the dairy and cheese report

I have yet to successfully make cream cheese. There’s always a thin layer of milk that settles to the bottom and then sets up into cheese, and then the milk cheese nubbies mix in with the cream cheese and wreck the texture. However, I have figured out a workaround, at least for making cheesecake: mix 1 part quark to 1 part mascarpone and voila! Creamy, luscious cheesecake.  


Twice now, I’ve tried to make cup cheese and twice now I’ve failed. Want to know the worst part? It’s my own recipe I can’t follow, gah! Talk about pull-your-hair-out frustrating. Everything goes swimmingly until I get to the part where I heat the curds in the double boiler. They’re supposed to go all melty-soft, like marshmallows, but mine just seize up. Maybe it’s an acid level thing? 

quark on the left, failed cup cheese number one on the right

Anyway, the cheese turns out not as it should, but edible. Kinda like a not-entirely-smooth cream cheese. The last time I blended it up and it got pretty darn creamy.

It still wasn’t the right texture for cup cheese, but I dipped potato chips in it for breakfast and called it good.

And then I dolloped it on pizza.

And tonight I threw the last of it into a white sauce for tomorrow’s baked mac and cheese.


The one good thing about the failed cup cheese is that I get sour cream from it. When making cup cheese, the milk is mixed with buttermilk and then sits at room temp for a good day or so and then, before proceeding with the cup cheese recipe, I skim off all the cream that’s risen to the top.

The cultured cream is thick and — I know this sounds gross — kinda stringy. But hear me out! The flavor is delicate and sweet, and the texture isn’t that far off from the Central America’s beloved “crema”. 

We eat it with beans and rice — kinda pour it over — and I’ve used it to sauce up pasta dishes. It’d go great in potato soup, I think. It’s still not the thick, spoonable sour cream that we’re all used to, but for now it’ll do. 


The other day I cut into a Gouda Divino that was so divino it gave me goosebumps.

Repeatedly! Seriously, it was so good it was like I really did die and go to heaven. 

Two things about Gouda:
1) I just learned that it can be aged for years and years and years and will get sweeter and harder over time.
2) I think I need to try smoking it. 

(I also cut into a Gruyere which was kinda disappointing because it didn’t taste like Gruyere but then I realized it was more like a cheddar and then I was like, Hang on a minute. I just made a Cheddar Gruyere! and got all strutty proud for creating my own unique cheese, toot-toot!) 


Believe it or not, I didn’t make whipped cream with our own raw milk cream until this last week. I wasn’t sure it’d whip properly but it did great.

We ate it spooned over wedges of fresh nectarine galettes.


And speaking of galettes (this is turning into quite the “if you give a mouse a cookie” post), for the first time ever, I’ve been making pie pastry with 100 percent homemade butter. 

brown sugar and bourbon peach pies

The resulting pastry is softer and more pliable, almost like an oil-based crust. It’s delicious but also entirely different from pie pastry made with store-bought butter.

The deeper I get into making things from scratch (in this case, dairy), the more I notice how wildly my homemade creations vary from the store-bought versions. These variations, I think, underscore just how industrialized our food has become, just how far afield we are from real food in all its nuanced glory.


And finally, here’s a video that’s all about the cheese.

It thrilled me to the tips of my tippy-toes, it did. Viva el queso!

This same time, years previous: the coronavirus diaries: week 76, the quotidian (8.19.19), passion fruit juice, starfruit smoothie, garlicky spaghetti sauce, an August day, how to get your refrigerator clean in two hours.


  • SB

    All I can say is: this is so cool! It’s seriously so exciting to see what you problem solve and come up with. Please keep on sharing!

  • Karen

    Oh, my goodness, this all sounds so yummy! Have you ever smoked cheese? Once upon a time, I had a cold smoker (best investment, but it died). I did jerky, sausage, and cheese. It was all good, but taking good cheese and smoking it? Epic!

  • Susan

    Oh, honey! I don’t know why but using THIS starter culture makes making homemade cream cheese absolutely foolproof. I’m trying to minimize cholesterol and fat content whenever I can, despite my love of cheeses, and this works beautifully using store-bought 2% or skim milk bought at the grocery store. I make a large batch at a time, dollop this into 4 oz “half block” portions (double-bagged in sandwich bags inside a gallon freezer bag), then store these delicious bundles in the freezer. The smaller portions defrost quickly and work great for dips/spreads/ or dropped into mashed potatoes, pastas, or anything else that needs a yummy boost of creaminess. Try this culture… it works >>

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