How To Make Cultured Cream

by From Scratch Farmstead
how to make cultured cream

The more we delve into this homestead lifestyle, the more we are amazed by how easy it is to make items that we had previously only ever purchased in a package from the grocery store. Case in point, cultured cream! With only 2 simple ingredients, making your own cultured cream at home is about as easy as it gets.

We are always trying to expand the recipes coming from our home dairy. This is just our latest addition alongside some of our long favorites like farmhouse cheddar, raw milk butter, and homemade ice cream.

Store Bought vs. Homemade Cultured Cream

This past spring, we had a large family potluck. We had a Mexican theme and every one brought dishes to make an extravagant taco bar. One ingredient label on the table caught my attention – the container of sour cream. Instead of the only ingredient being cultured cream as it should be, there was a list of a handful of ingredients including extra additives, gums, and stabilizers.

It is possible to buy sour cream from the store where the only ingredient is cultured cream. But it is certainly not a guarantee. You must check the ingredient label to be sure no unwanted ingredients are being added.

However, making it at home not only ensures what is in your final product, you are also in control of where your ingredients come from. We definitely feel way better about using the cream from our grass-fed Jersey cow than cream from conventionally raised cows.

Sour Cream vs. Crème Fraiche vs. Cultured Cream – What’s the Difference?

This was quite confusing to me when I first began hearing these terms. Where we live in the United States, sour cream is the commonly seen product you can purchase in a grocery store. However, in other parts of the world, crème fraiche is more common. So, let’s breakdown the differences.

Cultured Cream

Cultured cream is just as it sounds – culturing or fermenting cream by adding different beneficial bacteria allowing it to develop a tangy or slightly soured taste. Both sour cream and crème fraiche are a type of cultured cream. Essentially, cultured cream is the only ingredient in both sour cream and crème fraiche.

homemade creme fraiche in a jar

Sour Cream

Sour cream originated in Eastern Europe and typically contains around 20% fat. Because it has a lower fat content, it is often made by adding additional thickeners or stabilizers to create the thick cream you see in the containers in the store (especially necessary when labeled low fat or fat free). It is made by culturing cream with a lactic acid culture which thickens and sours the cream.

Crème Fraiche

Crème fraiche has its origins in France. It contains a higher fat content (around 30%) and tends to be naturally richer and thicker because of its higher fat content. Similarly to sour cream, it is made by culturing heavy cream for several hours until the cream thickens and becomes slightly sour. Because of its higher fat content, crème fraiche will not curdle if heated so it’s better to use in soups or sauces. 

How to Make Cultured Cream (raw or pasteurized milk)

Traditionally, cultured cream was made by setting raw or fresh cream out on the counter for 8-24 hours. Over time, the cream would naturally thicken and sour because of the bacteria and enzymes present in the raw milk.

While we use raw milk when making ours, I do like to add small amount of some sort of starter culture to my raw cream to kickstart the process (I usually use yogurt). I’ve found this tends to help fortify the process, ensuring a beautiful, thick cultured cream.

warming cream on stove to culture for cultured cream

Even if you are using pasteurized milk, it’s still very easy to make your own cultured cream at home. The main difference is that instead of simply setting the cream on the counter, the addition of a starter culture is necessary to start the culturing process since the natural bacteria and enzymes have been largely lost in the pasteurization process.

What Starter Culture to Use for Cultured Cream?

When it comes to culturing cream or milk, there are 2 different options – thermophilic cultures or mesophilic cultures. The difference between them is that thermophilic cultures are heat loving and must be heated for the cultures to be activated. Most yogurts, including our homemade yogurt, is an example of using a thermophilic culture. Mesophilic cultures love medium heat  and ferment best around 90 degrees Fahrenheit or 30 degrees Celsius.

Making cultured cream with pasteurized cream requires a mesophilic culture and cultures best at temperatures around 75-90 degrees Fahrenheit. You can either purchase a mesophilic culture like this one or you can use cultured buttermilk (just be sure if you are buying from the store that there are no extra ingredients added).

How to Use Cultured Cream?

cultured cream frosting on pumpkin muffins

There are so many possibilities when it comes to using cultured cream. It is the perfect addition to many dishes like chili or tacos. You can turn it into delicious, creamy dressings or dips. Add it to any baked goods that call for sour cream. Or our favorite use of cultured cream has been to stir in just a bit of maple syrup, honey, or dulce de leche and use it as a frosting or a fruit dip.

Cultured Cream Recipe

Ingredients:

2 cups heavy cream
Either 1/8 tsp of mesophilic starter culture
OR 2 Tbsp of cultured buttermilk

Directions:

  • Pour cream into a mason jar or glass container and mix in starter culture.
  • Place jar into a small saucepan filled partially with water.
  • Heat saucepan over low to medium heat until the cream reaches 85 degrees Fahrenheit or around 30 degree Celsius.
  • Immediately remove from heat.
  • Wrap jar or container with towels (without lid) and let sit in warm place (around 70-75 degree Fahrenheit) for 8-24 hours until cream has thickened and lightly soured.
  • Place in fridge to store, it should thicken a bit in the refrigerator.
easy homemade sour cream recipe

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how to make cultured cream

How to Make Cultured Cream

Yield: 2 cups
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Culture Time: 12 hours
Total Time: 12 hours 5 minutes

The more we delve into this homestead lifestyle, the more we are amazed by how easy it is to make items that we had previously only ever purchased in a package from the grocery store. Case in point, cultured cream! With only 2 simple ingredients, making your own cultured cream at home is about as easy as it gets.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • Either 1/8 tsp of mesophilic starter culture OR 2 Tbsp of cultured buttermilk

Instructions

    1. Pour cream into a mason jar or glass container and mix in starter culture.
    2. Place jar into a small saucepan filled partially with water.
    3. Heat saucepan over low to medium heat until the cream reaches 85 degrees Fahrenheit or around 30 degree Celsius.
    4. Immediately remove from heat.
    5. Wrap jar or container with towels (without lid) and let sit in warm place (around 70-75 degree Fahrenheit) for 8-24 hours until cream has thickened and lightly soured.
    6. Place in fridge to store, it should thicken a bit in the refrigerator.

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