April 23, 2009

Home Creamery: Crème Fraîche

Crème Fraîche
Crème Fraîche

Setting up a home creamery to make your own dairy foods is really very simple and one of the best things you can do to economize. You'll also end up with better dairy foods as a result.



Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything has a simple recipe with no heating requirements. First, sterilize a  jar, then heat it carefully with boiling water until it is quite hot. Pour in a cup of heavy cream at room temperature, add 2 tablespoons of cultured buttermilk, then stir to mix. Close the jar and wrap it in a towel to keep it warm and cozy while it sits out overnight.

In the morning, after it had been sitting about 12 hours, I opened the jar to stir, and immediately noticed how much thicker it was than my previous batches. The flavor was nice, but still more creamy than sour, so I closed the jar and rewrapped it to sit out all day. After it had been out about 24 hours, I put it in the refrigerator to chill overnight.

This method produced a tasty crème fraîche with enough body to satisfy me. Next time I'll let it sit out for 36 hours to develop a slightly more sour, nutty flavor. If you want to make crème fraîche without using a culture, this is the method and recipe I recommend. It will keep 1-2 weeks, but I doubt it'll last that long, because it's really delicious!

Setting Up Your Home Creamery

A simple home creamery requires a few pieces of kitchen equipment. If you don't already have a good, accurate thermometer, get a high quality instant-read thermometer. A good stainless steel 2-quart covered saucepan will be your basic pan; a larger pan is usable but can be difficult to control unless you're doing larger batches. For measuring, you'll want a 4-cup measuring cup and a good set of measuring spoons. You'll also want some unbleached cheesecloth on hand, as well as an assortment of jars--I prefer french canning jars and bottles with bail tops.

19 comments:

  1. Someday, I hope to be organized enough to make homemade dairy products. This sounds like a simple way to get my feet wet.

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  2. It's both simple and foolproof. The downside is that once you've made crème fraîche you won't be able to tolerate store-bought sour cream, nor will you be satisfied with the overpriced crème fraîche you can find.

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  3. I had myown home creamery in the South Pacific and made sour cream and several other products weekly for a local supermarket. For sour cream I used 1 litre of long-life heavy cream with 2 Tbsp of yogurt. I had a incubator built from an old cupboard with an old rice cooker for the heating element. The yogurt and sour cream were ladled into butter tubs, set in a tray with 1 inch of water and placed in the incubator for about 8 hours. On a really sunny hot day I would set tubs outside in a glass enclosed food cupboard with vents and saved the power. My sour cream was nutty and thick, just perfect for draining and making boursin and other cream cheese products. There is no end to what you can do with milk. Cottage cheese, feta and panire are a few of the items I made besides yogurt, sour cream and cream cheese. I used full-cream powdered milk for everything since the local milk was of poor quality and imported milk was cost prohibitive. Well done Chef.

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  4. Thanks! Someone has to ask, so I will. What is long-life heavy cream?

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  5. Long-life milk is ultra-pasteurized so it need not be refrigerated until opened and its good up to a year before opened. Long-life cream however does have to be refrigerated and has shelf life up to 6 months.

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  6. Thanks! I thought that was it but wanted to be sure.

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  7. I am so intrigued by making my own dairy and you have spurred my interest to do so. By any chance, can you clairify the difference between cream cheese, creme fraiche and marscapone? Other than country (America, France, Italy)... :-) Also, I have access to unpasturized cream...how would that work? Many thanks!

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  8. Cream cheese and mascarpone are soft cheeses produced by acidifying milk. Crème fraîche is cultured. In very simplified terms, cheese is built by curdling milk to produce curds and whey, one or both of which is then processed and possibly aged. Cultured dairy products are created by promoting the growth of friendly bacteria.

    Unpasteurized dairy products have not been heated to kill bacteria. As a result, they can produce superior cheeses and cultured milk products. On the other hand, they're fragile and a great home for many unfriendly and even dangerous bacteria. You'll need to be aggressive about sterilization and careful to process the raw milk products as soon as possible, and certainly with 72 hours of it coming out of the cow.

    I'll be doing more Home Creamery posts in the near future--I'm making ricotta today. Meanwhile, you might consider reading Ricki Carroll's book, Home Cheese Making.

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  9. I'm so happy to see a recipe for homemade creme fraiche as it seems such a delicacy! I hv some questions about your recipe too; first, what do you mean by "cultured" buttermilk? How do you make buttermilk "cultured"? Secondly, since buttermilk is not so common in the supermarkets in Hong Kong, may I use milk and lemon juice mixed together to form the buttermilk for your recipe? Thanks! Your explanation of the cheese process makes so much sense! You're such an expert!

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  10. Cultured buttermilk has live cultures of bacteria, so milk and lemon juice will not work. I'll see if I can find a place for you to get the specific bacteria cultures you'll need.

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  11. To make crème fraîche without cultured buttermilk you'll need to add 1.25mL (¼ teaspoon) of aroma mesophilic culture to 1 liter (quart) of heavy cream. In the USA, you can get a starter at New England Cheesemaking Supply Company. If they don't ship to Hong Kong the site will provide enough information to help you find what you need there.

    Good Luck!

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  12. Thanks so much for your kind help!

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  13. It'll work well and you'll find you want to keep some on hand all the time. Let me know how it turns out for you!

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  14. I made this twice now, last time I smashed a clove of garlic and let it ferment for about 30 hours. Heaven! I love how easy this is. Thanks!

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  15. Using garlic is a great suggestion! Thanks.

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  16. [...] then return the drained spinach to the pan and sauté until it’s heated through. Add some crème fraîche to the pan–not too much, just enough to coat lightly–and adjust the seasoning with more [...]

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  17. I discovered creme fraiche because I needed a sour cream alternative for a cake recipe. Wanted a creamy cake but not a sour cake. It mostly worked except I don't want the nutty/bitter flavor either. So I want to try this recipe but can you guide me on how to get maximum thickness with minimum sour and nutty?

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  18. Unfortunately, the thicker crème fraîche gets the more sour it gets. You might try mascarpone, which is thick but not sour. I wrote a post about making mascarpone that you can find at http://www.stumptownsavoury.com/2009/07/17/home-creamery-mascarpone/ .

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