Cheese here in PNG is one of the most expensive things you can buy in the realm of groceries. It is usually imported from New Zealand and then we pay anywhere from $12-$15 a block. Just to give you an idea of how that breaks down. We have pizza night here in the village with our co-workers every Friday night. Naturally we make all the pizza’s and our partner Linn figured out that it costs us about $5 to put cheese on EACH pizza. Wow! Pretty crazy when you think about how you can buy an entire pizza pre-made for that in the states. (Gotta love Little Ceasars “Hot & Ready” pizza’s!). With the exception of our once a week eating ritual with our partners, the high cost of cheese has made it something we don’t eat a lot of if we can help it. That is why it has been a great joy to me to be able to make a few varieties of cheese at home!
One of these is cream cheese. Through some experimentation I have discovered that the following recipe is the one we have liked the most. It is simply delightful spread on crackers! FYI though, when you make cream cheese at home do not expect it to taste just like Philadelphia brand or anything like that! There are only a few ingredients in this simple recipe (unlike store brands) but you can still expect a full bodied, rich and creamy spread! Think gourmet instead of store brand. ;D Oh! One more thing. Occasionally cream cheese is available here in PNG but it costs about $24! Hmmm, yeah. I think I’ll just make some!
What I Use: Large glass bowl (don’t know what I’d do with out my glass Pyrex!), Cheese Cloth, 1 carton of cream, a few small lemons my partners daughter was sweet enough to pick for me off their tree, powdered milk (there is no such thing as buying refrigerated milk here), garlic salt.
Step One: I let Jude help me measure and pour two cups of powdered milk into the bowl and then I add 4 cups of water. This gives me a very full/creamy version of milk if Jude can keep it all in the bowl while he mixes it together. 🙂
*Now just a side note here. If any of you reading this have ever tasted powdered milk in the states you may agree with me that it is the stuff gags are made of. Yuck! I am happy to report that in PNG this is not the case. It’s true that powdered milk does not taste like “normal” milk in a jug but it is much better tasting than American powdered milk none the less. Just so you know….
Step Three: When the milk is simmering I slowly add the lemon juice until the milk separates, now I have curds and whey. I love this part-it’s kinda like a science experiment/magic! Now I remove it from the heat.
Step Four: My cheese cloth needs to be ready so I drape it over my glass bowl (yes this is the same one from earlier that I rinsed out-no sense using more dishes than I absolutely have to) and hold it in place with a large rubber band. Now I pour my curds and whey into the cheese cloth and watch it strain. (Yup-just like Little House on the Prairie…) Since the whole project at this point is extremely hot I carefully lift the cheese cloth up off the bowl and twist it so it forms a little ball of cheese at the bottom while it continues to strain as I slowly “wring it out” tighter. It is so hot I usually have to use a fork to help me turn the cheese ball so I don’t get burned. In no time at all I can turn out my little lump of cheese. If I wanted to stop at this point I would have cottage cheese, but not today.
Step Five: Now it gets really fun-it’s time to add the cream and garlic! I pour in about half the carton of cream and after removing my garlic salt from the fridge and scraping some of it loose from the humidified chunk it has become, I add a good dump of garlic salt. Mix, mix, mix with a fork till smooth and it’s time for a taste test. It’s still really warm at this point but it still tastes so yummy! I eat some of my cream cheese while Iris attempts to eat her toes. 😀
Step Six: I choose a small tupperware container and firmly press my cream cheese into it. It will firm up in the fridge and become a bit more “spreadable”. It won’t ever be super smooth though. Remember, think gourmet not Philly. ;P
That’s all, now I just have to wait till it chills to spread it on some homemade crackers! YUM!