A wee bit about Dairy

One of the long-standing myths about life in Europe is that we suffer the lack of sour cream.

It's true: there is no sour cream here.

There is also no low-fat sour cream or non-fat sour cream (isn't non-fat cream an oxymoron?) for which I will be forever grateful.  I do not use artificially 'low fat' or 'low cal' dairy products but, rather, those that are naturally lower. I prefer not to use foods with a long list of of emulsifiers and stabilizers on the label.

Rather than plain old sour cream we have a bevy of wonderful dairy products that we can use, depending on the recipe.  Some (like yogurt) are healthier, others (like crème fraiche) are about the same.

Crème fraiche:  a mature, thickened cream. It has a slightly tart flavor, close to sour cream but a bit sweeter. Unlike sour cream it won't curdle if boiled and it can be whipped like fresh cream. 

Note: You can make crème fraiche at home: Mix 1 cup (250ml) heavy cream with 1/2 cup sour cream. Cover and let sit at room temperature 12 – 24 hours. Stir, cover again and refrigerate for 6 – 10 hours before using. will keep up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. 

Substitutions: Greek yogurt, plain yogurt, (both lower in fat); sour cream 

Greek Yogurt:  a very thick, very creamy yogurt, often made from ewe's milk in Europe. It's a bit higher in fat than regular, plain yogurt. Any yogurt should be added at the end of cooking time and not boiled or it may curdle.

Substitutions: Plain yogurt, (lower in fat) crème fraiche, sour cream

Fromage Frais:  a soft, fresh cheese, similar in taste to cream cheese but much lower in fat. It's smooth and creamy. It is not the same as Fromage Blanc.

Substitutions: Ricotta, cottage cheese, (both also low in fat); cream cheese

Fromage Blanc:  has the consistency of sour cream with a slightly less tart flavor and fewer calories. It can be whipped to make it fluffy (sour cream can't be whipped) and is often used in desserts with fresh fruit. It is less tart than either Greek or plain yogurt. It is not the same as Fromage Frais.

Substitutions: Greek yogurt, plain yogurt (both low in fat); crème fraiche, sour cream

Quark:  the German equivalent to Fromage Frais.

Yogurt cheese:  a thicker version of yogurt made by straining all the the liquid out of plain yogurt. It will have the consistency, but not the flavor, of Fromage Frais or soft cream cheese (which are both sweeter).

Ricotta:  a soft Italian fresh cheese, slightly grainy and naturally low in fat. It is used in desserts and pasta dishes

Substitutions: cottage cheese, fromage frais

Mascarpone:   a triple cream, high fat Italian cheese; an integral ingredient to Tiramisu. It is has only slightly less fat than butter

Substitutions: 1/2 ricotta and 1/2 heavy cream; crème fraiche

Dairy should be part of our daily diet.  Europeans tend to be avid yogurt eaters, having it with most meals, often as dessert. I use it a lot in cooking.

Here are a few ideas:

Tomato, Green Garlic and Ricotta Pastries

Tomato Ricotta Pastry

Chicken with Mushrooms, Braised Garlic Purée and Mascarpone

Gnocchi with Chicken, Mascarpone

Beef Stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff

Rice Florentine

Rice Florentine

Cauliflower with Parmesan Sauce

Cauliflower Parmesan Sauce
Fish Pie with Salmon and Smoked Salmon

Fish Pie

And my favorite autumnal lunch….

Apples, Walnuts and Yogurt

Apple Walnut Salad


8 thoughts on “A wee bit about Dairy”

  1. Actually, here in the Netherlands we DO have both sour cream and lo-fat sour cream. However, I tend to use creme fraiche all the time instead of the more expensive and not as yummy sour cream!

  2. Your blog always makes me hungry, even just after lunch. I don’t miss sour cream or cream cheese anymore. You can do so much with yogurt, crème fraîche or mascarpone…

  3. A great post… sigh, while cream cheese is everywhere, very difficult to find Crème fraiche anywhere. Greek yogurt is gaining ground, but is still different from original. Ah well, life in the (self proclaimed) breadbasket to the world, you would think we were more diverse

  4. Belinda, the first thing my doc asks each year is how much dairy am I eating….
    Susan, I don’t use lo-fat anything…. It’s been so long since I’ve tasted sour cream I can’t even remember it LOL
    Joey, our yogurt / dairy aisle is easily 10 times as long as one in the US… Dairy is important here… Love it!
    Meredith, there is something here like cream cheese – tartine? I recognize it when I see it but can never remember what’s called – you can tell I don’t use it often. Mascarpone, on the other hand… yum!
    Ina, I use Greek yogurt the most.
    Dave, you would be amazed at the yogurts available here… we even have a choice of ewe or cow milk…
    manningroad, I rarely use cream – but love creme fraiche…. whipped is lovely.

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