Ingredient of the Week, March 3: Sour Cream
Sour cream has become a staple in most kitchens, kept on hand to make quick dips, thicken sauces, and of course, to top baked potatoes. It also tenderizes and softens baked goods.
Lactic acid-producing bacteria is added to cream to produce the slightly tart, thick sour cream. Food and Drug Administration standards dictate the butterfat content may not be less than 18 percent for products labeled as sour cream.
Commercial sour cream may also include rennet, gelatin, flavoring agents, vegetable enzymes, sodium citrate, and salt. Check the label if you suffer from food allergies or make your own homemade sour cream.
Sour Cream Tips and Hints
Although sealed sour cream may be stored up to two weeks beyond the sell-by date, it will lose flavor as it ages.
Sour cream should always be kept refrigerated.
Do not use the carton as a serving container. Remove what you need and return the carton to the refrigerator immediately.
You may notice some liquid separation in sour cream after opening. You can either pour off the liquid or stir it back in.
Pink or green scum is an indicator of spoilage. If you see this on the top of the sour cream, throw the whole thing out.
Before adding to any hot liquid, bring sour cream to room temperature.
Sour cream used as a thickener for hot sauces can easily curdle if the temperature is too high. Remove the food from the heat before stirring in the sour cream or add it during a very low simmer.
Add 1 tablespoon of flour to 1/2 cup of sour cream used as a thickener to discourage curdling.
Uses for Sour Cream
Many people use sour cream as a topping for baked potatoes or tacos or add it to cream soups.
There are plenty of ways you can use sour cream to enhance everyday recipes, and also to replace common ingredients. Here are a few examples:
1. If the recipe calls for Crème Fraiche, you can use the same amount of sour cream instead.
2. Sour cream can replace buttermilk in most recipes. Use the same amount the recipe calls for – so, a cup of sour cream can replace a cup of buttermilk.
3. Plain, full fat yogurt and sour cream are interchangeable in most recipes.
4. Definitely substitute sour cream for mayonnaise. It will turn out just as good, and will have less calories.
5. Did you know that sour cream can greatly improve store bought cake mix? Add and mix all the liquid ingredients according to the instructions on the box. When blended, add a cup of sour cream. The cake will turn out richer and fluffier.
6. Using sour cream as a substitute for milk in baked goods recipes adds flavor and richness. Try substituting half of the milk with sour cream.
7. Instead of topping fruit and desserts with whipped cream, make a rich, unique topping by whisking brown sugar and sour cream (try using 1/4 cup sugar for each cup of sour cream). This also makes a great topping for pancakes.
8. Adding a little sour cream to your scrambled eggs before you cook them will result in rich, creamy eggs.
When cooking with sour cream, remember not to overheat or boil it. If sour cream is cooked at too high a temperature or held over heat too long, even at a low temperature, it will break down.
Do you use regular, low-fat or no-fat sour cream? How do you use it?