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May 2, 2012 11:17 AM

USA heavy cream vs UK double cream

I am British but sometimes spend a few weeks in the US. All I can get in stores there is "heavy cream" which is heat-treated and tastes horrible as a result....
In the UK we can get fresh double cream (which is, as the title suggests, fresh, and pasteurised, but not ultra heat treated like heavy cream). It has a higher fat content than heavy cream - it is delicious and readily available.
I wonder whether there is anywhere (dairies, delicatessens, farms?) where it's possible to get cream that hasn't been through the ultra heat treating process with the subsequent flavor issue?
Any help on this would be much appreciated.

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  1. I am American but spend a fair amount of time in the UK with my husband's family, and I do a lot of cooking there. You will not find anything here like Double Cream. Even Single cream is far better than American Whipping Cream.

    4 Replies
    1. re: dulcie54

      Thanks for your reply, Dulcie. At the risk of sounding a bit UK-centered, I don't understand why Americans put up with this awful stuff. I loathe the flavour of UHT milk etc, and heavy cream has that taste. My husband thinks the problem may be that stuff has to travel so far in the States before reaching the stores, and so has to be "preserved" by the UHT process. I cannot believe that there is not a dairy producer within a reasonable distance of any store or supermarket in the whole of Florida (which is where we usually spend time). Oh dear, I think I'm ranting. Sorry. But thanks again for your reply. And enjoy the cream when you're in the UK!!

      1. re: BevRS

        Florida probably isn't the optimal climate for dairying. Although the grasses grow, given the heat and humidity, it probably isn't as nutritious.

        1. re: BevRS

          Just came back (to Spain) from a trip to Florida, and I have to agree. Most of the dairy products available at supermarkets were generic national brands that come from very far away. The worst for us are the yogurts, which are all much lower fat than their European counterparts (even those ostensibly of the same brand, like Dannon and Total) and unpalatable. I'd imagine this fear of fat can't possibly be good for cream.

          (Digression: But it was the fruit and vegetables at supermarkets that upset us the most--unripe, flavorless, and shockingly overpriced.)

          Where I grew up in the Midwest, we had great dairy products from a regional dairy (not to mention what we could get behind the scenes straight from neighbors who had dairy farms). I think this must still the case, because my mom sends me Christmas cookies that have an amazing buttery flavor.

          1. re: butterfly

            like everything else in the states, you can get real food if you are willing to pay $$.

      2. It may depend on your location in the US, but I have no trouble finding heavy cream that is not ultrapasteurized or with added stabilizers, from local organic dairies here in the San Francisco Bay Area. If you're in a part of the US where there is Trader Joe's, they sell it.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

          Thanks, Caitlin - that's really interesting and helpful. I have always thought that there must be places like the organic dairies you describe. We usually spend time in Florida each year, so I've just checked out Trader Joe's website - they have a store in the Sarasota area so I'll definitely go there next time! Thanks again for your help!

          1. re: BevRS

            There are plenty of organic, local farmer's dairies here in Southern Florida, where you can get better tasting cream and dairy than you can at, say Publix. Do an Internet search! That's how I found a local, organic farm right in my own backyard! I also agree that in the states, they over-process everything, including dairy. Just remember that if you purchase 'raw' dairy products from a local farmer in Florida, you mustn't mention that they are for YOUR consumption, because like so many of the backwoods laws in Florida, 'raw' dairy products are specific only for animal-consumption! Just an FYI. Enjoy!

            1. re: Reiki_Nurse

              This is really helpful - thank you.
              I'll let you know how we get on next time we're there!


        2. I've only been to the UK once, and I know nothing about pasteurization or stabilizers or any of that stuff, and it is really irrelevant to me. But, the OP is right, as far as I can tell. It is impossible to get UK-style double cream around here.

          This is funny. I had a colleague and friend in from the UK a couple weeks ago. I treated him to dinner at my house one evening, and he returned the favor. For dessert, he had bought an apple pie from a local grocer along with heavy cream since, as he explained, they usually put double cream on their apple pie at home. He was looking for double cream but couldn't find it and got heavy cream instead.

          Anyway, I know a girl that will pour a little heavy cream into her coffee, but the only things I use heavy cream for is creme brulee and whipping. So, I explained to my British friend that we should whip the heavy cream, to have real whipped cream. By the time we got to dessert, though, we were both quite intoxicated and full from a wonderful salad and mushroom risotto and unwilling to actually put any work into dessert. So he just poured some heavy cream over his slice of pie. The thought and sight of the whole thing was a little unsettling. I decided to pass on such an application of heavy cream and ate my pie without adornments, although I did briefly consider nuking it with a nice piece of cheddar he had procured, just to show him a variation on the apple pie he had not experienced.

          I had heard of, but never seen, double cream, and did not know how it was different from other forms of cream. So once I got home I researched into the whole difference, and, going off on a tangential thread, I resolved to try and make some homemade cheese. It's on the list, below many other important food endeavors.

          2 Replies
          1. re: MonMauler

            Thanks, MonMauler. Dinner at your place sounds fun..... Apple pie and cheddar is not unheard of in the UK - also eating fresh apples with cheese.
            The thing about heavy cream is the flavour - it just doesn't taste fresh because of the pasteurisation process. Also the difference in fat content also affects the flavour. Do you know, the best cream I've found in the US is a good sour cream. thanks for your interesting reply - and good luck with the home-made cheese.....

            1. re: BevRS

              Hi, BevRS. You are always welcome to dinner. Hit me up if you ever make it to Pittsburgh, PA. I always try to prepare interesting and tasty meals.

              Anyway, I assumed that apple pie with cheddar was not unheard of in the UK, but my friend just wasn't familiar with such a dish.

              In researching double cream after that evening, I assumed that double cream would be so much tastier because of such a higher fat content. (The secret ingredient is fat!).

              Your comment about sour cream interests me, though. I do love sour cream, and I regularly use it; however, I'm curious to know where or what type of sour cream you sampled over here. I've always used BK sour cream (I think that's the commercial name, not really sure) because that's what my mother always purchased. Have you found another brand to be extraordinary? I am always looking to branch out...

              Homemade cheese may have to wait a little bit. Not sure if I'll get that far down my food "bucket list" before you're able to make it to my part of the country. I do plan on having home-brewing somewhat solidified in the short term, though, if you enjoy some tasty beer...

          2. Here's a link that may help you understand the difference.


            Here in France 'Creme Entier' is only 35 -38% butterfat. Heavier creams are hard to find.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Yank

              Thanks for the link. It was just the info I was looking for when I came across this discussion.

              1. re: Yank

                Yes, well this is no longer accurate. In local grocery stores around Boston the only heavy or whipping cream you can buy is 18%+carrageenan and crap. I am seriously annoyed at this change as it means candy recipes that call for heavy cream go out the window.

                1. re: luvvie

                  While this is true of S&S, Shaws and MB, you can find unadulterated heavy cream at Whole Foods (High Lawn), Trader Joe's and a variety of other markets that carry smaller local dairy products.

              2. Raw cream is extremely rare in the US, because most states ban the sale of raw milk and cream. Florida is one of those. Some states permit certain farms with certain licenses to sell raw liquid dairy products directly to the public, but that's a minority practice.

                The US covers a very different terrain and arrays of climate than the UK, and as a result its dairy practices vary a lot (consider that a good hunk of the USA is either subtropical or arid): dairy cannot be local in much of the US, so it's shipped hundreds or even a thousand more more miles.

                Ultrapasteurized (and stabilizer-enhanced...cough) cream is, sadly, the norm in US supermarkets because it's more shelf-stable, and frankly most Americans use it for purposes where they cannot tell the difference. Finding cream that has been pasteurized more gently is a challenge, typically in better food markets that charge a premium for wastage thereof.

                8 Replies
                1. re: Karl S

                  Thanks Karl. Yes, raw milk and cream is also rare in the UK. Our fresh cream and milk that is available in supermarkets etc is gently pasteurised, so that the flavour is hardly affected at all. Of course the distances such products travel are much shorter than in the US. However, next time we're there I shall regard it as a bit of a challenge to see if I can find a similar product.

                  1. re: BevRS

                    And that gentle pasteurization (which, for American readers, is different from "regular" pasteurization, and of course even more different from UHT ultra-pasteurization) process is relatively rare in the USA, reserved for boutique dairies that sell very locally to a discerning clientele.

                    1. re: Karl S

                      As far as I'm aware, there are 4 possible processes:

                      LTLT (low temperature, long time) pasteurisation - this is the best, but very hard indeed to find outside a few devoted local dairies

                      HTST (high temperature, short time) pasteurisation - not as bad as ultra-pasteurisation, but the cream is still brought to a very high temperature for a short time, which does affect the flavour.

                      Ultra-Pasteurisation - here the cream is basically brought to a full boil for a fairly long time, with predictable effects on flavour

                      Ultra-high-temperature (UHT) pasteurisation: in this process, I believe, using high pressure the cream is actually brought above boiling; the result is thoroughly sterilised but really has a very cooked flavour indeed. True UHT cream is typically stored unopened on ordinary shelves, unlike the other 3 which are usually kept in the fridge when unopened.

                      1. re: AlexRast

                        "LTLT (low temperature, long time) pasteurisation - this is the best, but very hard indeed to find outside a few devoted local dairies"

                        But it IS being done. I know of two, possibly more in New York that use this process.

                        1. re: MacGuffin

                          I'm so glad to see that this discussion has taken off again -especially as we are planning to be in Florida in February.
                          Thanks to everyone who has replied......
                          but I think I will continue to struggle to find something like our UK double cream. I shall certainly seek out "devoted local dairies" - any help with this will be much appreciated and will also check out Wholefoods and other quality supermarkets etc. However I have tried to do this on every US trip (most recently to Hawaii) without success. Oh well - the search/challenge continues!

                          1. re: BevRS

                            I wish you good luck but I doubt you'll find what you want in any sort of supermarket, including Whole Foods. :(( If you can find a store that specializes in, say, cheese, you might have more luck.

                            1. re: BevRS

                              Besides whole foods & trader joes:
                              You can get inported clotted cream & Double cream at any number of British import shops, such as Tea & sympathy in NYC, or by mail from British Corner Shop UK which ships all over the world,

                    2. re: Karl S

                      Not that it really helps this discussion, but I thought that you might be interested to know that in France there are now raw milk kiosks outside many of the major supermarkets.
                      You can bring your own container or buy one. They're coin operated. Amazing!!

                      This is all an effort to reduce the 'milk lake' brought on by over production due to too many subsidies to the diary farmers.

                      No cream available though.