The Scoop on Dairy: Cultured Creams
I’m wrapping up our dairy food series with a primer on cultured creams.
Cultured cream simply means any cream, light, heavy or half-and-half, that goes through fermentation with beneficial bacteria. The one most familiar to Americans is sour cream. Others include crème fraiche and crema. Although not a cultured cream, I’ve included Quark in this blog. It’s one of those products that doesn’t quite fit into any category.
- Tangy with a rich, creamy texture, sour cream is made by adding either a bacterial culture or an acid to cream that contains at least 18% fat. Both processes thicken and flavor the cream, creating a delicious product with hundreds of familiar uses.
- Reduced-fat and fat–free sour creams are produced like full-fat, except they start with half-and-half to make reduced-fat and skim milk to make fat free. These lower-fat versions use stabilizers to maintain the classic creamy texture of regular sour cream.
- Use sour cream in chilled dips and spreads or add it to baked products for richness. For hot soups or sauces, stabilize the sour cream by whisking flour directly into it before cooking. Alternatively, wait and stir the sour cream into a hot mixture after removing it from the heat.
- Nutty and tangy, crème fraiche is thicker, higher fat (about 30%) and less tart than sour cream.
- Mix crème fraiche with fresh herbs or citrus peel and serve it with meats or smoked fish. Whisk it into scrambled eggs or hot sauces for added richness. Due to its high fat and low protein content, curdling is not an issue when heating crème fraiche.
- Sour cream makes a good substitute for crème fraiche in most recipes, but remember to stabilize it before heating.
- Often used to balance spicy flavors in Mexican cooking, crema tastes sweeter and has a thinner consistency than either crème fraiche or sour cream.
- Use crema to top fresh fruit or to cool the heat on savory dishes.
- Crème fraiche thinned with a little lime juice is the best substitute for crema, but sour cream also works.
- Firm, creamy and delicious, quark is made by heating whole, low fat or skim sour milk until it curdles. The curds are strained, creating a mild, creamy spread. Technically, it’s a spoonable, soft cheese, but the taste, texture and nutrient content (low in fat and high in protein) are more like thick yogurt.
- Spread quark on toast or bagels, fill crepes with it or use it like Greek yogurt. In recipes, thick plain Greek yogurt works well as a substitute.
- Make Homemade Quark with our recipe!