Kefir? Cultured Butter? Get the Scoop on These and Other Dairy Products
Feeling knowledgeable about dairy products? Then you go grocery shopping and, WAIT A MINUTE! Which one do you want—whipping cream or heavy cream? What’s the difference between butter and cultured butter? And what the heck is kefir?
Even though I’ve worked as a culinary professional for years, I still find myself occasionally confused about various dairy products. So, I did a little research and am sharing the results with you. There’s just so much information that I’m dividing it into two blogs. This is the first one. Stayed tuned for the second.
- Butter produced in the United States contains at least 80% butterfat. The remaining 20% is finely dispersed water droplets. Use this in any recipe calling for butter—it delivers rich flavor and creamy lusciousness.
- European butters, frequently found in US grocery stores, have a little more butterfat (82 to 85%). Go ahead and use them in any recipe calling for butter. The higher fat content makes products slightly richer and pie doughs a little flakier.
- Cultured butters, made from cream and an added active culture (like yogurt), taste tangy with a full flavor. Since producers use differing bacterial additions, not all cultured butters taste the same. Find one you like and enjoy the nuanced flavors to finish off foods (think dolloping atop baked potatoes or swirling into creamy risotto).
- Butters come in salted or unsalted varieties. No surprise—unsalted butters have no added salt. Salted butters include varying amounts of salt. It’s best to use the type specified in your recipe, but you can substitute one for the other with minor adjustments to other salty ingredients.
- Despite its rich-sounding name, buttermilk is low-fat or skim milk with an added bacterial culture. The thick, creamy beverage tastes tangy and is often used in biscuits, cakes or cookies.
- Buttermilk is more acidic than regular milk and reacts with baking soda, so don’t substitute regular milk for buttermilk. Instead, if you don’t have buttermilk, use plain kefir or make sour milk. For every cup of buttermilk needed, combine 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar plus enough regular milk to make 1 cup total liquid.
Buttermilk is often used in pancake and waffle batters, including our Banana Buttermilk Belgian Waffles.
- Tasting like drinkable yogurt, kefir is fermented milk that contains probiotics—good bacteria and yeasts. It comes with added flavors or plain in the refrigerated dairy section of your grocery store. Often the flavored versions have added sugars.
- Plain kefir works as a buttermilk substitute in recipes, but any benefits from the bacteria are lost with heating.
- The tangy flavor makes it a great addition to smoothies and cold beverages.
Our Mango Kefir Smoothie is a delicious way to try this dairy product.
- Surprise! Half-and-half is exactly what it sounds like—half whole milk and half light cream, giving it between 10.5% and 18% butterfat.
- With about 20% butterfat, light cream is slightly richer than half-and-half.
- Half-and-half and light cream may be used interchangeably in recipes. Neither contains enough fat to be whipped, but adding them to hot chocolate, coffee or even mashed potatoes adds richness. For a bit of indulgence, drizzle either over fresh fruit or warm fruit crisps before serving.
- In recipes you can replace 1 cup half-and-half (or light cream) with 3/4 cup whole milk and 1/4 cup heavy cream or 2/3 cup skim or low-fat milk plus 1/3 cup heavy cream.
Half and Half is used in our Cherry Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding with Maple Cream Sauce with delicious results!
Whipping Cream/Heavy Cream
- Whipping cream contains 30 % to 36% butterfat.
- With more than 36% butterfat, heavy cream is just a bit richer than whipping cream.
- Heavy cream and whipping cream may be used interchangeably in recipes. Either whips into luscious peaks, however the higher fat content of heavy cream makes whipping it a bit easier. Both are resistant to curdling in scrumptious warm soups or sauces.
Heavy cream in our savory Pasta and Chicken in Garlic Cream Sauce ties all the rich flavors together in this recipe.