Can't Find Cream Cheese at the Grocery Store? Here's How to Make It at Home
If you haven't already heard, some grocery stores are struggling to keep cream cheese in stock this holiday season. Kraft, the producer of Philadelphia cream cheese, is compensating some folks who agree to knock cheesecake off their dessert spread this month, while one New York City dairy distributor says there may be "no end in sight" for the city's schmear shortage.
If you find yourself staring at vacant shelves in the dairy section this month, have no fear: You can actually whip up cream cheese in your own kitchen with the right tools. Carolina Gelen, a resident at Food52, just shared her method for homemade cream cheese on Instagram.
In the video, Gelen says you only need whole milk, heavy cream and white vinegar (or white wine vinegar) to pull off this at-home hack. Combine the milk and cream in a saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil. When the dairy mixture boils, cut off the heat and stir in the vinegar. Set aside the mixture for about 10 minutes, allowing it to curdle. Place a mesh strainer, like this one (buy it: $21, Oxo), over a deep bowl. Then place a kitchen towel or a double cheesecloth (you can pick one of those up for $3 at Target) over the strainer.
Pour the curdled mixture into the cheesecloth and let the curds drain for 10 minutes at room temperature. Transfer this set-up (bowl and all) to the fridge and allow it to continue draining for six to 12 hours. When the cheese curds are completely drained of whey, Gelen suggests whipping them in a food processor for spreadability—though a hand or stand mixer will do the trick. Gelen writes that this cream cheese will last for up to a week in the refrigerator.
If you're planning to use the cream cheese as a bagel topper or dip, you can add your favorite spices and garnishes, like strawberries, scallions or lemon juice to amp up the flavor. For a simple, tangy spread, Gelen specifically recommends adding lemon juice and salt, but you could also look to our Herb Cream Cheese or Smoked Salmon Cream Cheese recipes for inspiration.
We're glad to have this recipe in our back pocket, especially since we'll need cream cheese on hand for holiday classics like our 3-Ingredient Cream Cheese & Cherry Pepper Bites and Cream Cheese Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Streusel. Food & Wine, our sister brand, reports that Philadelphia cream cheese sales are up 35%, so don't put off your cream cheese shopping, if you can help it—or pick up the extra cream, milk and vinegar you'll need for a simple, homey substitute spread. Happy schmearing!