In the wide-ranging world of dairy, there are two main classifications: fresh (or sweet) and cultured (or sour) dairy products. Fresh-milk products are made with just-milked milk that has not yet had a chance to ferment and age into more complex flavors. This includes fresh whipped cream, most ice creams*, most soft and creamy cheeses, and sweet – or what we think of as standard – milk. Cultured products include buttermilk, sour cream, yogurt, and aged cheeses that are more pronounced and cheesy in flavor. *Note that you could make ice cream just as easily with buttermilk and/or yogurt. One of the best flavors I’ve ever had was made with buttermilk.
And then there are some splendidly confusing dairy products that seem to encapsulate the best of both worlds. CrÃ¨me fraÃ®che is one of them, because although its name literally means “fresh cream” in French, crÃ¨me fraÃ®che is nonetheless made with cream that has been allowed to culture and sour. (The sourness, by the way, is not added sourness. It occurs because the friendly cultures gobble up the lactose in the milk as they multiply. The more cultures that are in the product = the less lactose. The less lactose, the less sweet-tasting. A handy bit of knowledge for anyone who has difficulty digesting lactose! And anyone looking for lower-in-sugar dairy products, too.)
Although crÃ¨me fraÃ®che is reminiscent of sour cream, it’s much creamier and smoother and more complex in flavor. And because crÃ¨me fraÃ®che isn’t produced on the massive scale that sour cream is, crÃ¨me fraÃ®che is more likely to be made with milk from grass-fed cows. Vermont Creamery is my favorite producer of crÃ¨me fraÃ®che and other artisanal, small-scale dairy products like fromage blanc, cultured butter, and quark. (Fromage blanc is a cultured yogurt-like cream made from naturally skimmed milk, cultured butter is more tangy and flavorful than fresh-cream butter, and quark is rather like an ultra-creamy cottage cheese that’s been blended into a harmonious smoothness. I fell in love with quark when I lived in Germany and discovered its velvety, fresh existence.)
Since crÃ¨me fraÃ®che hits a balance between creaminess and tanginess – and hits the nail exactly on the head when it comes to smoothness – it’s great with strawberries. Simply serve a dollop of crÃ¨me fraÃ®che alongside your organic strawberries (as the #1 most-sprayed fruit, strawberries are worth buying organic) and sprinkle on a little date sugar, sucanat, or coconut sugar.
Courtesy of The Cultured Cook.