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03/14/2013

~ Neufchatel vs Cream Cheese: Are they the same?~

IMG_3452It's impossible to find real-deal French Neufchâtel cheese in American dairy cases, and, it's rare to come across it in many specialty cheese shops either.  It's even a hassle to order it on-line.  I know.  I tried all day yesterday.  Because of that, most American cooks don't really know what real-deal Neufchâtel cheese is.  Why?  Because what's labeled as Neufchâtel and placed in the dairy case next to Philadelphia cream cheese, is the American version of Neufchâtel cheese.

So what is French Neufchâtel Cheese?

Neufch-atel-cheeseReal-deal French Neufchâtel is considered the oldest (or on the short list of oldest) cheese in France, dating back to the 6th century.  It's named after the village of Neufchâtel-en-Bray, located in Normandy, which means "heart of bray".  Legend has it that farm girls shaped the cheese into hearts for their beloveds, many of whom were soldiers during the many wars between the French and English.

Real-deal French Neufchâtel is made with raw cows milk, but pasturized cows milk is used to make those being exported to the USA.  In unripened form, it is very soft and spreadable. It is coated with a Brie-like rind.  It is considered a soft-ripened cheese, and, in its ripened form, its center is firmer and drier than Brie, with a bit of a chalky crumble.  The cheese is sold "young", only after 6-10 weeks of ripening.  If ripened further, it becomes smoother and stronger in flavor.

American Cream Cheese vs. American Neufchâtel Cheese

I grew up in the era of Philadelphia cream cheese.  My grandmother used it, my mother uses, and, I use it. While I've seen Neufchâtel cheese hundreds of times, I've never given it even a passing thought.   In fact, I just bought my first package today so I could write this blog post!

IMG_3439In 1872, William Lawrence, a NY dairyman, created the first American cream cheese in a failed attempt to reproduce Neufchâtel.  He made the cheese in the same manner as Neufchâtel, with cream added to the milk mixture. He named his company Empire Cheese, but named his product Philadelphia Cream Cheese, because he sent it to Philadelphia for packaging and shipment to his buyers.  In 1903, Phoenix Cheese of NY bought Empire Cheese along with the "Philadelphia" trademark for it. Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese was bought by Kraft in 1928. James L. Kraft invented pasteurized cheese in 1912, and: Pasteurized Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese was born!

American Cream Cheese and American Neufchâtel can be used interchangeably!

IMG_3471Both are dense, tangy and spreadable.  The biggest difference between the two:  the Neufchâtel is made using milk exclusively (23% milkfat), and, cream cheese is made with milk and cream (33% milk fat).  What does this mean?  Neufchâtel contains a third less fat, and, even though it is usually marketed as a reduced-fat option to cream cheese, it's still a wholsome real-deal product. 

I found the Neufchâtel to be creamier in texture and slightly less rich-tasting, but not enough to say it's a compromise in flavor in any way (Certainly not the way I feel about the horrid difference between butter and margarine.).  While the cream cheese was slightly richer tasting, I was surprised to find that that the Neufchâtel had a slightly grainier texture, which I liked as well.

Watching your wasteline?  Give that American Neufchâtel more than a passing thought!

IMG_3480"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)

Comments

Thanks for sharing that Michelle!

My mother always used Neufchatel! (most likely the American version). So for me, I substituted it in recipes calling for cream cheese. Who knew, Mom was a foodie!

Beverly -- absolutely! Feel free to substitute. The change in texture will be so minimal you will not even notice.

Can it be substituted when making cheesecake?

Brittany! If the rigatoni recipe you are using calls for cream cheese, I am certain you can make the substitution without one bit of worry! ~ Mel.

can substitute cream cheese for Neufchatel cheese in a rigatoni bake recipe? Will it make or break the recipe?

Thanks Scotty! When I found myself searching for the answer to the question, once I found it, I figured it was interesting enough to share. Enjoy your bagel tomorrow morning! ~ Mel.

This is my kind of post. Lovely job! PS we use neuf on Sunday bagel breakfast.

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