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Buying Milk/Cream in France?

So thankfully I'm back in France for a month - and of course having a fabulous time.

But buying dairy in France is proving to be a huge stumbling block and I've asked several friends over here for advice and their suggestions have not always worked out.

Two things that I'd like to be able to find in a grocery store are (based on US milk terms):

Heavy cream (for making whipped cream for desserts and maybe also to be used in a sauce)

Whole milk (for making things like a bechamel or to add to eggs, etc)

The last . . mistake . . .was buying creme entiere, which was sold in a foil type pouch in the refrigeration section but it came out the consistency and taste of sour cream. Maybe there was a modifier on the package that I didn't understand completely, so I could have bought the wrong stuff.

Any easy way of solving this mystery?


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  1. The last one is "Crème Fraiche".

    Heavy cream (for whipped cream) is "Crème Fleurette"

    Milk, I do not have a clue, All I see at my sister's place is UHT milk; maybe it is what you are looking for ?

    6 Replies
    1. re: Maximilien

      I don't do much cooking with those products.

      However, crème fraiche is ideal for making cream sauces, much easier to work with than cream - as my long since departed famous first wife used to say.

      Try it, you'll love it!

      1. re: collioure

        My favorite crème fraiche is from Terroirs d'Avenir. It's "cru".

      2. re: Maximilien

        Some clarification needed here. The cream peculiarly labeled "crème entière" and sold in a squeezable pouch is not crème fraîche. It is a thick version of uncultured cream, some sort of industrial crème double, thicker than crème liquide/crème fleurette but not cultured like crème fraîche, so it does not have the latter's slightly acidic taste. I never use it for I never saw the point.

        True crème fraîche can be found under several names, all including the words "crème" and "fraîche". So it will be "crème fraîche", "crème fraîche épaisse", "crème fraîche de Normandie", or "crème d'Isigny AOP". All of these are cultured.

        Crème fleurette, crème liquide, crème alsacienne (which is crème fleurette), crème double, crème double de la Gruyère or Crème de Bresse are generally pasteurized and not treated with lactic ferments. The taste is different.

        One tip: if you add crème fraîche to a cooked dish, NEVER boil the dish after adding it. It spoils the taste. You never reduce crème fraîche. Crème liquide, crème fleurette or crème double can be reduced at your will.

        1. re: Ptipois

          I have a follow-up question about creme fraiche which I use to make Mouclade Saintongeaise au Pineau des Charentes or Poulet au Vin Jaune et aux Morilles.

          Both have wine-based sauces to which one adds creme fraiche and brings to a llight boil in the first case and reduces in both cases.

          Do these recipes break your rules for creme fraiche above?

          1. re: collioure

            creme fraiche (the stuff in a tub that can be substituted for sour creme) doesn't break when heated. I wouldn't boil it, though, because, well -- who boils sauces?

            1. re: collioure

              Of course you can do it with crème fraîche but it won't bring anything more to the recipe than crème fleurette/liquide would. There is acidity in the sauce from the wine, so the slight acidity of crème fraîche is not needed. So you can use crème liquide or crème fraîche for these purposes, bearing in mind that crème fraîche won't be an added value since it is not meant for reducing in the first place. The texture is the same in both cases.
              Now there's also the question of which taste you prefer, and if you like crème fraîche in those dishes, by all means use it.

              The original recipes from Jura and Saintonge would use crème double, but failing that crème fraîche does the job.

              The advantage of crème fraîche is that (being cultured) it is supposed to be slightly more digestible than crème liquide or crème double.

              Raw cream from Normandy is self-curing, which means it ferments by itself if left to sit for a few days, so it has both the advantages of crème double and crème fraîche.

        2. For milk, I buy lait entier, either cru or frais at La Grande Epicerie or at my local fromagerie. Both are fresh, not ultra-pasteurized and tasty.

          1. A suggestion for your whipped cream: buy Isigny Sainte-Mere Crème à la Vanille de Madagascar. Just cream, vanilla, sugar, + stabilizer. No preservatives, not too sweet, and perfect for when you have an urgent craving for chantilly. As for milk, you should find 3 kinds in the refrigerated section of the supermarket. I think it's the red-capped bottles that are "entier", or whole milk. (Blue caps are "demi-écrémé", or 1.5% milk. The 3rd choice is skim milk - I don't remember the color.)

            1. An aside, after a long search several years ago, I found creme double Gruyere at the fromagerie on rue Cler. It is shelf stable, i.e., pasteurized within an inch of its life, but it is luxuriously rich. At home, in a pinch, I chilled and opened a carton and it whipped in seconds.

              1 Reply
              1. re: mangeur

                Just for additional info, I was happily surprised to find a large carton of "crème de Bresse" at Okabé (the Auchan at Le Kremlin-Bicêtre). I had no idea such a distinctive product could be found in a Paris supermarket.

                It is very similar (actually, from my own comparison, almost identical) to crème double de la Gruyère, but it's cheaper: uncultured thick cream, thicker than heavy cream but runnier than crème fraîche, with no acidity.

              2. Milk:
                Whole (entier) Red cap
                Demi-ecreme Blue cap
                Skim (ecreme) Green Cap

                1. Another observation: non-fat milk in France is processed in such a way as to create a rich mouth-feel, unlike thin American skim milk. It is quite rich enough for drinking.

                  I drink several cups of cafe au lait at breakfast and find that I can't tolerate the rich whole milk the hotel sends up. I buy myself a pint of UP ecreme which is just fine for me. It keeps well at room temp for several days in all seasons.

                  1. What would be the equivalent of what we in the US call Half and Half? (I would never adulterate my coffee with cow secretions, but my sweetheart does, is why I'm asking.)

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: TVHilton

                      no such creature in France. You can buy cream, and you can buy milk, mais jamais ils ne se rencontreront.

                      You can also buy little foil-top cups of milk, next to the coffee -- look for the brand name Regilait

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        Hum. Guess she'll have to be happy with lait entier.

                        Of course, if God had meant for us to drink coffee with milk in it he'd have made it that way in the first place...

                        1. re: TVHilton

                          under that thought process, if God had meant for us to eat anything but bugs and grasses, he'd have made us plants that bore filet mignon with a bacon wrap.

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            If there were a plant like that, I would happily become a vegetarian.

                            (And in case it wasn't obvious, my previous comment wasn't 100% absolutely dead serious.)

                      2. re: TVHilton

                        The equivalent would be buying a carton of crème liquide and a bottle of milk and mixing them in equal proportions.

                        If you can't find raw milk (lait cru) and don't care for UHT, get the microfiltered version (lait microfiltré).

                      3. For heavy cream, you have two options -- look in the UHT milk section (non-refrigerated) -- for Bridelice or Elle et Vire, both of which come in a little box with a pour spot on it (twist-off cap)-- they have creme entiere or creme liquid (usually 'de Normandie') -- OR look over somewhere around the butter and yogurt -- tall, slender plastic bottles of fresh, cold cream. Available in full-fat and reduced-fat versions. I had the best luck with the refrigerated stuff for whipping. The UHT stuff whips, but not as well.

                        Milk also comes in two variations -- UHT (non-refrigerated) and available absolutely everywhere, and fresh milk in the refrigerated section. Look closely for it-- they don't keep anywhere near the quantity that a US grocery carries.

                        1. In my fridge now l have a tub of frais fromage onctueux. It is sour cream in texture but not as sour. Please, WTF is it ?
                          What do l do with it, other than spoon it on fresh fruit ?

                          10 Replies
                          1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                            it's fresh cheese -- farmer's cheese in the US.

                            Spoon it on fresh fruit, use it as a base for sauces (hell I've been known to just eat it with a spoon right out of the carton)

                            1. re: sunshine842

                              Fresh cheese, of course l knew that, but not at all like Farmer's cheese in States, which is a drier form of cottage cheese, as Friendship brand, the most common national brand.

                              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                You probably mean "fromage frais onctueux".

                                Considering that there already exists a "fromage blanc battu" (strained curd cheese) this must be something else. Possibly the same stuff with some cream added. Look at the contents somewhere on the carton and tell us what's in it, and particularly the fat (MG) content.

                                Edit: I've just googled it and it is nothing else but strained fromage blanc (fromage blanc battu), which may have a fat content of 0% to 40%. Eat it with strawberries or use it as a base for cervelle de canut (the fattier one I mean).

                                1. re: Ptipois

                                  "...or use it as a base for cervelle de canut"

                                  That is essentially what Souphie did with if as a tomato garnish. As my college roommate used to say, "I didn't know whether to eat it or rub it all over me." Divine.

                            2. re: Delucacheesemonger

                              Minced chives and shallots + EVOO to accompany tomatoes (are they in season yet?) This is a Julot concept except he used very fresh local cheese.

                              If you have an ice cream maker, you could slightly sweeten it and churn it as Passerini did, served with grilled pineapple.

                                  1. re: TVHilton

                                    IIRC this is smoother and tastes far better.

                                    1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                      Cowgirl's is non-fat, IIRC, so 7.8% fat would be a lot richer. (And I do like Cowgirl's...but this sounds really wonderful.)

                                  2. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                    I actually started to say quark, but didn't figure it would be on a French label.

                                    Good stuff, ain't it?

                                1. Thank you for posting this and to all who have answered. Hugely helpful!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: DaTulip

                                    Yes thank you. I thought I replied a few days ago to say thank you but I didn't see that post in my quick scroll. So thanks again!!!

                                  2. If in Paris, you can go to Marks & Spencer or M&S where they sell double cream which is like US heavy cream.