Homemade Thick Cream
Published by William Morrow
It isn’t uncommon to see three or four buckets of cream in Central, West-Central and Tabascan markets: from thin, sweet and fresh to well ripened, thick and tangy. It’s all heavy cream—not the light, low-butter fat “cream” that is cultured for sour cream here—so it has a richer, glossier texture. And you can bet it’s not pasteurized, because the process would have killed the natural bacteria that preserves and thickens the riper cream.
To me, this thick, ripe cream (similar to the French crème fraîche) is one of the great pleasures of Mexican cooking—drizzled on chilaquiles or simple fried tacos and such. Mixing a little milk or cream into our commercial sour cream is a passable substitute here, but nothing like the smoother, less acidic taste of this recipe.
Culturing Cream: Don’t let the cream get too hot or the culture will die and the cream will simply spoil. It’s true that any active culture (yogurt, sour cream, buttermilk) can replace what was destroyed in pasteurization. Buttermilk is my favorite thickening/souring culture, however; it seems to work more slowly, giving the cream a chance to develop a ripe flavor but not much acidity.
Timing and Advance Preparation
Start a full day ahead (or longer, if the incubating spot is cool). The cream will keep for 1½ weeks or more, covered and refrigerated.
Total Timea day or more
Make Ahead RecipeYes
Five Ingredients or LessYes
Taste and Texturecreamy, tangy, tart
Type of DishCondiments, sauces
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 2 teaspoons buttermilk
Preparing the cream: Pour the cream into a small saucepan, set over low heat and stir just until the chill is off; do not heat above 100° (lukewarm). Stir in the buttermilk and pour into a glass jar.
Ripening the cream. Set the lid on the jar (but don’t tighten it) and place in a warm (80–90°) spot. Let the cream culture and set for 12 to 24 hours, until noticeably thicker (perhaps almost set like yogurt or sour cream). Stir gently, screw on the lid and refrigerate at least 4 hours to chill and complete the thickening.
1987, 2007 Rick Bayless and Deann Groen Bayless