How to Make Sour Cream




Introduction: How to Make Sour Cream

About: I am a cheesemaker and author of Kitchen Creamery, a book on home cheesemaking. I love to make, grow, harvest and enjoy all types of food but fermented foods in particular. Sourdough, miso, pickles, chocolat...

Let's learn how to make the easiest fermented dairy product possible: Sour Cream. Truthfully, you can also call what you're about to make crème fraîche. Both items are essentially the same, varying only by the percent of butterfat involved.

Step 1: Gather High Quality Cream.

I like to use heavy cream instead of whipping cream as it tends to be richer in butterfat. I choose an organic as well as a local brand. You want a cream that is fresh and not ultra-pasteurized. Avoid creams that have extra ingredients (such as stabilizers).

Step 2: Pour Cream Into a Jar Then Warm to Room Temperature.

I use a wide-mouth glass Mason jar because I reliably have a lid that fits. Once the cream is in the jar, warm the cream to room temperature by 1) nesting the jar in a sink of warm water, 2) nesting the jar in a pot of warm water on the stove or 3) leaving the jar at room temperature for an hour or so. By 'room temperature', I very mean between 70 and 80°F.

Step 3: Add Cultured Buttermilk.

Next add a splash (~2 tablespoons) of cultured buttermilk to the room-temperature heavy cream then stir. I never measure the amount of buttermilk I add. More important is that the buttermilk is high quality and fresh--not a container that has been sitting in the back of your fridge for 17 months. Also make sure you can find the word 'cultured' somewhere on the buttermilk bottle or box.

Step 4: Hold at Room Temperature for 1-2 Days.

Cover the jar and place it in a quiet (and dark) corner. Leave it to ferment for 1-2 days or about 20 to 40 hours. More important than the amount of time you leave the cream is the way the cream seems when it is done. Look for a yogurty / sour smell. Look to see if the cream has thickened slightly. When you see these changes, it's time to move to the next step.

Step 5: Add in Salt Then Refrigerate.

Stir a modest amount of salt into the soured cream, about 1/4 tsp per 2 cups of cream or more if you like a saltier product. Cover the jar again and place in the refrigerator.

Step 6: Enjoy When Cream Becomes Super Thick.

Once the cream has been refrigerated for several hours or overnight, notice how it becomes extremely thick. Enjoy at this point.

Step 7: Pair With Everything.

Once you realize how delicious and easy this food is, you'll start to make it regularly. I like to use my sour cream on spicy tacos (obvious), on toast with honey (breakfast), baked potatoes (classic), mixed with powdered sugar for a cake frosting (novel) or on top of any meal that needs a little extra 'glue'. Homemade sour cream is an amazing (plus probiotic and enzymatically rich) food. Enjoy it!



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    22 Discussions

    I'm in Texas and have been trying to find heavy cream, not whipping cream, for a friend from the UK. Where do you find yours ? I definitely would love to try my own sour cream too.

    5 replies

    My friend says it's not quite the same but it works. And yes, we have bought it since and at HEB too. Thank you so much :)

    HEB carries heavy cream- whipping cream works too, its just a couple percentage points lower in butterfat.

    You won't find an ultra-heavy cream (around 60% BF) like your Brit friend is looking for outside of a few high end dairies that cater to the restaurant trade.

    Are there no cows in Texas? Here in Lancaster PA, in every supermarket there are at least 2 local dairies that offer ultra-heavy cream. I should really have asked are there no local dairies in Texas. I guess I am just spoiled with fresh everything at our fingertips. Now if we could only get the Amish buggies horses from crapping on our roads.

    We tend more towards EATING our cows than milking them in Texas. Witha lot of one half the state being a near desert and a lot of the other half heavy forest there just aren't as many dairies as there might be in other more domesticated places. There are probably 50,000 cattle within 20 miles of me right now and not a single dairy. Our ranches are is the size of the smaller states! This just isn't conducive to milking them. Around here most ranches run at 500 to 1000 acres. I guess there is just more and easier money (less investment for sure) letting the calves have the milk and then selling them than in getting rid of them and milking the cow.

    I liked your instructable. I have access to raw milk and have cream that floats to the top of my milk. Would that be an acceptable cream to make my sour cream? Is there another way to get the buttermilk, seeing that I do have access to raw milk?

    that's cool! Would you be best disinfecting the jar and cream first to ensure no bad bugs grow like when doing yoghurt? keen to try this

    3 replies

    I don't bother with disinfection for yogurt, though the glassware has been through the dishwasher. Never had a problem. I'm much more careful with beermaking, prob 'cos it's more important!

    Sadly, here in France they don't sell fresh cream. I kid you not. Créme fraiche (which means fresh cream in French) is the same as everywhere else, it's cultured. There's no such thing as real cream. And the French think they're the gastronomic capital of the world... (mind you, they are good).

    I'll relax with my yoghurt making in that case. Cheers for that

    Other countries seem to do things weird!

    How does the cost of making your own this way compare to the cost of buying a container?

    I do understand that this probably tastes a LOT better.

    Or you can puree 1 C cottage cheese and 1 tbs lemon juice.

    What is the consistency when it is finished. I live in the Philippines half the year and their sour cream is soupy and comes in a juice box. I would love to make my own, but only if it is like here in the states where it is more solid and stands up to a baked potato. It's all about what you get use to growing up. Thanks for the post.