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Light cream - available in your area?

I got into a tangential discussion on another board about the availability (or not) of light cream. Here in New England it's a standard supermarket item, pretty much anywhere you go you can find half-and-half, light cream, heavy cream, and whipping cream, often several brands of each. But a poster from the midwest (KC area) says she hasn't seen it in markets there for 20 years.

I'm wondering if it's a regional thing - New England has a thriving local dairy industry, and the product is in demand locally, so they produce it (or they produce it so people have gotten used to buying it and using it - it's a chicken and egg thing, who knows which came first?)

So, Chowhounders from various parts of the country, a quick poll: where do you live and is light cream readily available in your area?

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  1. Southwestern PA: I think a few more specialty/gourmet stores might have light cream, but it is not a standard item in the mainstream supermarkets. When I got to McGinnis Sisters in a little while I will check there. I am pretty sure they have light cream. But Giant Eagle, the by far dominant grocery chain here, I am pretty sure I have never seen it in there.

    2 Replies
    1. re: CrazyOne

      Definitely at least one or two local dairies here that make the light cream (saw it earlier in the one store). But these products aren't carried in the larger chain stores nor in most small or convenience stores. (The major chains tend to push their own store brand over most others.) I figure we must be just on the edge if it really is a regional thing. Definitely not the same as half and half as the same dairy produces both.

      The cartons for the heaviest here usually say heavy whipping cream in my experience. It always seems to have junk in it, unfortunately (found that to be true elsewhere as well). I dunno if that is specifically to make it whip or not. And I didn't really notice today whether there is anyone selling a heavy cream distinct from their heavy whipping cream or not.

      1. re: CrazyOne

        I believe that the primary difference between heavy cream and whipping cream here is that while both have roughly 35% fat, whipping cream has some emulsifiers added to make it easier to whip (as if that were a hard thing to do in the first place; but never underestimate the demand of Americans for "convenience" foods).

        Although when I look at the web sites of a couple of major local producers, the list of ingredients on both their heavy cream and their whipping cream is identical, so maybe I'm wrong. Anybody out there connected to the dairy industry who can clarify this? (And no ghee jokes, please!)

    2. In Southern California definitely not. I'm originally from New England so I looked up the fat percentages and every once in a while I mix up my own.

      1 Reply
      1. re: LisaN

        Nor have I ever seen it in the South, Midwest, nor any place on the West Coast. Must be a strictly Eastern thing. I had always assumed it was simply a regional term for half-and-half, although, now that I think of it, in my Illinois youth there was a product called "coffee cream", which I believe was richer. But that was over 50 years ago.

      2. Thanks for starting this topic, Bob. To clarify, I haven't lived in KC for over twenty years, but haven't seen light cream any of the places I've lived since I was quite young. The last time I remember buying it was at a Kroger when I lived in central KY, and that was over twenty years ago. I've been in TX, NC, CA, KY, and KS, and not found it anywhere in all that time.

        1. Here in NYC light cream is generally available everywhere. Where I shop, 1/2n1/2, light cream, and heavy cream (a couple of brands each) are stocked. My father always ate summer blueberries in a bowl with light cream. I had no idea light cream was a regional thing.

          Though I'm not sure I've ever seen something called "whipping cream". I just thought that was what heavy cream was. Then again, I've never looked either.

          1 Reply
          1. re: LNG212

            Whipping cream is 30% butterfat - the lowest threshhold for whipping. Heavy cream is 36% butterfat and whips even better.

            Light cream is not abundant on LI, shall we say.

            To approximate your own light cream, add 9T (=4.5 fluid oz) of heavy cream to a cup of skim or 1% milk, or 7T (3.5 fluid oz) to a cup of whole milk.

          2. Oakland, CA. here. That's a big negative on the light cream. Never seen it outside of NJ/NY. Heavy cream out here is a whopping 40% fat and "whipping" cream is usually 36%. Whipping cream has gums & stabilizers added. Heavy cream; ingredient-cream. Is light cream radically different from 1/2 n' 1/2?

            4 Replies
            1. re: adamshoe

              To me it tastes different and has a different texture. But perhaps someone else has the actual butterfat or other pertinent info.

              1. re: LNG212

                Fat content of dairy products

                Nonfat milk: 0%-1%
                1% milk: 1%-2%
                Lowfat milk: 2%-4%
                Whole milk: 4%
                Half-and-half: 12%-15%
                Light cream: 18%-30% (generally unavailable)
                Whipping cream: 30%-36%
                Heavy whipping cream: 36%-44%
                Manufacturer's cream: 44%+

              2. re: adamshoe

                Yup. I've never seen "light cream" on the West Coast. For that matter, I don't remember ever seeing "heavy cream." Isn't it usually half and half, whipping cream and heavy whipping cream?

                1. re: adamshoe

                  OMG! Half and Half is just what it says, half lt cream and half milk?

                2. We don't have light cream in England. We have reduced-fat creme fraiche, which is great for cooking. I'm wondering if light cream is the same as single cream over here? Heavy cream, which is used for whipping, is known as double cream.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: greedygirl

                    According to at least one on-line kitchen glossary, single cream in the UK is indeed the same thing as light cream here - a pourable liquid with less fat than heavy or whipping cream - as LisaN pointed out, legally in the US it can contain between 18% and 30% fat, but typically has about 20%.

                    If your creme fraiche is like ours, it's a semi-solid (a very light one, but not pourable) which we also use in cooking.

                    This is really fascinating - light cream is something I've always taken for granted (though I rarely use it), and to find it's unavailable in many, if not most, parts of the US is like suddenly discovering that, I don't know, mayonnaise, say, only exists in one region. There are many foods that are still truly regional, but who would have thought that light cream would be one of them?

                    I'm still hoping to hear from someone who lives in another good dairy region like Wisconsin or Minnesota - so far it appears to be easily obtainable only in NYC & New England, but if Wisconsites don't have it I'll be shocked!

                  2. Although it's available in Mexico, in Puerto Vallarta none of the major grocery chains American like Walmart or Mexican like Soriana stock coffee cream or half and half. So for coffee drinkers who can't do without it we buy whipping cream and dilute it with water.

                    1. We have something called Light Cream in Canada that's commonly found in grocery stores (Ontario anyway) but I don't know if it's the same thing that you're referring to. It's 5% if I remember correctly. I used to buy it but then I noticed that it's list of ingredients is much longer than the higher fat percentages. It mainly for coffee for people who want something between whole milk and half-and-half.

                      1. I never truly understood what the differences between light and heavy cream. I have always seen it in supermarkets in NYC. Even my lousy local grocery store has it. I've never bought it, my grandfather used to put in his coffee before he started to use Farm Rich. I see it in the canisters at Au Bon Pain instead of half and half.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: MrsT

                          Look above in this thread for a breakdown of the fat percentages of various dairy products. That's the difference.

                        2. Can't find it in AZ. I've contacted the local dairy farm and they don't/won't make it. IN philadelphia it's everywhere.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: arizonagirl

                            I've had the same problem... Yet they have to make it, because they have Half and Half~~~Which is Half Lt Cream!!!!

                            OMG they are just so darn stupid out here... :-)

                          2. Ann Arbor, Michigan. Over the last 15 years, it's gotten harder and harder to find. I'm down to one source--and that only in December. Which works out, because that's when I need it to make hot fudge sauce for gifts. I have had years where I couldn't find it all and had to mix my own from heavy cream and half and half.

                            1. In my area of New Jersey, not every store carries it; but it is pretty readily available. The main brands are Shop-Rite's (store brand) and Welsh Farms. I love that the Shop-Rite brand comes in quarts.

                              1. So, to sum up: the land of light cream extends through New England, NY, and NJ, into parts of PA. Our only respondent from the Great Lakes region (MI) says it's fast disappearing there (though I'd still like to get some responses from WI or MN). And it's apparently non-existent in the South, Midwest, and West.

                                I'm still scratching my head as to why this would be, but them's the facts.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: BobB

                                  It's strange to me that it was in the groceries when I was a kid in KY, and then disappeared. I wonder if it simply didn't sell as well at some point, and all the distributors dropped it to eliminate the wasted product in the warehouses. So, what about our society in many parts of the country changed to where we weren't using light cream any longer, and why was the northeast the exception? Is it that we started buying morning coffee outside the home? Is it that women moved into the workplace in greater numbers and weren't making morning coffee at home, but rather workers made it on the job, where maybe there wasn't a refrigerator? Do northeasterners drink more coffee with light cream throughout the year? This is all just conjecture on my part, as I'm no cultural historian and was a kid and teen when this happened, so no real perspective. Anyone? It's an interesting sociological food question, to my mind.

                                2. Wisconsinite here -- No light cream available whatsoever. I live on the border of MN/WI and been to every possible grocery outlet/farm and light cream hasn't seen the light of day. I think our cheese/butter makers are too protective over their butterfat.

                                  1. When I was growing up in New York, light cream was a standard grocery item. Somewhere along the way, they started calling it half & half (i.e., what was called light cream in my childhood is the same thing as what is now called half & half).

                                    In today's Toronto, "light cream" is widely available, but it isn't the same thing. In Ontario, all dairy products are sold by butterfat content and things such as "light cream" and "half & half" are marketing jargon.

                                    The available cream products are:

                                    5% (called "light cream" on the label)
                                    10% (called "half & half")
                                    18% (called "coffee cream" by some brands and "table cream" by others)
                                    32% (sometimes called "whipping cream")
                                    35% (sometimes called "whipping cream")
                                    40% (sometimes called "double cream")

                                    The additives in some cream products are likely because of UHT Pasteurization. My understanding is that UHT creams without additives are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to whip, irrespective of their butterfat content. I can't say this with certainty, but the local 32-35% creams that do not contain additives are also not UHT processed. I do not understand why the lower butterfat creams would need additives.

                                    The 40% cream is very thick, and very delicious, but it does not whip. It does not resemble the "double cream" I've had in Europe.

                                    The designations for milk products seem similarly regional. We have milk that is 0%, 1%, 2%, 3.25%, and 3.28%. Both 3.25% and 3.28% are considered to be "whole milk".

                                    Whole milk is generically called "homo". Some niche brands that are not homogenized would still be called "homo". All lower fat (1% and 2%) milk products are homogenized, but are not "homo".

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: embee

                                      Another report from NYC...we have light cream everywhere. And half and half and heavy cream and heavy whipping cream...Now that being said, I don't know what to use light cream for but we have it.

                                      1. re: embee

                                        why would H&H have more milk fat than LT Cream? When it's supposed to be half Lt Cream, and Milk by Definition; did they just make up their own scale, bizarre and stupid... But I believe you...

                                      2. I saw light cream in the cooler at the Dominick's near me in Chicago when I was picking up some heavy cream for next week. Its probably always been there, but I never really noticed it until after reading this post.

                                        1. The Kroger in Georgia just discontinued their store brand of light cream a few weeks ago, and never had another brand to compete or replace it with.

                                          Some Bi-Lo stores (not around here) carry their "Southern Home" store brand of light cream, and Harris Teeter (North Carolina) also has a store brand.

                                          Dunkin Donuts and Carribou coffee always used it for their creamer, and have even bought a few quarts from Dunkin before.

                                          I can't understand why it is so hard to come by, when there is not even a close comparison to half and half as a coffee creamer.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: georgiadog

                                            I always thought that "light" cream contained less fat. . I found this article http://www.realcaliforniamilk.com/pro... which lays out the fat content of all the different creams. Now if someone can tell me where on LI or even in the city for that matter, I can find a supply of Manufacturers Cream.

                                            Clotted Cream, a specialty of England, is made by gently heating rich, unpasteurized milk until a semisolid layer of cream forms on the surface. After cooling, the thickened cream is removed.

                                            Cream in Aerosol Cans: is whipped cream packaged in cans under pressure from nitrous oxide, which creates a light, fluffy whipped cream. Sugar, flavorings and a stabilizer may be added.

                                            Crème Fraîche: is heavy cream that has been slightly soured with bacterial cultures, but is not as sour or as thick as sour cream.

                                            Half-and-Half: is a mixture of whole milk and cream that contains at least 10.5 percent milkfat, but no more than 18 percent.

                                            Heavy Cream or Manufacturer’s Cream: must contain at least 36 percent milkfat. It can be readily whipped and retain its whipped state longer than that of light whipping cream. Manufacturer’s Cream contains 36-40 percent milkfat and is available to foodservice but not retail.

                                            Light Cream or Coffee Cream: contains at least 18 percent, but no more than 30 percent milkfat, and commonly contains 20 percent.

                                            Light Whipping Cream:, the form most commonly available, contains at least 30 percent milkfat, but no more than 36 percent. Cream must contain at least 30 percent milkfat to produce whipped cream. Whipping cream will double in volume when whipped.

                                            Sour Cream: results from adding lactic acid bacteria to pasteurized cream with at least 18 percent milkfat to sour and thicken the cream.

                                            Ultrapasteurized Cream: has been briefly heated to temperatures up to 300˚F to kill microorganisms. It has a longer shelf life than regular cream, but doesn’t whip as well.

                                          2. Light cream when we were in MA or Okinawa. Half and Half here in our home state of California.

                                            1. Here in Az It's impossible to find. People don't even know what it is... Even those in Dunkin and Starbucs, as both use Half and Half out here...

                                              Every market I go in I play the same game, do you have Lt Cream not H&H and the employee takes me over the the diary section and shows me H&H and calls that lt cream~~~it's the dumbing down of America of America... I can see not having it, but not even knowing what it is~pathetic... BTW: I sometimes do this to the same employee more than once, my wife gets mad at me for playing with the poor things...

                                              I wonder if in Seattle they have real light cream~and they call themselves coffee connoisseurs?

                                              1. I think it's probably due to the many new milk products~2%, 1%, etc. The diaries just can't make that many products~especially when the consumers have no idea as to what the differences of those products are~because they are pathetic... So you snooze you loose...

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: AlexHearn

                                                  Alex, I'm pretty sure that's a big part of it, but then there's the ongoing battle for shelf space to consider. The food companies are expanding lines and demanding space to sell them from, and anything that sells in relatively small numbers gets cut, no matter how long it's been offered. That's why I can't find buttermilk in smaller than quart cartons except when we go back to Nashville for a visit, and why I can't get my old favorite Campbell's soups, Pepper Pot and Scotch Broth anymore. If there is a high general demand for a specific product over a fairly large area, the plants will produce it and the stores will sell it. But for wistful geezers just looking for boyhood favorites, forget it.

                                                  1. re: AlexHearn

                                                    I'm wondering if terminology--and current labeling trends-- play a part as well.
                                                    The term "light" has come to mean (grocery-speak wise) lower in fat and/or calories---often including fake fats and sweeteners.
                                                    Imagine the shock of a dieter who buys light cream for her coffee instead her usual CoffeMate (although I would argue that it's a *good* surprise).

                                                    I have seen non-fat "cream" on the dairy shelves, which just freaks me out. Ditto for non-fat ice-cream (soooo wrong...).

                                                  2. Indiana and no light cream available. I moved here from Boston area almost 13 years ago and this has always baffled me. I wish I could get it shipped to me because coffee just doesn't taste the same with half and half.