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Incomparable Crema


Ever wonder how the practice of garnishing (or with some people, slathering) many Tex-Mex and Mexican dishes with sour cream originated? It came about because sour cream is the, if you will, gringo equivalent of crema. Crema (pronounced CRAY ma) is to Mexico what crème fraîche is to France, and it doesn't lose a thing in the translation.

Common throughout Mexico and many parts of the Southwest, crema has many variations and a few advantages over sour cream. First of all, it withstands higher temperatures than sour cream; therefore, it won't curdle if heated to the boiling point. Also, because it lacks the stabilizers that are added to commercial sour cream to prevent separation, it melts beautifully on a hot plate of enchiladas or whatever dish it accompanies. But, most important, it is delicious and perhaps a little more versatile than its American counterpart.

Not only will its tangy smoothness complement your spicy dishes (remember that dairy products, not water, are natural neutralizers of hot chiles), but crema is an absolute knockout when served with fresh fruit. In fact, the next time you make strawberry shortcake, substitute crema for the whipped cream, and you'll see what I mean.

Crema is easy to make and, as you would expect, the quality of ingredients you use will determine the quality of your end result.

Crema I

This version is particularly good with spicy dishes.

  • 1 C Whipping cream
  • 2 T Cultured buttermilk (2% or 4%)
Gently stir together the whipping cream and buttermilk in a small non-reactive bowl. Loosely cover the bowl, and allow it to sit at room temperature between 8 and 24 hours until thickened and tangy. Stir well, cover and refrigerate. Crema will keep for at least one week. Makes just over 1 cup.

A word of caution: This is not the time to try out the vinegar/milk buttermilk substitution. If you don't have any buttermilk in the house, I'm afraid you're just going to have to make trip to the store.

Crema II

A bit more pourable, this version is excellent with fresh fruit, your favorite poundcake, and fruit pies and cobblers.

  • 1 C Whipping cream
  • 1 C Sour cream
Again, gently stir together the whipping cream and sour cream in a small non-reactive bowl. Cover the bowl, and allow it to sit at room temperature for 4 to 5 hours until thickened and tangy. Stir well, cover and refrigerate. Makes 2 cups.

Discovering crema won't mean that you will never again buy another carton of sour cream, but it will add a delicious new dimension to some of your old favorite recipes.

Crema Recipe From Grandma's Cookbook

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