Cream cheese is an unripened, white cheese with a high fat content. This soft cheese was invented in 1872, by a farmer in Chester, NY dairy farmer who combined cream and whole milk when he wanted a rich cheese. One A.L. Reynolds was the first to distribute the product. He did so in tin foil wrappers labelled "Philadelphia Brand". (Poole, 2002)

Cream cheese is a versatile food due to its consistency and flavor. It can be used as a spread on bagels and sandwiches, the main ingredient in cheesecake, and countless other appetizers, frequently as a binder or filler.

Many other flavors besides "Plain" exist, including chives, garlic, sun-dried tomato, lox/salmon, strawberry, honey nut, jalapeno pepper, and vegetable. Independent retailers are more likely to produce and carry off-beat varieties.

The USDA lays down the law in the United States regarding cream cheese's content: moisture is not to exceed 55 percent, milkfat shall be no less than 33 percent, pH must range from 4.4 to 4.9, and salt must not be more than 1.4 percent.

USDA also has quality requirements:

Flavor: "Cream cheese and related products shall possess a slight lactic acid and cultured diacetyl flavor and aroma; no off flavors or odors such as bitter, flat, sulfide, and yeasty shall be present. When other food is added, it shall be added at a level sufficient to impart a desirable characteristic flavor to the finished product."

Body and Texture: "Cream cheese shall be smooth, and free from lumps or grittiness." (USDA, 1994)

Sources:
Kraft Interactive Kitchen. http://www.creamcheese.com. KF Holdings. September 30, 2002.
MSN Learning & Research - Multimedia - Popular Cheeses. http://encarta.msn.com/encnet/refpages/RefMedia.aspx?refid=461533396. Microsoft. September 30, 2002.
Poole, Marcia. "Names Need Clarity". SiouxlandWeekly. August 28, 2002. October 1, 2002.
USDA Specifications for Cream Cheese, Cream Cheese with other Foods, and Related Products. http://www.ams.usda.gov/dairy/creamche.pdf. United States Department of Agriculture. October 1, 2002.

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