Monday, November 9, 2009

Crock Pot Cream Cheese Recipe

Many people know that yogurt can be made pretty easily in the crock pot. That yogurt can be turned pretty easily into cream cheese, which my kids and I will eat plain during the day while we graze.

We were running low on whey, a by-product of making cream cheese, so it was time to make cream cheese again. A CVS opened up near us, and we got a coupon in the mail, $10 off an order of $20 or more. I got six gallons of whole milk for $10.49. We have state regulated milk prices, so this is a rare deal. You don't need whole milk for this; you can use raw, skim or even powdered milk.

I use a whole gallon, but I've included the timing for a half gallon, which I found here.

1) Pour a gallon of milk into the crock pot, cover, and turn it on low for three hours, two and a half hours if you only use a half gallon.

2) Turn off the crock pot and let it sit, covered, for three more hours.

3) Add a cup of yogurt and stir it in with a whisk and cover. Make sure you use plain yogurt with live active cultures.

4) Wrap a heavy blanket around the entire crock pot and let sit eight to twelve hours; overnight is good.

Now you have yogurt!

At first, it will be the consistency of a yogurt smoothie. If you're into that, throw some it in the blender with some fruit and a sweetener. I always take some of the freshest yogurt and fill the original yogurt cup with it. It goes into my freezer for next time I want to make yogurt.

If you want a thicker consistency, put some cheesecloth or a loosely-woven fabric over your pasta strainer. Put the strainer in a pot to catch the liquid and put the yogurt on the cloth in the strainer. Keep refrigerated.

The liquid that collects in the pot is whey. It is considered precious in my household. It can be substituted for milk in many recipes, like pancakes and muffins. It is good for fermenting grains and fruits and vegetables. It is super nutritious. Don't throw it away. Play with it.

Now the yogurt is about to go through some changes as the whey seeps out. After a few hours, you will have a thicker yogurt, like store bought regular yogurt. If this is what you want, put it in a container to use.
A few hours later, you will have an even thicker yogurt, like Greek yogurt or sour cream. I put some of this aside to put on our tacos as sour cream.

A day or so later, if left to strain, the yogurt will have a dip or spread like consistency. You can mix it with some herbs, oregano or chives are good, and spread it on crackers. You can also put cinnamon and stevia in for a sweet spread.

A few days after that, if left to strain, the yogurt will be real thick, like cream cheese. It is slightly more tart than store-bought cream cheese, but not tart like plain yogurt. I save a little out to make creamy quesadillas, and the rest we munch on with a spoon.

The quantity I get is hard to measure. I get a gallon of smoothie like yogurt, and probably three quarts of regular yogurt, so those are definitely a better deal than their store bought equivalent. But I get a much smaller quantity of cream cheese. Since I usually can't leave the yogurt alone through each of it's stages, I don't actually know how much cream cheese I could end up with, but I'm pretty sure it's a better deal than store bought, especially since it gives me my precious whey.


Jessica said...

I just got some new cream cheese recipes that I'm dying to try. They are supposed to taste much different than yogurt cream cheese.

I'll let you know when I try them.

Simple in France said...

Nice eplanation! I don't have a crock pot, but I'm wondering if I can adapt this recipe anyway. I've heard of hay box yogurt too . . . I'm going to search it. (Also, trying round 2 of pasta making tonight!)

Emily said...

Simple in France, once you've got the milk to the right temperature and stir in the yogurt, a hay box would work exactly like wrapping the blanket around it. I bet it's more efficient than the blanket alone, too.

Jessica said...

Simple in France - I have an explanation for yogurt using a stove/oven in my blog here:

Natballs said...

haha, lmao, I thought this blog post title was called CRACK POT cream cheese. haha.

Stephanie@SweetTeaAndSunshine said...

Thanks for sharing! I think I will pick up an extra gallon of milk this week and try it out. It seems like you can't beat the whey, yogurt, and cream cheese for about $3.00 ($2.50 for a gallon of milk and about $.50, or less really, for the yogurt) especially when JUST a pack of cream cheese cost close to $1.50 here.

Rachel said...

Thank you so much!! Yogurt, cream cheese, and sour cream are some of the main things my family is still buying already prepared! I'm so excited and I can't wait to get started!

Clisby said...

Emily, any day now I expect to see you on a crockpot commercial. Or I would if I had a TV, which I don't.

M. Lilly Grohman said...

Hi there! are you leaving your yogurt to strain over several days at room temperature, or do you refrigerate it while straining?

Blessed said...

I am ashamed to say I have a yoghurt maker that I asked for as a Christmas present years ago--and I used it once and then never again, because I did not have a thermometer that went low enough so I could check the temperature was what they said it should be in the directions. And I never tried very hard to get the right thermometer because I was too paranoid about the yoghurt I would make being bad--spoiling by being out on the counter unrefrigerated all night while it was "cooking"--and was afraid I would poison my family!

Now here you are saying you make it in the crockpot and don't mention temperatures or exactly how long it is safe to keep it out--you are freaking me out a little bit. Is it possible to culture something bad in there? What about harmful bacteria or something? What are the dangers that someone needs to be aware of when they try this?

I have been wanting to get out that yoghurt maker (wonder if it is like a little crockpot!!!) and am very interested in what you have learned about this!

Emily said...

Early Modern Mom, sorry, I thought I made it clear, once the yogurt is done, it needs to be refrigerated while straining out the whey, especially if you strain for days like I do.

Blessed, someone else did the math on how long it takes to get the milk at the right temp using the crock pot, after three hours on and three hours off, it is around 110F. The goal in keeping the blanket on the crock pot is to maintain that temp to let all the yogurt to culture the milk.

The crock pot method allows people to do this who are so freaked out about getting it to certain temps and what if it fails and ruins the milk. It is based on simple timing, which anyone can do. The only thing you culture is what is in the yogurt, as you keep the lid on the crock pot, so I don't worry about potential dangers.

One thing I try to get across in my blog is that a lot of these things don't need to be seen as hard or scary. It's the way it's been done for centuries until recently. Plagues weren't started by bad yogurt, but poor sanitation, so as long as everything is clean, I don't see any more risk in making yogurt than making chicken, which I do all the time. (:

DarcyLee said...

I've been making yogurt and Greek yogurt (saving the whey, too!)this same way for about a year now but I had never tried the cream cheese. Thanks for sharing how you do it.

crabcakes said...


Two questions...

First about the freezing of the starter, does that do anything to the live cultures? They remain live even after freezing?

And second, what do you recommend to use as a cloth if you don't have cheesecloth or coffee filters.

I've got some going in my crock pot now. It held a little less than a gallon of milk. It's o.k. if the milk is pretty close to the top of the pot, right?

Emily said...

crabcakes, I don't know why freezing it doesn't kill the cultures, but my second batch is always good. I don't try to extend the freezing trick too long, though. After maybe three batches I buy another cup, mostly due to fear of the unknown. (:

For the cloth, think of the fabric in sheer window curtains. Something like that works best, but if you use something "too" thick, it will just mean it will take longer to strain.

Jessica said...

Leaving your yogurt out overnight isn't going to make it go bad. Think about butter. Many people leave butter out of their fridge for extended periods of time - essentially butter is just churned cream.

My yogurt stays out overnight "baking", as well as my homemade buttermilk, cottage cheese, and other cheeses (I use raw milk though).

The good bacteria (live cultures) that you are putting into the yogurt kill any of the bad bacteria - the same way they do inside of your body.

Anonymous said...

Freezing prevents bacteria from growing but it doesn't kill the bacteria. Most bacteria are killed by high heat.

Robin said...

It looks like you're making yogurt cheese, not cream cheese. Cream cheese would need a rennet. They could be used the same way but aren't the same thing.

Strained yogurt:

Cream cheese:

Strained cheese is very yummy, though, and making yogurt at home is certainly cost effective!

Have you made your own cottage cheese?

Mozzarella isn't hard either.

Emily said...

Penny Saver, I'm looking farward to the hard cheeses, but I need a thermometer first. I have the rennet and found an easy looking cheddar recipe. Hard cheeses don't seem as cost effective, though.

Jena Webber said...

Wow! Amazed, as usual.

Heather said...

this is fascinating! sometimes i wish we could change our way of life around here so that we could actually make some of these things ourselves. but i don't think my husband and i are at the point where we can be disciplined enough. but still, this was a great post!

Anonymous said...

Glad I checked Penny Saver's links...I was about to post a comment about "cream cheese" or "fresh cheese" link the Food Network's "cottage cheese" that she posted. The technique posted there sounds like a delicious alternative to what I do!

My process is quite similar, except that:
I heat the milk more aggressively (to around 180F-190F - hot enough that you can still stick your finger in, but don't want to leave it there! Like testing an iron.)

I add salt - if I'm salting the cheese - to the heating milk.

Often, I'll also add herbs/seasonings to the heating milk when making flavored cheeses.

After adding the acid (in addition to a variety of vinegars, we use lemon and lime juices to curdle) I immediately pour the curds and whey through straining bags (jelly bags) or cloths.

I then leave to long as necessary. Depends on the weather/enviroment and how dry you want your cheese! It can be anything from a very creamy spread to salad won't get a truly "slice-able" cheese w/o rennet, but you may come close.

I also find if I've left it longer than intended and want something creamier, adding a little whey back in gradually often works!

And...I've done this for years, camping, and left the cheese to drain outside 12-24 hours in the summer with no issues! Cheese is, after all, preserved milk. :)

Oh - and my yield for this 'cream cheese' when using whole milk is about 1.5 pounds/gallon. Considering the cheapest discount-store 8 oz. block of processed 'cream cheese' I can buy is $1.09 (in the states) and $2.49 (up here in Canada) compared to roungly $2.00 for U.S. milk and a minimum of $3.99 for milk here, I think it's a good trade-off - a *much* better quality product, without unpronouncable additives, for fairly little work (well under 20 minutes with standing-by-the-stove-and-stirring time!)

Well...I didn't intend to get quite so long! Thanks!


Kori said...

I am trying this today; if it works, do you mind of I link to your blog on mine?

Emily said...

Kori, of course! I hope it works for you. (:

Anonymous said...

Can you use sweetened yogurt or kefir? That's all I have available where I am in S.E. Asia. Can't wait to try this. We don't have cream here, either. Any suggestions?? Thanks so much. (this is my first time on a blog) :)

Emily said...

Anon, if the sweetened yogurt has live active cultures, you can use it.

Anonymous said...

Oh, that I don't know. It's all written in Chinese. So, would kefir work? Also, we get that unrefrigerated super pasteurized milk in a bag here. Do you think that will work? Sorry for the strange questions. We're really hoping this will work to have sour cream for our Thanksgiving feast!

Emily said...

Anon, this is what I would do. Kefir makes kefir and yogurt makes yogurt, so I wouldn't try it with kefir. I would get some yogurt and strain it, like I did with homemade yogurt in the post with the strainer and pot. When it gets to the thickness of sour cream, taste it to see if it's good. If it's too sweet, it will produce a sweet taste even if you make it into a big batch of yogurt. Also, I would assume that in S E Asia they are using real yogurt with active cultures, so if the taste of the strained yogurt is too your liking, I would try it in a smaller batch of milk first just to make sure it will make yogurt.

Niki said...

This is a very late comment... but my mom just showed me a quick and easy way to make yogurt over the holidays.

Simply boil a cup of milk, and then let cool to room temperature. Stir in a tablespoon of yogurt, let sit (don't move the cup) and voila, the next morning you should have yogurt!

Simply increase the number of cups and tablespoons for more, and you can save a tablespoon of the yogurt each time for the next batch.

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