Clotted Cream and Crème Fraîche

There is much to hate about January. But one thing I like about it is that January is a vantage point. After a long descent from summer through fall, then a deep plunge into the dark depths of the shortest day of the year in December, reaching January feels like an accomplishment. It’s like cresting a hill on a hike, summiting a vantage point from which you can look out and see spring clearly again across the cold, flat dampness of February and March.

Jars of fresh clotted cream.

January is also a slow, barren time. Cold and gray, social invites dwindle compared to the rash of them in December, leaving behind nothing but broken ornament fragments, holiday leftovers, and stray pine needles on the living room floor. Which brings me to the second thing I like about January: with far fewer demands on your time, it’s the perfect time of year for culinary experimentation.

Clotted Cream

I’ve long made my own clotted cream. I bought it at Metropolitan Market for a while, paying $7.99 for six ounces of The Devon Cream English Luxury Clotted Cream. The last time I bought it several years ago, I looked at the jar, scratched my head, and wondered if I couldn’t make it myself for a lot less. You can and here’s how:

Clotted cream, just out of an overnight oven.
  1. Preheat oven to 175º -180º F (80º C).
  2. Pour cream into an 8" to 9" shallow glass or ceramic baking dish. Cream should be about 1 1/2" to 2" deep.
  3. Cover pan loosely with aluminum foil. Place dish in preheated oven. Bake 12 hours. Do not stir. Carefully remove from oven and let cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or until completely chilled.
  4. Turn over a corner of the top layer of thickened cream; carefully pour liquid underneath into a container to use for baking.
  5. Pack the thickened (clotted) cream into a ceramic crock or canning jar. Cover and refrigerate up to 5 days.

See, that was easy, wasn’t it? And crème frâiche is just as simple.

Crème Fraîche.

Crème Fraîche

A warm bowl of black beans with a dollop of crème fraîche and a pinch of Maldon salt is one of my favorite lunches. The fermentation of the cream via the buttermilk creates a flavorful tanginess that I’ve never detected in store bought crème fraîche before (I have historically bought this kind). This recipe is from multiple-time James Beard Award winner Renee Erickson.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the cream and buttermilk. Cover the top of the bowl with three individual layers of cheesecloth (you can attach it to the bowl with a rubber band) and let the crème fraîche sit for 2–3 days, until thick. Gently stir it, then transfer the crème fraîche to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use, up to one week.