Musings on Creme Fraiche
- Jeff W
I've always been confused regarding the cache and high price when one purchases Creme Fraiche.
I don't use it very often, but when I do, it is made in my kitchen within 30 seconds. I've read recipes that specify "Never to use cream that is ultra pasturized, or the Creme Fraiche will never form". I've also read recipes that will tell you to use a high ratio of buttermilk to cream. I've found both of those statements to be unfounded.
I take one cup of heavy cream---any brand, pasturized, ultra pasturized, and pour it into a jar. I stir in 1 tablespoon of buttermilk, and then loosely cover the jar. It sits in a warm place for 24 hours (the cabinet on top of my fridge works great). After a day, I give it a little stir, pop it into the fridge, and a tasty, tangy , true Creme Fraiche is the result. When I put it into the fridge, I let the cover stay off for a little bit, to avoid any water condensation. Then I put on the cover. I'm told that Creme Fraiche will stay can stay in the fridge for 10 days.
Have a good weekend
I do much the same thing. Lots cheaper than buying "creme fraiche." I learned this from "The Cuisine of Alsace" by Pierre Gaertner, an outstanding cookbook by the by. Where did you hear about this practice?
Sometimes my cream does not set up after the de rigeur 24 hours. In such a case, if I had planned to use the creme fraiche for some preparation I just use it as it is. I usually microwave the heavy cream to bring it up to a little above body temperature -- I test the temperature with my lip, if it seems warm, that is good enough -- and then add in the buttermilk. I leave the cream sitting out on my counter where room temperature conditions prevail. Maybe a warmer place would be better, on top of and towards the back of the refrigerator where heat exchanger coils are pumping some heat into the room.
I, for one, have never been successful at homemade "creme fraiche". It was never as thick and tasty as the Bellwether Farms version I buy. According to Judy Rogers in her Zuni cookbook, what you make at home is NOT the real deal -- it's a mock version. So, maybe that's why mine is always disappointing, although others seem to have luck at home.
I'm thinking that the crucial part of the process, is a 24 hour stint in a consistently warm environment. When we purchased our home, we put in a new fridge, and cabinetry. It is always warm in the cabinet, and it is has produced wonderful Creme Fraiche. After a day, it is quite thick---but after giving it a stir, and sticking the finished product in the fridge, it gets perhaps even thicker than sour cream.
One cookbook I have, by a French woman, argues forcefully that any creme fraiche made at home, especially anywhere but France, is not really creme fraiche at all and we should stop kidding ourselves. However, *Julia* says it's real, and this is how you make it, and that's By Golly good enough for me, so there.