Welcome to the first installment of our new weekly feature, Ask the Goats!
Q: Tell me more about creme fraiche. It seems expensive. What’s all the fuss about? Is there a version I can make myself?
(Courtsey J, one of Doris’s co-workers)
Friends, it is time to examine a dairy product you may be lacking in your life. Creme fraiche is like sour cream’s fancy kissin’ cousin. It tends to be a little thinner and more tangy than our sour American version. However, there are two worlds to creme fraiche. The first one is the true, authentic (and expensive ) product of thick, unpasteurized fresh cream that is left to thicken and mature with its own proper lactic cultures. It is generally pricey and sometimes quite difficult to obtain since it requires raw cream. (However, you can order it from the Vermont Butter and Cheese Company.)
Our version of creme fraiche should always be identified as to its origins: a mock version that is easily made it at home with heavy cream, buttermilk, and time. Obviously, if you have lovely local, raw and organic dairy products on hand, use those. But you can very easily make this with corner store ingredients.
Here’s what you do:
Stir about 2 tablespoons of buttermilk into 1 cup of heavy cream. Place in a warm area, say near a pilot light, wood stove, or on top of your refridgerator–you’re looking for a home of about 85 degrees. Cover loosely and leave for at least 8 hours. The amount of time it takes to thicken and sour slightly will depend on the temperature and quality of the buttermilk you are using.
Why isn’t this real creme fraiche? If you’re pouring your cream and buttermilk from a carton that says “pasteurized” or “ultra-pasteurized” you’re miles away from the real deal simply because your product is barren of wild and tasty lactic cultures that are swimming around in the raw dairy product. Another important difference between the two is that real creme fraiche will tolerate cooking and gentle heating and retain its thickening powers. Mock creme fraiche lacks this ability and is poorly suited for dessert slathering and sauce thickening. It is, however, great for drizzling over special bruschetta, starchy things like potatoes, or adding to a composed dessert bowl thing (like fresh berries topped with crumbled streudel bits…)