Lemon Dill Schmear

Many of us who love Jewish food can find nothing more tempting than a bagel and “schmear”… the Yiddish word for a generous slathering of cream cheese. But as we order our nova lox, onions, and sprinkling of capers, few of us stop to wonder where cream cheese comes from. Like all food, cream cheese has a history… and the story behind the schmear is a fascinating combination of luck, accident, and the entrepreneurial spirit of early America.

Cream cheese as we know it today– the American “schmear” we are so fond of– was first discovered in Chester, New York in the late 1800’s. At that time, a form of cream cheese known as Neufchatel was quite popular in France. Neufchatel has been around for centuries– the first official mention of it dates to 1543 in the ledgers of Saint-Aman Abbey of Rouen. In 1872, Charles Green, a New York dairyman, wanted to create a better version of Neufchatel for America; a few brands were already on the market, but Green felt they didn’t measure up to the French version. He brought a European cheese maker to town, who shared his tips for making better cheese. Another Catskills dairyman, William Lawrence, eavesdropped on the conversation and jotted down the recipe for Neufchatel. In his attempt to recreate the recipe he’d overheard, Lawrence accidentally doubled the amount of cream. He liked the result so much that he began selling it under the name “Star Brand Cream Cheese.” Over time, the brand name was changed. Though the product was developed in the Catskills, Philadelphia was the most fashionable name in the United States at that time. Philadelphia Cream Cheese was born, and survives to this day as the most popular American cream cheese on the market.

This Lemon Dill Schmear is a lemony twist on classic cream cheese. It makes a unique and tasty addition to a bagel platter; you can also serve it as a condiment at the Shavuot table. Decorate it with a simple lemon twist for a fun presentation. Who doesn’t love a good schmear?

I take my sesame bagel toasted with nova lox, capers, and a schmear. How do you take your bagel?

Recommended Products:

Citrus Juicer

Food Processor

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Lemon Dill Schmear


  • 1 lb cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
  • 1 tbsp heavy whipping cream, or more for consistency
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • Salt and white pepper to taste (optional)

You will also need

  • Food processor
Total Time: 5 Minutes
Servings: 18
Kosher Key: Dairy
  • Fit your food processor with a blade attachment. Place cream cheese, lemon juice, whipping cream, lemon zest, and dill into the processor. Process to blend all ingredients until a creamy, smooth texture develops. You may add more whipping cream if desired; this will soften the texture and make it more dip-like. After processing, taste the schmear-- add more lemon juice, salt, and white pepper to taste, if desired.
  • Chill the schmear until ready to serve. Garnish with a lemon twist, if desired (instructions can be found here). Spread on toasted bagels or crackers.

Research Sources

Davidson, Alan (1999). Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford University Press, USA.

Smith, Andrew F. (2007). The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink.
Oxford University Press, New York, NY.

Stamm, Eunice R. (1991) The History of Cheesemaking in New York State. Lewis Group, Endicott, NY.

Comments (9)Post a Comment

  1. Oh, I am totally going to the grocery store tomorrow and getting all ingredients for this!!! It looks soooo good!

  2. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    I like chive or scallion cream cheese which I mix up myself or some Temptee whipped cream cheese on an everything Bagel with Nova sliced so thinly you can read the New York Times through it, some thinly sliced red onion soaked in ice water to lose the bite, a few pieces of thinly sliced English cucumber, maybe if in season, a slice of heirloom tomato on top. Open face never closed…delightful! Great post Tori!
    Shabbat Shalom!

  3. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Oooh, this looks delicious! I love dill :) And I love the bit of history on cream cheese – I had no idea! I think it’s about time I subscribed to your blog, I keep clicking over from the food photo sites – everything on your site looks so good :)

  4. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    This is delicious. I had it on a bagel with tomatoes and my husband and son had it with lox. Even my daughter-in-law liked it and she is somewhat picky. Will definitely make this again. Thanks

  5. I like an Everything Bagel (un-toasted) slathered with chive cream cheese and topped with thinly sliced red onion and tomatoes. I can’t wait to try this recipe!

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