Creme Fraiche Home-made

3 Drop Dead Simple Ways to Make Crème Fraîche

3 Ways to make Creme Fraiche & some trouble shooting guides (just in case!)

Being an avid reader of cooking magazines, when crème fraîche appeared on my radar, I was wild to use this “new” (to me) ingredient. Of course, it wasn’t available and it took years (decades, even) before I ever found it in a grocery store.

Creme Fraiche Home-made

Creme Fraiche Home-made

It got here, eventually, but can I say “pricey?!” Luckily, it’s super easy to make your own, at home. For the most part, making your own is drop dead easy. Sometimes things don’t go quite as expected, so I’m going to give you some info & several options for home-made creme fraiche. So feel free to read on – or just jump in & try a recipe.

Just as a fyi, this post is about creme fraiche using pasteurized cream, as opposed that made in France, made by leaving unpasteurized cream out to culture. I’m also talking about creme fraiche from dairy we’re able to buy at the store, not from specific cultures like you might find from a cheese or culture store or online source. This needs to be easy, right?

The process is the same in all the recipes. You’ll add a product with live cultures like buttermilk, sour cream and/or yogurt to cream and leave it out at room temperature to culture from 6 to 24 hours. The  good bacteria multiply & as they convert the sugars in the cream into lactic acid they create an environment that prevents potential bad bacteria from getting a foothold.

So are you wondering then if you’re actually making creme fraiche or if you’re making buttermilk, sour cream and/or yogurt? You’re starting with cream so the creme fraiche will be thicker & creamier than any of the above. Also, there doesn’t seem to be an absolute “definitive” set of cultures that are particular to creme fraiche.

The culture used in buttermilk, sour cream and/or yogurt needs to be an active live culture and one that isn’t a single use “direct set” product. Also make sure that your product hasn’t been heated after it was made, which destroys those cultures.

Creme Fraiche Home-made

Creme Fraiche, Home-made

For the most part, bacterial growth will come to a standstill when refrigerated, although the creme fraiche will thicken up more when cold. Creme fraiche will keep, just like yogurt, buttermilk or sour cream, for a good amount of time, tightly covered in the fridge.

The amount of time to make creme fraiche is always variable, The biggest factor is going to be the temperature in the room, but each bacteria seems to have its own “preferred” temperature that it likes best. So the type of bacteria can be a factor. The amount of the bacteria will be a factor, too.

I’ve had great luck with the buttermilk, but adding in other products like the sour cream or yogurt, and adding them in larger amounts, both seem to be a way to “hedge the bet.” If you’re adding several products, there’s a pretty good chance that at least one of the bacteria you’ll need will take, and if you’re adding a lot, well it’s going to speed up that process exponentially.

So why make your own home-made creme fraiche? Other than the obvious cost savings, it’s amazing. It’s truly a treat with its thick, ultra creamy deliciousness and buttery/nutty taste. For a few minutes work and some sit time this has an amazing pay-off.

Creme Fraiche Home-made

Creme Fraiche Home-made

Crème Fraîche, Method 1

  • Servings: abt a cup
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 cup of cream, preferably not “ultra” pasteurized and preferably a cream containing only cream with no additives.
  • 1 tablespoon buttermilk containing live cultures

Using a very clean utensil and bowl, mix gently cream and buttermilk together, gently. Cover loosely, if you wish, with a lightweight clean kitchen towel and let sit at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours or more.

Notes:

  • Covering helps to keep a hard “skin” from forming.
  • Multiply amounts if you’d like more.
  • Creme Fraiche can become quite a bit thinner when stirred, so use it carefully.

Crème Fraîche, Method 2

  • Servings: abt a cup
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 cup of cream, preferably not “ultra” pasteurized and preferably a cream containing only cream with no additives
  • 2 tablespoon buttermilk or sour cream containing live cultures

Using a very clean utensil and bowl, mix gently cream and buttermilk together, gently. Cover loosely, if you wish, with a lightweight clean kitchen towel and let sit at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours or more.

Notes:

  • Covering helps to keep a hard “skin” from forming.
  • Multiply amounts if you’d like more.
  • Creme Fraiche can become quite a bit thinner when stirred, so use it carefully.

Crème Fraîche, Method 3

  • Servings: abt a cup
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 cup of cream, preferably not “ultra” pasteurized and preferably a cream containing only cream with no additives.
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk or yogurt containing live cultures

Using a very clean utensil and bowl, mix gently cream and buttermilk together, gently. Cover loosely, if you wish, with a  lightweight clean kitchen towel and let sit at room temperature for 6 to 8 hours or more.

Note: This method seems to hedge all bets by including more than one product that contains live cultures, and a lot of those products. If you’d like to slow this method, reduce the amounts to 2 tablespoons, total and leave on the counter longer:

Notes:

  • Covering helps to keep a hard “skin” from forming.
  • Multiply amounts if you’d like more.
  • Creme Fraiche can become quite a bit thinner when stirred, so use it carefully.

Troubleshooting:

I’m no scientist, but when I heard Method 1 fails for some people when it’s worked for me, I wanted to find out why. It’s either going to something wrong with the method (it’s too hot, too cold) or the product the culture comes from, in this case the buttermilk. If it’s the buttermilk:

  • Some cultures are “direct set” (meaning they really only work reliably for one use.) If your buttermilk is made with those cultures, you’ll have a problem.
  • Some buttermilk containing cultures may have been heated too high by the producer after it’s made, killing off the live cultures. It’s important that the cultures haven’t been overheated.
  • Some cultures are just pickier than others about temperature.
  • More bacteria (more buttermilk) in the mixture means it will thicken faster, but it won’t be quite as creamy and there’s a slight difference in flavor from the longer aging substance.

Covering:

To cover or not to cover always seems to come up in discussions about crème fraîche. Here are my thoughts:

  • Crème fraîche always forms a skin of some type on the top, whether covered or not, but it is much more pronounced when not covered. The skin can be removed or stirred in, but there may be a few lumps. It looks a little scary but it’s no big deal.
  • Just like making a home-made wild yeast, if uncovered, the mixture will pick up very small amounts of bacteria from the air. These can flavor the crème fraîche in a unique manner. The French always say their crème fraîche is unique. It’s probably so, in the same way that San Francisco Sour Dough is unique. And the same way yours will be unique.
  • The culture in the buttermilk is generally strong enough to crowd out any bad bacteria, and acid enough to make the environment inhospitable to bad bacteria, so covering isn’t an issue about introducing bacteria floating around in your home.
  • I have pets, and it is not unusual for me to find them in the kitchen as much as I discourage it. Covering my creme fraiche is, for me, a must. I cover loosely with a kitchen towel and keep just a bit of space at the edges so the air can circulate.

Update:

One more Update~read the notes under Buttermilk on my post for Queso Fresco to learn more about what to look for in the buttermilk you buy. Only certain “cultures” will work properly and the temperature is more important than one might guess.

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26 thoughts on “3 Drop Dead Simple Ways to Make Crème Fraîche

    • That’s actually a fantastic question, and one I used to wrestle with. On this post there is a tag “buttermilk” toward the bottom, which will lead to several recipes.

      Buttermilk also keeps longer if transferred to a very clean jar and lidded tightly. It can be frozen, too. I put mine in ice-cube trays, freeze and then put in a ziploc. That way I can easily melt a few when I want to make something. Figure out how much liquid your ice cube tray holds by putting water in a 2 cup measuring cup and noting how much is left over. Jot that down on the ziploc (each kind is different, mine holds about 2 cups and 8 cubes is one cup) and you’ll know about how many cubes you’ll need to melt for the recipe.

      Buttermilk is used in biscuits, waffles, pancakes, muffins, many cakes, and other baked goods.

      Also, many dressings and it is often used to soak or marinate chicken or fish before oven or deep frying. I make lemon buttermilk popsicles (on this blog) sometimes with thyme, sometimes not. Cole slaw often has buttermilk.

      I’m sure there’s more! Anyone else have any ideas?

    • I find buttermilk is VERY slow for me. I suspect it is the way the buttermilk is processed, and really in fact, it’s not buttermilk any longer. I wonder how buttermilk from an actual local dairy farmer would work? Although, of course, that would be too much of an adventure to deal with unless you lived on/near a dairy farm!

          • I HAVE warmed the whipping cream but just enough to take the chill of the fridge off and bring it to slightly above room temperature and to encourage the growth of the bacteria.

            • I don’t know if there is any science behind this, but the only other thing I can think of is that when I made yogurt with my daughter the first time, she very specifically warned me to be gentle when stirring it together. She said it never got thick if she whisked it in or stirred with any force. Just a random thought! 🙂

              I’m guessing different milk bacteria might have different temperatures. It’s puzzling, but sometimes this just isn’t that reliable, and I’m guessing it is the buttermilk. I think I’ll go back and highlight that area of the post!

              • Sometimes these things are temperamental. I remember once whisking in some vinegar to make paneer and the darn thing just wouldn’t make curd. I whisked it in quite briskly cause I didn’t want the milk to scorch on the bottom. I can’t recall if I ended up pitching it or adding a bunch more vinegar. It was quite a while ago.

              • Thank you for the link. I may try to find something similar in the health food/organic sections of one of the places I shop. I don’t know much about buttermilk brands so I was just using something I had bought to make ice cream, pancakes etc.

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