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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.)
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.