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. Like its relative, yogurt, sour cream also tenderizes and softens baked goods.
What is sour cream?
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.
Light varieties, made with half-and-half (10.5 percent butterfat) and non-fat milk are available in most markets for those watching their diet.
• 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. Toss it 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.
• Sour cream is not a candidate for freezing because it separates when thawed.
There are many substitutes for sour cream, depending on the recipe and your specific needs. Yogurt is an excellent substitute for sour cream in most recipes, but keep in mind it is thinner in texture. Thicken yogurt by draining through a cheesecloth-lined sieve over a bowl in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Substitute one of the following for each 1 cup of sour cream:
• For baking: 7/8 cup buttermilk or sour milk plus 3 tablespoons butter.
• For baking: 1 cup yogurt plus 1 teaspoon baking soda.
• For baking: 3/4 cup sour milk plus 1/3 cup butter.
• For baking: 3/4 cup buttermilk plus 1/3 cup butter.
• Cooked sauces: 1 cup yogurt plus 1 tablespoon flour plus 2 teaspoons water.
• Cooked sauces: 1 cup evaporated milk plus 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice. Let stand 5 minutes to thicken.
• Dips: 1 cup yogurt (drain through a cheesecloth-lined sieve for 30 minutes in the refrigerator for a thicker texture).
• Dips: 1 cup cottage cheese plus 1/4 cup yogurt or buttermilk, briefly whirled in a blender.
• Dips: 6 ounces cream cheese plus 3 tablespoons milk, briefly whirled in a blender.
• Lower fat: 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice plus 2 tablespoons skim milk, whipped until smooth in a blender.
• Lower fat: 1 can chilled evaporated milk whipped with 1 teaspoon lemon juice.
How do you use it? Do you put it on a baked potato, or nachos or use it in dips or salad dressings? Do you use it in making cakes, biscuits or scones or other baked goods? Please share your favorite recipes.