Friday, June 22, 2012

The Bottomless Jar of Crème Fraîche

I wanted to re-post this because, well, it's MAJOR berry season, and there is nothing better than plain or lightly sweetened crème fraîche over fresh berries, or berry desserts. Then consider it over peaches, nectarines...Makes simple food what our family calls "RQ" – Restaurant Quality. Everyone is just so shocked that you can make this wonderful stuff so easily and cheaply at home. Enjoy!

I’m cheap. Well, sort of, but there are a few things I won’t spend a lot of money on even if I consider them essential. So many of my favorite cooking tools, my cars and my dogs have been bought used (except for the current dog), and even my husband is second-hand, although I DID get him in a kitchenware store. 

In the food department, I’m willing to pay good money for goodies like maple sugar and olive oil --- things I can’t or don’t have the time or skill to make myself, but it kills me how expensive something as delicious, easy to produce, and useful as crème fraîche can be when you like to use it by the glob.  It has a wonderful, nutty-tart flavor, it doesn’t separate when you boil it, makes a wonderful easy addition to pan sauces and can make a no-cook sauce in a flash with just a few herbs, spices and a dash of salt. It whips beautifully, and lightly sweetened, it is much better on many desserts than basic whipped cream. 

Sour cream doesn’t hold a candle to this stuff, except maybe in a baked potato or on top of a nacho. Crème fraîche is so simple, and soooo good!

Crème fraîche is one of those essential things. If there isn’t any in my fridge it requires an immediate trip to the market. Not to actually buy crème fraîche, just to get the ingredients to make it at home. I have bought the culture to make the real thing, and it does make a product closer to what I’ve eaten in France, but buttermilk, and pasteurized heavy cream are enough to make an endless supply, so I can wallow in the luxury of having as much as I want. When it's nearly all gone I can use the last bit in my jar to make more by transferring it to a small bowl, washing the jar thoroughly, mixing the remaining crème fraîche with two cups of cream and start the fermenting process again.  Fabulous

Time to start another batch of Crème Fraîche!

Homemade Crème Fraîche

1 pint of heavy cream pasteurized (NOT ultra pasteurized)
¼ cup of cultured buttermilk

Tools: spoon, measuring cup, and a very clean quart or liter glass jar with a cover

How: pour the ¼ cup of cultured buttermilk into the bottom of the jar, pour in the cream, stir gently and thoroughly, and either partially cover the jar, or leave off the lid and cover the top loosely with a clean cloth or a paper towel. Set it aside at room temperature for 8 to 36 hours (depending on how warm your kitchen is, and how thick you want the finished product). Stir gently once or twice a day if you think of it, and while you are stirring you can judge how thick it’s getting. Try not to lick the spoon, although I am totally unsuccessful at it. Just don't double-dip.

When it’s nearly as thick as you’d like (somewhere between the thickness of yogurt and commercial mayonnaise), seal the jar with the lid and pop it I the refrigerator. It’ll keep about two weeks, and if you notice that you’re down to your last half to quarter cup of the stuff, you can use your already made crème fraîche as the starter for your next batch. So you can fearlessly use up all that excess buttermilk in pancakes, pies and cakes, and keep that crème fraîche jar going just about forever. It’s bottomless. Really. 


  1. 1. YAY! Your blog is awesome!
    2. Where on earth do you find NOT ultra pasteurized heavy cream? I always search but cannot find it anywhere.


  2. Whole Foods, Trader Joe's Wegman's and Giant have single pasteurized heavy cream. If you can get raw cream, you can pasteurize it yourself by just heating it to 160°F and holding the temp for a few minutes (Google for the details). You COULD probably use raw cream, but I've never tried it since I can't get it, and I don't really know what kind of pathogens may be in it. Best ask the farmer you get it from.

  3. What do you add to your "starter" to keep it going? More of the same? (trust me to ask a stupid question...)


  4. Rita, once you are down to about 1/4 cup of the homemade creme fraiche, just add more heavy cream to it and let it stand on the counter until it thickens up. Or you can always use it all up and begin the recipe again with buttermilk and heavy cream.

    And, you can trust ME to ask the REALLY stupid questions, lol.