Sunday, May 1, 2016

Swapper profile: Kelly White + Fresh Cultured Cream Cheese Recipe

Name: Kelly White

Home (+ hometown swap): San Francisco, SF Swappers

Profession: Recovering attorney, budding knitwear designer, die-hard fermenter, newly-minted natural cheesemaker, and stay-at-home mom.

How did you first get involved in food swapping? How long ago?
In the November of 2015, I was listening to an episode of the Local Mouthful podcast ( in which the hosts were discussing food swaps. I had heard of food swaps before (although I couldn't tell you where or when), but the hosts' excitement about food swaps was particularly inspiring. I remember pausing the podcast so that I could search online for a swap in San Francisco. I pretty quickly found SF Swappers, got on the mailing list, and eagerly awaited the next event so I could try it out! 

What did you make for the last food swap and what inspired your choice?
I made fresh cream cheese, cultured naturally with kefir grains. It seems like cheese is always on my mind lately. Over the last seven months, my almost 5-year old son and I have been "cooking" our way through David Asher's book, The Art of NaturalCheesemaking. I have been chronicling our cheesemaking adventures (and mishaps) on my blog,, and I have been tending our aging cheeses almost daily. A couple of weeks before the swap, David Asher was in the Bay Area teaching classes and workshops. I attended his class on Blue Cheeses (through Pollinate Farm in Oakland) and during class, he mentioned that it's very easy to transform kefir-cultured crème fraîche into cream cheese. I had made cream cheese before, but only with freeze-dried cultures, and his mention was all I needed to start experimenting to find the cream cheese recipe I liked best. Homemade cream cheese is so much better than store bought, and I figured my fellow food swappers would appreciate it.

Cultured cream cheese: delicious!
What’s your favorite thing about swapping?
Preparing food at home and sharing it with your friends and family can be fun, but preparing food and trading with fellow food enthusiasts who have different culinary backgrounds is really inspiring, eye-opening, and delicious.

Who or what most influences your cooking?
Taking Harvard University's free online class, Science & Cooking, made a huge impact on my cooking. Ever since that class, I think more critically about what I'm doing and why I'm doing it when I cook anything. I also find inspiration in podcasts, like Local Mouthful and Cooking Issues, and in fermentation books including Sandor Katz's The Art of Fermentation, and Amanda Feifer's Ferment Your Vegetables. I also love hearing about new recipes, techniques, or ingredients from friends.

What’s your favorite kitchen tool?
My Benriner JapaneseMandolin Slicer. I have the original size, in mint green. It makes vegetable preparation a dream. I use it almost every day.

Your current flavor or ingredient obsession?
Whole Spice's CrushedUrfa Chili and Crushed Marash Chili. These spices seem to make pretty much everything taste better. 

Biggest food surprise?
People say your tastes can change and that you can learn to like things, but actually experiencing that shift really surprised me. I used to hate beets. Like really, really hate beets. They tasted like dirt to me. Ever hopeful my opinion of beets would change, I kept trying them when they'd show up on my plate at a restaurant. I continued to hate them until several years ago, when my husband and I were on vacation in New Zealand. I tried a beet there and was astounded to find that I actually liked them. Now I will eat beets pretty much anywhere or anytime, and I am a zealous advocate for continuing to try the food you didn't like yesterday.

If the Rapture came tomorrow, what would your last meal on earth be?
Oysters on the half-shell with a drizzle of mignonette, and a bottle of crisp white wine.

When I'm not in the kitchen I'm _________.
I'm writing, knitting, or galloping around town with my son.

Favorite local food experience:
I love the cheese counter at Rainbow Grocery. The staff is so knowledgeable and helpful, and the cheese selection (and samples) are incredible.

Recipe by Kelly:

Fresh Cultured Cream Cheese (makes about 12 ounces)

·         Clean, fine cheese cloth or butter muslin (not the loose stuff you can get at the grocery store)
·         Fine mesh strainer (for straining kefir)
·         Quart jar or other similar vessel
·         Pot or bowl for catching whey
·         Colander

·         2 cups of fresh, heavy cream (not ultra-pasteurized)
·         1 cup of fresh whole milk (not ultra-pasteurized, and preferably not homogenized)
·         1 teaspoon (or so) of kefir grains OR about 2 tablespoons of homemade kefir
·         Kosher salt

Mix the cream and milk together with the kefir grains or prepared, strained kefir in a quart jar. Loosely screw on the lid of the jar or cover with a tea towl secured by a rubber band. Let the jar sit for about 24 hours at room temperature. You're basically making crème fraîche, so keep an eye on when the mixture has thickened to that consistency.

Once the cream and milk mixture has thickened, strain out the kefir grains (if you used them) and place them in fresh milk. (If you used prepared kefir, there's no need to strain anything.)

Spread the cheese cloth evenly over a colander that you have placed over a pot or bowl and pour the thickened cream and milk mixture into the cheese cloth. Knot the cheese cloth at the top and either hang it from somewhere in your kitchen with a pot or bowl below to catch the whey. Knotting the cheese cloth on a wooden spoon placed across a tall pot works. You can also just knot the cheese cloth and  leave it in the colander over a pot or bowl. Let the mixture hang for about 8 hours at room temperature, or until you have the consistency of cream cheese that you prefer. 

Sprinkle kosher salt into the cheese and mix it thoroughly. I like about a teaspoon of kosher salt for this recipe, but you can use more or less depending on your taste.  Store the cream cheese in a covered container in the refrigerator. You may notice that after your cream cheese has sat in the refrigerator for a day or more, it becomes slightly effervescent. That's totally normal.