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What exactly is sour cream and How is it made?

also Is there a relationship between 'sour-cream' and 'creme fraiche'?

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Julia Childs in Mastering the Art of French Cooking does say that you can absolutely not subsitute creme fraiche for sour cream or vice versa. – justkt Aug 10 '10 at 12:55
up vote 2 down vote accepted

From wikipedia:

Sour cream or soured cream is a dairy product rich in fats obtained by fermenting a regular cream by certain kinds of lactic acid bacteria. The bacterial culture, introduced either deliberately or naturally, sours and thickens the cream. Although sour cream is only mildly sour in taste, its name stems from the production of lactic acid by bacterial fermentation, a process referred to as "souring"..

Crème fraiche (French pronunciation: [kʁɛm fʁɛʃ], "fresh cream"; from French crème fraîche) is a soured cream containing about 28% butterfat and with a pH of around 4.5. It is soured with bacterial culture, but is thicker, and less sour than sour cream.


I am a former chef and there is a big difference, sour cream is made with milk, cream and thickeners and gums to keep it together, creme fraiche is just thickened cream with a souring agent, I made it as a chef with just whipping cream and buttermilk, you can use S.C as a substitute for creme fraiche, but the sour cream has to be a full fat, 15% or higher, here in Canada I can buy one that is 30% and C.F is 35-40% BF. Just make sure if your using it in hot dishes not to boil it or it will split, C.F does not, or add a little cornstarch to the S.C and add it in the last 2-4 minutes of light simmering.

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maybe he wants to get answers from people he can have some confidence in? You could answer 'why not google?' to a lot of stuff. Having said that though there is nothing wrong with you googling and posting exactly as you have done, I just don't think you need to say the first sentence. My $0.02. – Sam Holder Aug 10 '10 at 12:49
Good point. This way he does get at least the filtering I (and/or others) do before I decide a link's worth it. I do like seeing some initiative from a poster (indicating he's seen or not seen google results), but that may just be me. – Tobias Op Den Brouw Aug 10 '10 at 13:31
Not sure if this helps with the confidence, but this is my experience as well: crème fraiche works both in cold and hot dishes, but with sour cream you have to be very careful in hot dishes. – Erik P. Aug 10 '10 at 14:23

Thanks for your question! I found definitions of sour cream and creme fraiche from the book The Chef's Companion: A Culinary Dictionary by Elizabeth Reilly.

"Sour Cream- cream commercially fermented with a lactic culture and usually 18 to 20 percent fat Creme Fraiche- French for heavy cream with a lactic culture introduced; the culture acts as a preservative and gives a characteristic tangy flavor"

The Cook's Thesaurus recommends substituting "equal parts sour cream and heavy cream" and warns that just sour cream alone "has a lower fat content, and so it's more likely to curdle if boiled with an acidic ingredient"

You can read the entire entry here:

I also found an online source that you may find interesting. This is a chart from the USDA National Agricultural Library that shows exactly what nutrients are found in sour cream.

Hope these were helpful!

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I thought crème fraîche was traditionally made by letting unpasteurised double (heavy) cream sour naturally, so there was traditionally, at least, no milk or thickeners in crème fraîche. I'm pretty sure that French crème fraîche is made that way to this day. Sour cream was traditionally made in a similar way - but these days the cream is pasteurised first, and the bacterial cultures re-introduced.

Crème fraîche is not so sour, or so thick, as sour cream, and it has a higher fat content (about 28% compared to 12-16% for sour cream) which means it can take a higher heat - so it doesn't split as easily as sour cream in hot dishes.

Crema Mexicana is similar to crème fraîche and can be used in hot dishes.

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By the way, virtually all dairy products are pasteurized, by law, in the US. The description of naturally cultured product applies to France. But, in the US, any cultured product, for the most part, must have the culture introduced after the milk has been flash pasturized.

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