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Most (or even all?) butter found at the grocery store is labeled "sweet cream". Is there a distinction between this and another type of cream, and if so, what is it?

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Is this country-specific, as I've never known butter to say anything about cream on it (UK)? –  Orbling May 10 '11 at 0:03
@orbling -- This is in the U.S. –  keithjgrant May 10 '11 at 16:25

5 Answers 5

up vote 10 down vote accepted

It means the butter is made from cream that hasn't been fermented. Butter made from fermented cream is known as "cultured cream butter", and it has distinct sour, lactic acid notes. Sweet cream butter tastes, well, sweet, and if it is from really good fresh milk you may be able to taste grassy notes. Both are good in their own way.

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Of course, it could still just be labeled butter, since sweet cream butter is the "regular" butter everyone expects at this point, at least in the US. It's probably a nice marketing touch, though; "sweet cream" sounds good. –  Jefromi Aug 5 at 18:30

"Sweet cream" is the same as "cream" (as opposed to sour cream).

So they are telling you that the butter is made from cream, which is naturally rich in butterfat.

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Where I live in Germany it's common to find both types, and they're clearly marketed as two different things: the Süßrahmbutter (sweet cream butter) is sweeter and fattier than the Sauerrahmbutter (sour cream butter).

I did a bit of research on how the production differs: the milk gets initially through a process of centrifugation to separate cream from skimmed milk. The cream gets then pasteurized at 90°-110°C and subsequently left alone for 3 to 29 hours.

This process of maturation is where the production method of the two types of butter differs: For the cultured butter the cream gets stirred for one day together with different sorts of bacteria, a culture of natural lactic ferments, to break down fats and sugars and give it that special flavour. The cream for the sweet butter gets simply stirred for a day or so without adding any starter.

It's legal in Germany to add up to the 16% of water during the whole process.

EDIT: source [German]

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According to the Third addition of "Bailey's Industrial Oil and Fat Products", butter would have been classified as either sweet or ripened. Ripened butter was given its flavor by the chemical compound diacetyl, which was the by-product of various commercially available strains of streptococci.

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It is also a common misconception that the definition of sweet butter has no salt added. –  SArmtrong Nov 29 '13 at 5:36

"sweet cream" butter tastes sweeter than non-sweet cream because it doesn't have (or has much less) salt in it.

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A quick search of Google images shows that many salted and unsalted butter packages are labeled "Sweet Cream". –  keithjgrant May 17 '11 at 18:41
Not only that, but a certain amount of salt would make it taste sweeter, since salt tends to amplify other tastes. –  Aaronut May 17 '11 at 22:04

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