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~ How to Make Whole Buttermilk & Crème Fraîche ~

IMG_5774Once upon a time here in Happy Valley, circa the 1970's and into the 80's, crème fraîche wasn't an item one could find in the dairy case of any market.  Why?  Most folks had no idea what it was except for schooled chefs and those of us who scoured French cookbooks and/or read magazines like Bon Appétit, Food & Wine and Gourmet.  Yes indeed -- foodie life was very different pre- Food Network and the information superhighway we refer to as the internet.  

A bit about crème "fraîche" (pronounced "fresh" and meaning "fresh cream"):  In technical terms, it's a French-invented soured cream containing 30%-40% butterfat and a pH of about 4.5.  While its name is French, soured creams are common in most of Eastern and Northern Europe.  Similar to sour cream, which contains about 15%-20% butterfat, it's soured with bacterial culture found in buttermilk.  In cooking it's preferred over sour cream because its higher fat content prevents "breaking" or becoming unstable when stirred into sauces or soups.  Because crème fraîche is less tangy than sour cream, it can be sweetened with powdered sugar and flavored with vanilla and ladled over desserts or fresh fruit -- it can be whipped to soft peaks as well.  

IMG_5764Crème fraîche is seriously, astonishingly easy to make.  

Simply stir a bit of buttermilk into some heavy cream and let it sit at room temperature until it thickens, which takes 12-24 hours.  The standard ratio is 1:16, or 1 tablespoon buttermilk: 1 cup heavy cream.  Within reason, the ratio can be adjusted too.  For example:  If you want to hasten the thickening process or desire a more drizzly consistency (similar to Mexican-style crema), just add an extra tablespoon of buttermilk.  Every time the discussion of crème fraîche arises, someone always asks, "won't the cream spoil if left at room temperature?"  Worry not.  The good bacteria in the buttermilk multiplies and overtakes the bad bacteria which prevents that from happening.  And that is why I prefer old-fashioned buttermilk over lowfat to make crème fraîche -- which can be problematic since almost all of the buttermilk sold in the USA today is lowfat. 

How to Make Old-Fashioned Buttermilk from 1%- 2%- fat Buttermilk

IMG_5751Here in Happy Valley, home of The Pennsylvania State University, we have a place called the Berkey Creamery.  They make and sell all dairy products -- and are known for their ice cream.  No one visits campus without a stop there, they ship it to alumni all over the globe, and, people come from all over the world to learn how to make ice cream from them.  Over twenty-years ago, one afternoon I placed a call to them and asked to speak to the manager.  I explained my "lowfat" buttermilk problem.  An hour later, he called me with this formula, which their lab scaled down from giant, commercial-sized thousand-gallon vats to quarts and cups for my home kitchen.

To 1-quart, 2% buttermilk: stir in 8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) heavy cream

To 1-quart, 1% buttermilk: stir in 16 tablespoons (1 cup) heavy cream

In a 2-quart saucepan, stir together the buttermilk and cream.  Partially cover and set aside at room temperature for 24-36 hours.  Do not stir.  Using a large spoon or ladle, carefully skim as much of the thickened buttermilk from the top as possible.  Discard the looser bottom liquid.  

Yield: 3 - 3 1/2 cups old-fashioned buttermilk.  Need less?  Do the math -- cut the recipe in half.

How to Make Crème Fraîche with Old-Fashioned Buttermilk

IMG_57673  cups heavy or whipping cream

3-6  tablespoons whole buttermilk (Note:  As discussed above, 6 tablespoons buttermilk thickens cream faster, but, yields a slightly creamier, drizzlier consistency.)

In a 2-quart saucepan, stir the cream and buttermilk.  Over low heat, stirring constantly, gently heat to 85°F.  Remove from heat, partially cover and set aside at room temperature 12-24 hours. Gently stir, cover and refrigerate for up to 10 days.  At any time during these ten days, leftover crème fraîche can be used in place of old-fashioned buttermilk to start a "fresh" supply.  Sigh.

Simply, scrumpious & slightly-sweet:  Happy Valentine's Day!

IMG_5796How to Make Whole Buttermilk & Crème Fraîche:  Recipe Yields 3-3 1/2 cups old-fashioned buttermilk and 3 cups crème fraîche.

Special Equipment List:  2-quart saucepan w/lid; instant-read thermometer

IMG_5742Cook's Note:  Another product that many folks don't know about and fits into this discussion, which is perfect for cooks who use so little buttermilk that all they need is an occasional cup to bake or cook with is: ~ Buttermilk Powder:  What it is & How to Use It ~.  It's a great convenience product to keep on hand in your pantry at all times.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)


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