Some things are easier to just buy. I’ve made ketchup and tortilla chips, and read recipes for mustard and Hoisin, but they’re just too much work to regularly make at home. Mayonnaise and salad dressings are not. Nor, I’ve discovered is Mexican crema.
It would be insulting to call crema “Mexican sour cream”. More appropriate is a comparison to crème fraîche. Buttery smooth, and elegantly tart, crema is rich and balanced, a perfect compliment to the grassy heat of jalapeño.
After striking out at several Washington, DC grocery stores, I looked up a recipe online. With less than ten minutes of work, and about 24 hours of waiting, I had a full jar ready to use. I’ll never buy it off the shelf again.
Apparently, the difference between crema and crème fraîche is the balance of cream and buttermilk, resulting in different thicknesses. Sounds good to me.
- 1 cup cream
- 2 tsp cultured buttermilk
- Warm cream slightly over low heat, keeping it under 100 degrees. It will still feel cool. 2-3 minutes on low is plenty.
- Sterilize a container, like a Ball jar, by submerging it in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Drain and dry with a clean towel.
- Pour cream and buttermilk into the sterilized jar. Stir (with a clean spoon), and lightly cover. Leave out on the counter in a warm room, about 70 degrees, for 12-18 hours, until the mixture has noticeably thickened.*
- Refrigerate for another 4 to 6 hours to set, and it’s ready to serve.
*Milk on the counter overnight sounds scary. Here’s my thought: The Mexicans and the French have been thickening cream on the counter for generations. There is no great oral tradition of death from crema. As always, be careful and know your sources – local dairy like Maryland’s Trickling Springs and Ohio’s Snowville creameries are a great place to start.