As a child, I was always puzzled by the descriptions of sour cream and sour milk in the Little House on the Prairie books. When our milk went off, it didn’t smell sour – it smelled like garbage!
The culprit, of course, is pasteurisation. Heat-treating milk turns it from a living substance teeming with benefcial bacteria to a lifeless, denatured product. While raw milk turns sour, pasteurised milk turns rancid. (Click to Tweet)
Finding a source of raw milk can be tricky, but if you have access to pastured raw milk, you get a host of potential dairy products out of the deal. Nutrient-rich foods such as kefir, cultured cream, butter, yoghurt, whey, cottage cheese and sour cream are easy to make.
How to Make Sour Cream From Raw Milk
Because raw milk usually comes non-homogenised, the cream will separate from the milk on its own. It isn’t necessary to skim the cream off – you can simply sour cream and milk together, then spoon the sour cream off the top and use the thickened sour milk (known as clabber) for baking. If you want to drink the milk fresh, however, the easiest way to separate milk is by pouring the milk off the bottom, not skimming the cream off the top. Pour the raw milk into a glass keg with a tap at the bottom (these are available for home brewing) and leave until separated; then simply pour the milk away into a jug.
Souring your cream takes only one easy step – leave it! We store our raw milk in Thermoses, so all I do is leave one Thermos out of the fridge for a few days with the lid slightly ajar, and voila! Cream sours in about a day in warm weather, but may take a few days in winter. When it’s thick and tastes sour, it’s ready. Sour cream may not be quite as thick and jelly-like as commercial sour cream, which often contains gelatine and thickeners.
If you make sour cream without separating the cream first, you will find the sour cream forms a recognisable layer over the milk, but that the milk has also thickened into a kind of curd-like mixture. To hasten the process of making sour cream the next time, you can add a few tablespoons of this clabber to a fresh batch of cream or raw milk.
Safety of Cultured Milk Products
Anyone consuming raw milk should be aware of the risks and benefits, particularly the difference between raw milk produced in sanitary pastured conditions and raw milk from CAFOs, intended to be pasteurised. Obtaining raw milk from a trusted source is vital – some farms have their milk regularly tested for pathogens to ensure consumers’ peace of mind.
Using Homemade Sour Cream
Sour cream loses some of its health benefits from enzymes and probiotics when heated. However, homemade sour cream is still healthier than storebought, as it lacks additives. To get the maximum health benefits from your cultured sour cream, do not heat it above bath temperature. Sour cream is delicious on top of nachos, spooned into soup, used as the base for a dip or mixed with berries for a tangy-sweet dessert sauce.