Coming from Minnesota, where dairy cows seem to outnumber people, I grew up drinking whole milk, using skimmed cream in my coffee, and eating what seemed like tons of sour cream. My potatoes would sure seem lost without it. And now as an adult, I enjoy crème fraîche just about as much. But, imagine my surprise, when I looked at the ingredients on the package one day. Gelatin? What kind? Where did it come from? Thickeners? Why? I asked myself why I don’t just make my own…and now I do!
The Difference Between Sour Cream and Crème Fraîche
While the ingredients may seem similar and the directions virtually the same, what is the real difference between sour cream and crème fraîche? Not much, but it is different. Sour cream has added milk and is a bit thinner than crème fraîche. And crème fraîche is not only thicker, but smoother and creamier. Both can vary widely depending on the milk and cream used, type of pasteurization, and region and flavor of the milk or cream itself. Of course, the type of acid used makes a difference too.
How to Make Sour Cream
Learning how to make sour cream is easy, and only takes around 24 hours to set! It isn’t cheaper, but knowing what’s in my food goes a lot further with me than how much something costs.
- ¼ cup milk (whole, unpasteurized is best)
- ¾ teaspoon white vinegar (fruit based)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- In a quart jar, mix the cream and vinegar together, then add the milk. Screw a lid on tightly and shake well.
- Remove the cover and put a clean towel secured with a rubber band over the top.
- Leave it on the counter overnight (up to 24 hours) for it to set up.
- Give it a stir and cover it with a jar lid. It will keep in the refrigerator for a week or so, if it lasts that long!
Note: Because there are no artificial thickeners, your homemade sour cream may be thinner than commercial brands you may be used to. Have no fear, it’s fine. I’ve gotten use to the consistency and like it better since it blends in recipes so well.
How to Make Crème Fraîche
Crème fraîche is a thicker version of sour cream, but much creamier and often sweeter due to the cream itself. You can add a bit of sweetener if you like, just before using it. I use some powdered turbinado sugar (run through a coffee/spice grinder) when I use it on strawberries or peaches. Sooo much better than whipped cream!
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons buttermilk
Mix the cream and buttermilk together in a jar and place it on the counter as in the recipe above. In about 24 hours you’ll have nice thick crème fraîche. Add a touch of sweetener, as I did, or leave it straight for topping all sorts of dishes.
People often ask me how safe it is to leave milk and cream unrefrigerated overnight. The acid in the vinegar and buttermilk is enough to inhibit bacterial growth, so there is no danger of spoilage. You might be tempted to use ultra pasteurized milk or cream, but don’t. This works much better with organic or even raw milk, if you have access to it.
Bonus Chicken Casserole Recipe
One of my favorite ways to use sour cream (besides just on baked potatoes) is to make this casserole. I once worked in a deli and was asked to come up with a recipe that would keep good in the hot bar and use excess chicken. We always had rotisserie chicken left at the end of the day, but you could use turkey just as well.
- 2 cups cubed chicken (or turkey)
- 1 cup sour cream
- 2 cups stuffing (use up those leftovers!)
- 2 cups cream soup (chicken or celery work well)
Mix all of the above together and bake at 350° for about 30-40 minutes. Serve hot.
I used cream of broccoli soup and added chopped broccoli once and it was a big hit. Try adding a cup of salsa for a Mexican flair. Top with crushed tortilla chips and bake as directed.
Now that I have goats, I’m going to try making sour cream with the goat milk. It doesn’t separate like cow’s milk, so it may work. I’ll let you know!
Have you made your own sour cream or crème fraîche? How did it turn out? Share below!