make Cream Cheese
Buy a packet or bottle of maas/lacto. In Zimbabwe I buy the sachets because they work out way cheaper than buying the bottles. To reuse the plastic, I am careful with how I cut the packet and use the old packets for planting seeds or propagating plants. If I bought the bottles, I would repurpose the empty bottles by cutting the tops off and planting seedlings in them. I would also use them for decanting my fresh farm milk after I pasteurise it (see this post for how to do that).
I freeze my maas/lacto first.
You do not have to do this, but I find that my cream cheese drains a lot faster once it is defrosted. I had to do this when I was selling cream cheese to make sure I gave my clients the freshest cream cheese possible. I found that the weather used to affect how quickly the cheese drained and at times, I ended up with cream cheese that smelt as if it was turning.
A few hours before you want to start draining, take your maas/lacto out of the freezer and place it in a sunny spot.
Like I said, you do not have to freeze your maas/lacto first if you don’t want to. Just skip to the next step.
Place your sieve/colander over the bowl then lay your muslin cloth over. Pour the maas/lacto into the cloth. To keep flies away, I fold the extra cloth over and leave it for a few hours.
You can choose how thick you want your cream cheese. Scoop it out and into a container when it is thick enough for you. If I’m using it for a dip then I like it to be soft. When I use it in a pudding, I let it drain for longer, until it is almost mouldable.
This is where you can get creative!
My best sellers were:
- Garlic and Herb
- Sweet Chili
- Black Pepper
But I had also seasoned my cream cheese with freshly crushed garlic, chutney and tomato sauce.
I live storing my cream cheese in glass jars. It is easy to see when they’re in your fridge, reduces the risk of forgetting about it, looks beautiful, and is more earth-friendly!
I buy all of my jars from Just About Refills and you can too! If you use Marigold5 at check out, you will get 5% off your first purchase!
Notes on Seasoning
Garlic and Herb
I used Ina Parman’s Garlic & Herb seasoning. I used other options and it just didn’t taste right. For those who are overseas, I am not sure which brand you would need to use.
Salt is the key ingredient here! Salt brings out the pepper flavour. Additionally, you won’t taste the pepper initially. It takes time to permeate so don’t be too heavy handed or get despondent.
A generous dollop of your favourite sweet chili sauce is all you need! Mix it in and ta-da!
How To Use Your Homemade Cream Cheese
- Thickly spread it over your toast, rolls, or bagels. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
- Chip and dip! This cream cheese makes the best dip!
- Dolloped over chili con carne or spicy tacos.
- If you drain the cream cheese for longer and get it as stiff as possible, this cream cheese can be used in fridge cheesecakes.
- Friends of mine has not let it drain for long and have used it as a gourmet yoghurt.