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Pasteurized vs Ultra-Pasteurized

From time to time I notice that a recipe will call for pasteurized heavy cream rather than the readily-available ultra pasteurized. The reason given, of course, is the fresher taste of pasteurized, as it is not heated to as high a temperature in the process. I have never been able to find pasteurized heavy cream in the stores. I'm sure they don't carry it due to the fact that it does not have as long a shelf life as ultra-pasteurized. I've even tried to get it directly from our local dairies, but they won't sell to the public! Has anyone else had this problem? Well....not that it's a big problem, but I would like to try it and see if there is really any great difference when I whip cream for strawberry shortcake, for example.

"Afraid of butter? Add more cream."-Julia Child

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  1. I had luck finding it in vegetable stands which go the extra distance and have flowers and some cheeses, dairy and even meat, in addition to their produce. Whole Foods is another possibility, depending on what part of the country you are in.
    I do find a difference when I am able to get just pasturized heavy cream. Much better, richer flavor.
    Good Luck.

    1. Oh I loathe UHT. In some parts of Europe, it is (or used to be) the only kind of milk you could get. And note that the expiration date on ultra-pasteurized is only true if it is unopened. Once opened, it spoils fairly quickly.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Brian S

        I've never even seen UHT cream. But UHT is not the same thing as ultra-pasteurization (which is not the same as pasteurization.) They're three related but different processes that involve progressively higher temperatures for progressively shorter periods of time. Until a couple of years ago, at least two of the main mainstream dairies that supply NYC still produced pasteurized-only cream. These days, I only see it at Whole Foods or the occasional other "gourmet" type place - as organic or some such thing, at very high prices. Like I said, it may very well exist, but I've never seen UHT cream at all. I do agree that UHT milk sucks - as bad as it is, I think I'd rather drink reconstituted dried milk myself....

        1. re: MikeG

          I get UHT Amul cream from India, the main problem being not the UHT but the 25% fat, and I also have some Millac 38% fat UHT cream that came from Ireland, both in shelf stable aseptic 1 liter cartons. It exists.

          1. re: MikeG

            I buy UHT cream all the time -- it's not all that for whipping, but it's absolutely interchangeable with fresh cream for anything else.

        2. You should be able to find non-UHT cream at natural food stores. I'd be surprised if Whole Foods doesn't have it. Although it is less likely, mainstream high end stores might have some.

          UHT cream tends to have different whipping qualities than non-UHT, and it reacts differently when you reduce it to thicken a sauce. (How differently seems to depend on the specific additive mix.)

          I would have agreed about an extreme flavour difference until quite recently. But I've since made some interesting observations. In Toronto, we have one widely distributed brand of non-UHT cream, Hewitt's. Their whipping cream tastes markedly better than the major supermarket brands of UHT cream. However, Hewitt's table cream and half-and-half do not taste better than the UHT brands.

          I recently found a brand of UHT whipping cream, Dairyland, that tastes more like Hewitt's and less like the other UHT creams. This was very surprising.

          We also have several brands of organic, non-UHT whipping cream (Hewitt's is not certified organic) that taste no better than the major UHT brands.

          Although it may or may not be true today, at one time all UHT cream sold in the Toronto area, whatever the brand name, came from a single dairy. But different brands had different additives and they never tasted the same.

          I don't know what sourcing considerations or processing secrets are involved. I've given up even trying to figure it out. I try to buy Hewitt's whipping cream and take whatever is on offer for lower butterfat varieties. I'd like to buy organic, but it don't because it doesn't taste better.

          1. Cream is wonderful. Cream is delicious. Cream has *flavor.* Cream has body and substance and produces mounds of lovely sweet heaven. It gives body and life to countless applications. Raw cream is practically divine but gently pasteurized and non-homogenized cream is also really lovely. Good cooks and thoughtful recipe writers will always specify pasteurized cream because it is vastly, VASTLY superior.

            Ultra pasteurized cream is worthless. It tastes both flat and cooked and whips poorly. It has no life and no flavor. There is really no point in using it. Why accept all that fat without the flavor? UHT cream is like Cool Whip, margarine, Miracle Whip, high fructose corn syrup and every other lie that gets sold to the willing public. It sucks and people buy it because they either don't know any better or can't find anything better. UHT is a bastardized product that bad agribusiness and greedy supermarkets have tricked people into accepting. There is *no* reason your local store can't stock a better product. In my experience cream is far less perishable than milk. Supermarkets that stock UHT cream are just choosing the worst/cheapiest/easiest suppliers and you should demand better from them.

            2 Replies
            1. re: JudiAU

              here here. I buy either at the dairy down the road or at my food coop. No ultra pasteurized for me!

              1. re: JudiAU

                plus, it has carrageenen in it. gack.

                The only non-ultra pasteurized I can get is from a small, localish dairy stocked at my co-op.

              2. Check a local Whole Foods - they usually carry a local brand (to you) of a pasteurized heavy cream vs. the ultra-pasteurized. Also, check smaller, local markets - there is a place in Lexington, MA called Wilson Farms that also carries a pasteurized vs. ultra-pasteurized heavy cream. Takes some sussing out, but you can usually find it. Post on your local board about it - someone's bound to know where to find it.

                2 Replies
                1. re: LindaWhit

                  I'm on a mission! Thanks, everyone!

                  "Afraid of butter? Add more cream."-Julia Child

                  1. re: cookingschool

                    At natural groceries you can often buy raw cream -- very expensive, though. The other thing you can look for is manufacturer's cream, which is used in commercial kitchens and is pasturized but not ultra-pasteurized. In the Bay Area I've seen it at Smart and Final, which carries a lot of food service products but is open to the public.

                2. Do you have a food coop near you? I'd try them -- mine has a local dairy supplying milk and (non ultra pasteurized cream)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: NYchowcook

                    Another good idea! I appreciate it. Thanks!

                  2. I don't know what your laws are in Texas, but in CA it is legal to sell non-pasturized milk products so I can buy non-pasturized cream at whole foods and at the farmers market. Also, in LA we have a chain of bulk stores that cater to small restaurants and cafes called Smart and Final. They carry process cream which even has a higher butterfat content than heavy cream. It is pasturized, not ultra-pasturized. As someone else mentioned, the biggest problem with working with ultra-pasturized is that it doesn't whip. If you are cooking with the cream, it really shouldn't make a difference, since once you pour even raw cream into a soup and heat it to 180 degrees, it's pasturized!

                    1. I'm surprised no one has mentioned the ice cream problem. When I make ice cream, if I cannot find pasturized and must use ultra pasturized I sometimes have a problem with the final product being too soft. In one of Alton Brown's programs he mentions this is because the fat globules are so much finer in the UP stuff. It's getting harder and harder in our area to find just the plain pasturized cream and I may have to stop making ice cream because of it. Up until just a few weeks ago our local big chain grocery store would have the pasturized cream most of the time, but I no longer see it carried there.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Jambalaya

                        While this won't work for every possible flavour, you can often get around the problem by using a custard ice cream base.

                        1. re: Jambalaya

                          I think you should demand, er, suggest strongly, to your favorite local independent store that they stock the regular (non-ultra pasteurized) cream. Or seek out a local dairy, coop or natural food store. Maybe a farmer's market to find a local dairy?

                        2. As a chemist many of the comments made about the taste of ultra pasteurized milk products do not make sense when the milk products are used in recipies that involve further cooking. For instance I use ultra pasteurized half & half and heavy cream to make French Vanilla Ice Cream. The recipie calls for the cream mix to be heated in a heavy bottom pot to make the custard base. I am fairly certain that the pot bottom is raised to over 280 degrees F. and cooking time is about 20 minutes.. So the process of making the custard is far more violent than the Ultra pasteurization process. The resulting Ice cream is fabulous, much better than any ice cream from ice cream stores or premium food market brands. Of course I use very fine vanilla beans or double strength vinilla extract purcharsed from specialty providers. And of course the ice cream is very fresh. The ingredients are very simeple cream, milk, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: nghy

                            I agree with you nghy as I am a professional pastry chef. Most states prohibit anything less than ultra pasturized milk for safety reasons. I make numerous desserts using the ultra pasturized and it whips up no problem! The reason folks might have difficulty is because they don't put their bowl and the cream in the freezer prior to whipping......both have to be extremely cold for best results.
                            The only time I know of that you are going to have a problem is if and when you might decide to make your own fresh cheese, like Ricotta.........it has to be non ultra pasturized or it won't work!
                            I stopped drinking milk in the late 60's when you no longer could get the milkman with fresh products right from the farm. There 's no comparison to be made between the milk products we had in the 50's and 60's delivered to our doorstep in glass bottles to the stuff they sell in supermarkets these days in plastic containers.............NONE!!!

                            1. cookingschool: There is a much bigger difference between pasteurized and ultra-pasteurized and that is ADDITIVES. In addition to heating at a much higher temperature, the government designation "Ultra-pasteurized" allows for the addition of additives like polysorbate 80 (a bitter-tasting emulsifier which was once thought to cure baldness (1980's) if massaged into the scalp), Carrageenan (which is seaweed), cellulose (which is processed wood pulp), and sodium citrate (another bitter chemical). NEVER WONDER WHY CREAM IS HARDER TO WHIP if you have to deal with this crap.

                              Pasteurized cream contains no additives. Depending on where you live in the USA, you can easily purchase it at Trader Joes or Stew Leonards. However, if you don't live in the New York area, you can get it from any supermarket. BUT you have to do two things:
                              1. You have to make friends with the dairy manager of your local supermarket.
                              2. You have to purchase between a half dozen or a dozen quarts.
                              Your supermarket dairy manager can purchase pasteurized heavy cream any time they want but they don't because pasteurized cream has a MUCH SHORTER shelf life and is much more unforgiving of poor refrigeration and other mishandling.
                              If you work for a large corporation with an on-site cafeteria, the manager of the cafeteria can also accommodate your request but, again, you have to purchase 6 quarts.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: bobbymak

                                I hate the idea that pasturized cream is a difficult product to store. It has a perfectly fine shelf life and weirdly, like buttermilk, never seems to spoil. Grocery stores stock the inferior product because it is easier or because they are buying from crappy out of state dairies. It is a dairy product like any other and all of these stores have adequate controls for dairy products. If they don't they should stop selling persishable foods altogether.

                                In Los Angeles, I can buy real cream from several different speciality grocery stores but none of the "commodity" grocery stores. The only time you have to be careful is right before big holidays when everyone seems to run out.

                                1. re: bobbymak

                                  In my area, Tallahasse Fl, neither Trader Joe's or Fresh Market carry pasturized. I will check While Foods eventually but it's further away.