OK, sooooo, got an email from follower Mari;
“I like your blog, but I have sort of a complaint; you always write about using crème fraîche or crèma instead of sour cream. Ours is a pretty small town, and we just don’t have that kind of stuff available. Does it make that much of a difference?”
Yes, Mari, there is a Santa Claus. Oops, wrong email, hang on. Ahem…. Great question, and actually, a major My Bad for not sharing on some post or another.
The short answer is yeah, it does make a difference. That said, there’s a real easy solution I failed to mention; make your own.
All three are fairly close cousins. Crèma and crème fraîche are closer to each other than either is to sour cream.
American sour cream is the thickest of the three, and the most acidic, but contains far less butterfat than its cousins. It’ll have 18% to 22% butter fat and not less than .5% acidity, per USDA specs. Genuine crèma and crème fraîche are more like 30% to 45% butter fat, notably less acidic, and thinner than sour cream, though many folks would call crèma thinner and crème fraîche lighter or fluffier.
Making very decent crèma and crème fraîche at home is simple; all you need is cream, buttermilk, and sour cream to make it happen. Obviously, the fresher your ingredients, the better your final product. Avoid ultra pasteurized anything, if at all possible. Here’s how it works.
There are notable factions for sweeter Crèma and not so much Crèma, so here are recipes for both.
1 cup Heavy Cream
1/4 Cup Sour Cream
1 teaspoon powdered Sugar
Combine all in an airtight glass container and allow to rest at room temperature until the mixture has thickened to the consistency you like, (About 10-12 hours), stir gently once about half way through.
Store refrigerated in an airtight glass container for up to a week.
Now we’ll do the buttermilk powered version, which also happens to be the same gig for Crème Fraîche; the only diff will be the length of time you allow for thickening – A bit longer for Crème Fraîche than for Crèma. For my mind, the active culture from buttermilk and the slower culturing process produces a smoother, more complex crèma with an authentic nutty flavor.
Crèma II & Crème Fraîche
1 cup Heavy Cream
2 teaspoons Buttermilk
In a sauce pan over low flame, heat the cream just to take the refrigerated chill off; use a thermometer and don’t let the temp rise above 100° F.
Pull the cream off the heat and pour it into a clean glass jar with a tight fitting lid.
Gently stir in the buttermilk.
Put the lid on the jar but don’t tighten it down.
Place the jar in a nice, quiet warm spot in your kitchen and let it develop for 10 to 24 hours; Crèma will be ready to go in 10 to 12 hours, and Crème Fraîche in 18 to 24. Let it work until it has notably thickened. Keep in mind that you want You want Crèma thinner than either sour cream or crème fraîche; the beauty of crèma is the way it drizzles over killer Mexican food juuuust right.
Once you’re to the proper thickness, stir gently but thoroughly.
Refrigerate for at least 4 hours prior to using, to allow the thickening process to complete.
Either version will last about a week in the fridge.
When can use it straight, or try adding a little something to it if you like: Dried chile, ground annatto seed, lime, lemon, orange juice, or smoked paprika all go really nicely.