Little Miss Muffett, sat on a tuffet, eating her curds and whey. Who among us doesn’t know that nursery rhyme off by heart? I must have said that one over and over as a kid, but like the words of the Canadian Anthem in French, I didn’t exactly know what it meant. What the heck is a tuffet? And what are curds and whey, they sound utterly dreadful! Along the way somewhere, I found out what curds and whey were, but they still sounded dreadful. Clumpy cheese in some sort of watery, milky liquid? Um, no thanks. I think I will stick with your basic Cheddars and Monterey Jacks.
It wasn’t until just now that it occurred to me to look up the word “tuffet”. According to the almighty Wikipedia, it’s a kind of low footstool covered in cloth. I always imagined it as some sort of outdoor thing, like a little grass-covered mound or the stump of a tree. I envisioned Little Miss Muffett sitting outside under a tree from which the spider descended. I’ve read my fair share of English Lit classics and tuffet always seemed to go along with words like “heath” and “moors” and “hillock”. Words that conjure up images of a lonely, windswept English countryside with a single imposing stone house lording over it. With turrets, the house must of course have turrets. Turrets, tuffets…you can see where I am going with this, right?
I am now much more familiar with curds and whey. I am not about to sit down and eat a bowl of the stuff, but I know what both are and how to use them to advantage. And I’ve made my own yogurt and my own butter. It was time to step it up a notch and start making my own cheese. Which means making my own curds and whey, and then draining the whey away. A-whey!
I got this bee in my bonnet about a week ago and I googled how to make cream cheese. I came across a recipe from the Splendid Table and it seemed easy enough, so I gathered my cream, half and half, and milk, and away (a-whey?) we went. Except that as I was in the middle of it, I realized that the instructions from The Splendid Table were rather vague. Oh, and it said to gently simmer on medium-high heat. I don’t know about your stove, but on mine, medium-high usually results in a full boil. It did come to a boil, which I caught rather quickly and turned the heat down. I was so unsure of myself in the middle of the process that started looking up other resources. I found instructions for making ricotta, which said clearly to NOT boil the cream mixture. Uh oh. I also was worried that my curds weren’t forming properly so I added some vinegar. By the time I was scooping out my curds, I was quite certain this wasn’t going to work at all.
But I am happy to report that making cream cheese is quite a forgiving process! Once the whey drained out, I was left with a beautiful creamy cheese that tasted far better than any storebought version. I can’t believe how well it worked and I’ve corrected the instructions to reflect what I did, so that you can have the same results. This stuff is so good and it makes quite a lot (I think I got about 1 1/4 lbs of cream cheese out of the deal). We’ve been spreading it on everything. My husband used some to make his wonderful Boursin (recipe here) and I used a large amount of it to make some gorgeous mini pumpkin cheesecakes (recipe to come in a few days). And it was so easy, I am not sure I will ever buy cream cheese again.