Possibly one of the greatest and most salacious food myths…
A simple and delicious condiment or ingredient that you can easily make at home: say hello to crème fraîche.
Mildly tart with a thick, buttery and slightly nutty quality, this soured cream is a result of Lactococcus lactis and is fairly low in acidity — and it goes wonderfully on macerated peaches (or just about anything).
A foodstuff of relatively moderate climate regions of the world, such as Europe, crème fraîche requires an ambient temperature of about 80-85 degrees, but it can work well in lower temperatures too. It needs at least 24 hours and as much as 48 hours to ferment in those cooler temperatures. In making it myself, I’ve let it go longer than the two days as well.
Before modern butter-making came into existence, cooks would leave raw milk in warm conditions until the cream separated and rose to the top — and butter could be churned with it. Bacterial cultures would thrive in the milk giving it its unique aromatic and flavour qualities — all of which depended on the microbes and what the cows ate. The crème fraîche from the Normandy region of France, for instance, is especially well-regarded: in fact, it has an appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC).
Crème fraîche can be liquide or fleurette (and unfermented), or épaisse (fermented). The latter has a refrigeration shelf-life of about one month. Given its high fat content and low protein, it is suitable for use in hot applications in a sauce; properly made — and done with care — it may be able to withstand a gentle boiling without curdling, which makes it versatile.
To make your own crème fraîche, add 1 tablespoon of cultured buttermilk to 1 cup of heavy cream (15 mL per 250 mL). Let the mixture stand covered at warmish room temperature for 18-24 hours.
Serve in any number of ways with savoury or sweet dishes; it’s delicious. And ancient.
You can also savour crème fraîche at Artisanale French Country Cooking in Guelph: currently, they prepare a socca galette with salmon roe spinach and crème fraîche.