Some years, I’ve spent April focused on recipes for making your own cheese and other homemade dairy products here on the blog. Now that I’m writing the Twice as Tasty column for the Flathead Beacon, I’m rewriting some of those recipes with the tweaks and upgrades I’ve made to them over the years. I’ll be sharing those new-and-improved recipes here this month.
My Flathead Beacon column will feature recipes that use these fresh dairy products and hopefully inspire you to try making them yourself. I couldn’t resist writing in March about a few of those recipes, including Savory Herb and Sour Cream Scones, Sourdough–Yogurt Pancakes, and this week’s Chocolate–Sour Cream Cookies. So check out the recipes in the column, and then come back here to the blog for the homemade dairy instructions.
Learn more about baking with sour cream and yogurt and get the complete recipe for Chocolate–Sour Cream Cookies in my column.
Twice as Tasty
As I wrote four years ago in my original sour cream post, the potential downside of homemade sour cream is its thickness. Americans are used to sour cream so thick that you can stand your spoon in it. When I lived in Russia, sour cream was sold in bags; you’d snip the corner and squeeze it out. Homemade sour cream is closer to this density, and I prefer that texture. But I found that my choice of dairy was giving me inconsistent results, and sometimes my sour cream was runny and separating into thicker and more liquid layers. The problem? Cream-on-top dairy.
I prefer nonhomogenized milk for all of my homemade cheese. The fat, or cream, in milk naturally wants to rise to the top, and homogenization suspends the fat globules in the milk so that they’re evenly distributed in each glass you pour. When you make cheese, you’re separating those components to create curds and whey, so the process seems counterproductive.
It’s a little different if you want a consistent thickness in homemade sour cream. I make my fresh sour cream with half and half (which has 8%–14% butterfat), because I find whipping cream tastes too rich without enough tang, more like a crème fraîche. The fat still rises to the top in a bottle of nonhomogenized half and half, and that doesn’t stop once it’s been turned into sour cream. So I’ve switched to using homogenized half and half with more consistent results.
I’ve also found that my favorite tool for making Fresh Yogurt—a thermos—works efficiently with sour cream and cools it more slowly than a water bath, making it smoother and more flavorful. Choose a pint-size thermos with a wide enough mouth that you can slide a spatula into it to scrape all of the delicious sour cream from it and to make cleanup easier. The only other special ingredients and tools you’ll need are the powdered culture. and a thermometer.
Ready to give it a try? Full details are in the recipe below, but here are the basics:
You need just 2 ingredients: cream and starter.
1. Heat the cream.
2. Sprinkle in the starter.
3. Pour into a thermos and let sit before using.
Homemade Sour Cream
1/16 teaspoon Aroma B mesophilic starter
Pour the fridge-cold half and half into a 2-cup glass measuring cup. Add lukewarm water to a 3-quart or larger saucepan until it is half full, and then set the measuring cup of cream into the saucepan. On low heat, warm the pan’s contents until the cream is 86°F, which should take at least 15 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat.
Sprinkle the powdered starter over the cream and let it sit for 5 minutes to rehydrate. Use a fork to stir the starter into the cream, using about 20 strokes in an up-and-down motion to distribute it evenly.
Pour the cultured cream into a wide-mouth, 1-pint thermos and seal the lid. Let it set for 36 hours so that the sour cream cools slowly and fully ripens. After the first 12 hours, you can shake the thermos occasionally to ensure the culture develops evenly.
Transfer the sour cream to a jar, screw on a lid, and place it in the fridge. It will thicken further and develop a fuller flavor over the next couple of days. Store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Makes 1 pint.
Tips & Tricks
- Sour cream needs a powdered culture, which you can learn more about here, along with where to find it. It’s a step up from buttermilk: it uses the same starter but needs to be heated to set properly, so you’ll want a thermometer too.
- Although I’m now recommending homogenized cream for this recipe, you still want to avoid ultrapasteurized—even if it’s organic. Pasteurized milk has been heated enough to kill any harmful pathogens, but ultrapasteurized or ultra-high-temperature milk has been heated to such a high temperature that it won’t ferment properly.
- I usually make my sour cream from half and half, because at 40% butterfat my local dairy’s cream is too heavy for this purpose: you end up with thick, creamy, less tangy crème fraîche instead. If half and half–based sour cream (with 8%–14% butterfat) is too thin for you, consider starting with light whipping cream (around 20% butterfat). If you want less fat, you can use whole milk but it will be quite runny even if it is homogenized.
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