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Kefir’s effect on milk can truly be described as magic. In my previous post, I spoke of the traditional cultures’ history, and explained how to source, keep and care for kefir grains, the mother culture of Kefir. Kefir grains can be used to make a delicious fermented milk known as kefir, and they can also be used as a starter culture to make a broad range of fresh and aged cheeses. In this post, I’ll explain how the culture can be used to make Creme Fraiche. In the next post, I’ll show how this Creme Fraiche can be used to churn a delicious cultured butter!
Crème fraîche (pronounced krem fresh—French for “fresh cream”) is lightly fermented, thickened cream. By adding culture to full-fat cream, then allowing that cream to ferment at room temperature, the cream slowly becomes acidic. Once it passes a certain acidity, the cream suddenly thickens into crème fraîche. If left to ferment longer, the thickened cream continues to sour, and eventually becomes what North Americans know as sour cream.
Crème fraîche is used in a different way from sour cream. Because it is lightly fermented, and still has some sweetness, it’s used the way most North Americans would use whipped cream. Best paired with fruit or dessert, crème fraîche is considered the perfect partner for strawberries. With more flavor than whipped cream, and less work to make (the bacteria thicken it up without any whipping!), crème fraîche can easily become a household staple.
Cream skimmed from raw milk will ferment naturally and deliciously into crème fraîche due to the indigenous raw milk microorganisms that ferment its lactose into lactic acid. If cream has been pasteurized, bacteria need to be added back to the cream for it to ferment well. Most recipes for crème fraîche call for the use of freeze-dried commercial DVI (direct-vat inoculant) cultures, or store-bought buttermilk, whose cultural origins are DVI as well. Kefir grains can be used in place of packaged or store bought cultures as a sustainable source of microorganisms for fermenting both pasteurized or raw cream into crème fraîche. Once the crème fraîche is thickened, the kefir grains float to the top, and can be strained out and used again.
• 1 tbsp (15 mL) , or 1 tbsp buttermilk
• 1 pint (500 mL) fresh, full-fat cream
1 quart (1 Liter) jar with lid; strainer
24 to 48 hours
Yield 1 pint (500mL) crème fraîche
1. Add kefir grains to fresh cream: Put the kefir grains, buttermilk in a jar and pour the cream over top. Cover the jar, and leave it out at room temperature.
2. Leave the cream to ferment, at room temperature, until thick - at least 24 hours. Check up on it every so often to see if it has thickened, and stir it occasionally with a spoon.
3. Strain out the kefir grains: Once the whole batch of cream has thickened (raw or unhomogenized cream may separate into thicker cream at the top, and thinner at the bottom), pass the crème fraîche through a sieve to remove the kefir grains.
4. Be sure to put them in some fresh milk to feed them and care for them as described in the previous post.
5. Crème fraîche will keep, refrigerated, for up to 1 week.
Photos by Kelly Brown
David Asher is an organic farmer and cheesemaker, cheese educator and cheese writer. He runs the Black Sheep School of Cheesemaking, and is the author of The Art of Natural Cheesemaking (available in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store). Read all of David's blog posts here.
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