Philadelphia Cream Cheese – the Dairy Classic
Philadelphia cream cheese is a dairy classic, loved by many for its total culinary versatility. It’s an iconic American cheese that has its roots in a recipe from the late 1800s. Traditionally made from milk, cream and salt, it was introduced to stores in the 1930s and quickly became popular for its smooth and creamy texture. The taste and texture of a classic Philadelphia cream cheese varies depending on the milk used. Hence, cows producing milk around the Philadelphia area are actually milked specifically for producing this cheese. From this milk, producers create a process which results in creamy goodness on toast, baking recipes, dips, and crackers.
This blog post aims to explore the process of producing Philadelphia cream cheese and how it travels from the farm to the dinner plate. This process involves sourcing the milk, culturing it, turning it into cream cheese, packaging it and finally, delivery it to supermarkets. Throughout this post, the science and biochemistry behind Philadelphia cream cheese production will be examined, with a focus on the culture of the milk and tyrosines which help to form its classic texture.
Sourcing the Milk for Philadelphia Cream Cheese
The classic flavor of Philadelphia cream cheese is attributed to the milk used in its production. The milk used to make Philadelphia cream cheese is sourced from dairy herds that are grazers, meaning that they live mainly outdoors and feed mainly on grass and clover. This grass-fed milk has a more complex fatty oil composition which helps to give Philadelphia cream cheese its distinctive flavor profile.
The milk used to produce Philadelphia cream cheese is chilled to a temperature of 38°F to ensure quality and safety. This chilled milk is then transported to the creamery where it undergoes rigorous laboratory testing for fat, protein, acidity, pathogens and other components. The milk quality managers of the creamery create blends of milk from different dairy herds to obtain the desired fat content for the cream cheese.
Culturing the Milk for Philadelphia Cream Cheese
Once the milk has been selected and blended, it is passed through an homogenizer and pasteurised. Pasteurisation involves heating the milk to a high temperature for a short period of time. This helps to kill any bacteria or pathogens in the milk as well as exposing it to certain enzymes which are needed for cheese making.
After pasteurisation, the milk is chilled to the perfect temperature for culturing. It is then inoculated with direct-set starter cultures which transform the milk into the base cream cheese mixture. These starters are a collection of lactic acid bacteria strans that include cultures such as Lactococcus lactis, Lactococcus cremoris and Lactococcus helveticus. These lactic acid bacteria help to break down the complex sugars in the milk into simpler lactose and lactic acid. This helps to lower the pH of the milk to just the right level and creates the ideal conditions for cheese making.
Turning the Cultured Milk into Cream Cheese
Once the starter cultures have worked their magic and the pH of the milk has reached the desired level, the cream cheese mixture is ready for renneting. Renneting is a process of adding rennet, a natural enzyme, to the cream cheese mixture in order to coagulate it. Rennet helps to break down the lactose in the milk into simpler sugars and also helps to form a firm curd from the mixture. This curd is then cut into small pieces which helps to release more of the lactose, creating more lactic acid. The lactic acid helps to create the characteristic texture and flavor of Philadelphia cream cheese.
Once the desired texture and flavor of the curd is achieved, it is then put through a process called cheddaring. This process involves stacking and flipping the curd and applying pressure to it for a specific period of time. This helps to remove more moisture and whey from the cheese. After cheddaring, the cheese is then milled and mixed with salt, preservatives and stabilisers. This helps to give Philadelphia cream cheese its signature flavour and texture, giving it a creamy and slightly tangy taste.
Packaging the Cream Cheese
After the cream cheese has been mixed and seasoned, it is then ready to be packaged. This involves moulding the cheese into desirable shapes and sizes, such as round blocks of 200g and 500g, and vacuum sealing it in food-grade plastic. This helps to preserve the quality and flavor of the cream cheese over time and is essential for its transport and delivery.
Delivery of the Cream Cheese
Once the cream cheese is sealed and packaged, it is ready to be delivered to supermarkets and grocery stores. This involves carefully storing the cream cheese in refrigerated trucks or containers which help to maintain optimal temperature and moisture. The trucks are driven all the way from the farm to the store and arrive in pristine condition. Once the cream cheese reaches its destination, it is stored in a refrigerated section to protect its quality.
Philadelphia Cream Cheese On the Dinner Plate
Once the Philadelphia cream cheese is safely delivered to the store, it can be enjoyed in various dishes and desserts. From toast, to blintzes and to cheesecakes, the cream cheese can make for a delicious meal or snack. Its mild flavor pairs wonderfully with other ingredients such as fruits, vegetables and herbs. Furthermore, since it is low in fat, it is a healthier alternative to butter or margarine.
All in all, it’s easy to see why Philadelphia cream cheese is a classic among cheese lovers. Its quality and versatility has led it to become a staple in many homes. The process discussed in this blog post helps to explain the science and biochemistry behind producing the cream cheese and how it travels along the supply chain, from the farm to the dinner plate.