My friend Zhu Zhu decided to take on the Accidental Locavore in making crème fraîche. He’s a genius who certainly knows a lot more about the chemistry behind cooking than I do, and we were chatting about some of the science behind making milk “spoil”. Because we’re both just a little competitive, he dropped off three versions of crème fraîche that he had made and I threw my latest batch into the ring.
The first sample the Locavore tasted had great taste, tangy and creamy at the same time. Good, rich, mouth-feel, really luscious. Zhu Zhu’s second one had kind of a weird texture, it seemed to be separating a bit, kind of like yogurt. It was a little tart, more like sour cream. The third sample was thin and sour, almost inedible. How did mine compare? I would rate it second. It was just a little short on the mouth-feel and taste from his #1.
After that, I suckered my friend into tasting. In Laura’s opinion 1 was the clear winner, with mine coming in second. She thought 3 tasted nasty, and was the thinnest of all of them. “His 2 has a weird consistency and not much taste”.
My husband who originally didn’t want to taste, changed his mind (peer pressure?). He picked mine as his favorite with Zhu Zhu’s #1 coming in second. He liked the Locavore’s because it was a little lighter.
Zhu Zhu preferred the taste of #2, but agreed on the texture. That’s why he thought it needed to sit out for another day.
So what was the secret formula? From Zhu Zhu: #1 was 1/2 cup of heavy cream with 1 tablespoon of Farmland cultured low fat buttermilk. It sat unrefrigerated for roughly 24 hours before refrigeration. #2 was 1/2 cup of heavy cream with 1 tablespoon of #3. It might need to sit out for another day for the texture to improve. It didn’t thicken as fast as #1 and he never put it in the refrigerator (the cream was also Farmland). #3 was the commercial crème fraîche from Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery, “handmade in Vermont and all that” (which just won the 2011 American Cheese Society Competition). The Locavore’s was also 1 cup of Farmland cream, with 2 tablespoons of Tuscan buttermilk (here’s the recipe).
What does this prove? Mostly that you can make crème fraîche at home, cheaper and more delicious than even a good commercial variety. Give it a shot and let me know what you think.