Once you get started DIYing your own dairy products, you may be surprised to find yourself addicted to the fresh taste and sense of empowerment found in controlling what goes into your favorite foods. You’ll find yourself dreaming of freshly churned butter, delighting in from-scratch whipped cream, and experimenting with homemade cheeses. And the good news is that most dairy products may be made from either locally sourced raw milk or commercially prepared products. To keep your DIY dairy skills growing, give old-fashioned sour cream a try. You just may find your newfound addiction growing.
Recipes for dairy products are about as varied as the individuals making them. This is certainly true for sour cream. Here’s my favorite version, mainly because it readily adapts to the quantity of cream I have on hand and doesn’t require an online order of starter cultures.
Place 1 cup or more of fresh, raw or pasteurized cream in a sterilized pint jar. Add 2 tablespoons cultured sour cream for every 1 cup cream. Gently stir to combine. Note: The cultured sour cream you use as a starter can be store bought sour cream as long as the ingredient list says only "cultured cream" with no fillers, or from a previous homemade batch of sour cream.
Leave cream at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours to allow the fermentation process that creates the "soured" flavor to develop. Don’t worry about the cream going rancid as the addition of live cultures allows cream to ferment safely.
Start taste testing periodically after 12 hours and continue to allow the cream to ferment until it reaches your desired tanginess. Once satisfied, refrigerate your fresh, additive-free sour cream for up to a week. Be sure to hold back at least 1/4 cup of your fresh sour cream to make another batch.
A few side notes: I have found that there are times when this new starter doesn’t always work on subsequent batches due to the live cultures wearing out. Each brand of sour cream utilizes their own version and mix of cultures, with some being one-time use and others being of the "heirloom" variety. Of course, there’s no way to know which cultures a brand uses, so a bit of trial and error is necessary if you want to create a starter that you can use multiple times.
Alternatively, you can purchase an inexpensive sour cream starter packet (usually available only online), which offers a more stable and reliable end product. As an added bonus, you can purchase multiple packets at a time and freeze the ones you don’t need right away. These purchased cultures work equally well with both raw and pasteurized milk and tend to produce a consistent flavor in every batch. Look for "heirloom" cultures to produce a sour cream that can be used as a future starter or one-time-use cultures when continuous sour cream supplies are not needed.
Once you take the plunge and begin making your own dairy products, you won’t want to go back to store bought versions. With just a bit of cream and a dollop of cultured sour cream as a starter, you’ll be well on your way to yet another culinary delight.