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 buttermilk 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 buttermilk 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 buttermilk 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 to high by the producer. 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’s 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. 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 temperature is more important than one might guess.

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