11 August 2011

Homemade sour cream and chilli jam

A couple of days ago I made a batch of cultured cream and some chilli jam and Eclair asked if I would write more about them. We have quite a bit of fermented dairy here and I home-make yoghurt, cultured sour cream, fresh cheese, and sometimes hard cheese. I will be making cheddar when I get fresh milk and the spare time. If you've never tasted fermented foods before, you're in for a real treat. Not only are they delicious, but they contain probiotics and will do you the world of good.

I live in a very good dairy area so I couldn't go past our local Guernsey cream from Maleny Dairies. It's a soft yellow colour and sometimes it's so think, you can stand your spoon up in it. Good sour cream starts with good fresh cream. It must be pure cream, not cream thickened with gelatin. There is absolutely no hidden secret to making it - it's a mixture of cream, heat and the right bacteria. You will find that bacteria either in commercial cultured sour cream or buttermilk, or in a starter that you can buy online. I do both. I buy starters, and have them in the freezer, but I generally make small batches and make the new batch with some of the old batch. When I want a break, or there is no old batch, I use a starter. You can use the same starter to make cultured butter milk. There are details on where to buy them below, with links.

  1. Put 500 mls/17oz pure fresh cream in a saucepan and heat to 30C/86F. Take the cream off the heat and stir in half a starter pack (or whatever the instructions for your starter say). Usually it's a sachet to one litre/quart but I only make up half that amount at a time; the leftover half sachet can be refrozen.
  2. Pour the warm cream into a pre-sterilised warm preserving/canning jar and put the lid on. I then wrap the jar in a fleece and a towel and leave it on a warmish bench or in a warmish oven, overnight. The next day it is ready. Instead of using towels to keep it warm, you can also make it in a yoghurt maker, slow cooker or Thermos. The cream will continue to develop in flavour while it is stored in the fridge and will keep for two weeks, easily.
If you use commerical sour cream as the starter, you still need to warm it up to 30C/86F, remove from the heat, add ½ cup of sour cream and mix it well. Place it in a sterile warm jar and keep it warmish for 24 hours.

  • If the fresh cream you buy is very thin, add ½ cup powered milk to it and mix it in when it's warming in the saucepan. That will give you thick sour cream.
  • If you beat this sour cream, it will make cultured butter.
  • It's not cheaper to make sour cream (or butter) like this but it tastes MUCH better and you know what's in it. Often commercial sour cream contains stabilisers.
  • You can make cream sour by adding lemon juice or white vinegar to it, but cultured sour cream is either made this way - with a starter, or by using raw milk and cream that is left unrefrigerated till it goes sour naturally. 
  • If you leave pasteurised cream or milk out, they will go bad because all the good bacteria have been removed. Raw milk will turn sour - not bad - and it's perfectly fine to drink. 
In Australia, you can buy these starters online from Country Brewer (cheaper) and Green Living. In other countries, Google "sour cream starter" and choose one from your country.

I have been trying to replicate the delicious Maleny Clean Cuisine Chilli Jam that I buy for $5.95 a jar.  This is my first attempt. It's useable but it needs refining. I'll do another post about making chilli jam when I've got it to the stage I want it. That will take some time because I have to get through the two small jars I have here - I gave one to Sunny - before I start a new batch. What I made this time is more a sweet chilli sauce, rather than a thick jam.

This sauce is made up of:
  • 1½ cups good vinegar - any type
  • ½ brown sugar
  • ½ white sugar
  • 10 cayenne chillis, sliced finely
  • ¼ cup of dried chilli flakes and seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic - finely crushed
  • 1 pack pectin, about two tablespoons
It's all placed in a saucepan, boiled, then simmered for 15 minutes. 

It is much too hot for my taste, but I'll be able to use it in cooking. Next time I'll halve the chilli portions, add mustard seeds and water, and a bit of fish sauce. I don't want any tomatoes or other vegetables or fruit in it. It needs to be red, but almost transparent; not opaque as it would be if it had tomato or sweet peppers in it. What I'm after is a thick, but runny, jam consistency. I'll get there, like many things, it just takes time. This is the opposite of fast food.

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