Cultured cream, or crème fraîche, is simply full-fat cream that’s been inoculated with beneficial bacteria and left overnight to culture. It’s a delicious, substantially more digestible alternative to regular cream and can easily be made at home.
Why bother making your own cultured cream?
Aside from the fact that it’s ridiculously easy, (Stir in whey. Leave on bench. Transfer to fridge), cultured cream is a much healthier product than its un-cultured cousin. Why is that? Well aside from being a probiotic food due to the abundant lactic acid bacteria, the process of culturing develops enzymes called lipases, which assist our bodies in digesting fat. It’s worth noting that these friendly bacteria and enzymes are found abundantly in traditional, unprocessed milk products. (We’re talking unpasteurised and unhomogenised, the type our parents enjoyed in their youth. Australia is one of only three countries globally who have outlawed the sale of this type of milk.) If you’re going to consume pasteurised cream – culturing it is one way to remedy the loss of these beneficial nutrients.
The other benefit of allowing these good bacteria to proliferate is that they help extend the shelf-life of both the cream and the butter it makes. This is particularly great if you use cream as sporadically as we do! Our routine is to make cultured cream the day we bring it home from the shops. This way we know it will last for several weeks in the fridge.
However perhaps the biggest advantage of the homemade variety is that you can control the quality of the cream. Unfortunately, depending on where you live, store-bought varieties of cultured cream (crème fraîche or sour cream) are often based on milk from grain-fed or factory farmed cows and have added thickeners.
By purchasing good quality, grass-fed cream, you know exactly what you’re getting. And whilst grass-fed and organic is best, if you had to choose – it’s always worth prioritising grass-fed dairy over the organic stuff. It at least guarantees the cows are eating a diet close to one that nature intended. If you’re unsure about the brand you’re buying – call the company and ask them some questions!
What’s the difference between sour cream & crème fraîche?
Essentially, fat content. Crème fraîche is thicker and creamier because it’s made with regular, full-fat pouring or whipping cream (heavy/double cream for US/UK readers). Sour cream has a lighter, tangier yoghurt-like flavour and texture and is made from milk or lower-fat (single) cream.
The great thing about crème fraîche is that it won’t curdle when used in cooking like sour cream can, which makes it the perfect addition to sauces, soups and casseroles.
How to enjoy cultured cream
Aside from stirring it into curries, soups and casseroles, these are our all-time favourite ways to use cultured cream:
- Add a dollop to seasonal fruits and sprinkle with a little rapadura sugar for a delicious, nutrient-dense dessert.
- Blend with garlic and fresh herbs to make a dip to accompany veggie sticks or falafels.
- Stir in some mustard and salt for the simplest and best tasting sauce for meat dishes.
- Use it in place of regular cream or thickened cream in desserts
- Try my Lemon Myrtle & honey caramels! They are absolutely delish.
Which starter culture is best?
You can use various starter cultures to achieve similar results, however we love using whey or buttermilk. They work wonderfully and are cheaper and easier to source than powdered starters.
To make whey at home, simply use a few layers of muslin or a nutmilk bag to strain some full-fat, pot set yoghurt for 4-8 hours over a bowl. The liquid portion that collects below is the whey, which can be stored in a clean glass jar for up to 6 months in the fridge.
Making your own cultured cream at home will the extend shelf-life and improve both the flavour and digestibility of regular cream.
- 500ml pouring cream, at room temperature
- 3 tbsp whey or buttermilk
- Add your cream and whey to a glass jar (with a lid), leaving an inch at the top. Stir to combine.
- Attach the lid and leave it in a warm place (22-25C) to culture for 12-24 hours, until it has thickened (the process will be at warmer temperatures). The cream will thicken from the top down, so if you’re new to the process, use a spoon to make sure that the bulk of the jar has cultured rather than simply the top layer. There may be a small layer of liquid whey collected at the bottom – this is ok.
- Transfer to the fridge, where it will store for up to 3 weeks.
USA: Heavy cream UK: Double cream AU: Regular, pouring / whipping cream