Take a 500 ml container of ordinary cream (i.e., cream that has not been manipulated in any way for "added value") and place it in a lidded plastic, ceramic or glass container with 100 ml of commercial culture kefir. (Any 5:1 proportional volume will do the trick.
If you are prepared to wait, you can use much less. Just takes a little longer.)
At this point I have only tried using the commercial culture, XPL-1, which contributes streptococci, lactococci, and leuconostoc species. I haven't tried either strained kefir or live grains. (Update below)
Recipes I subsequently discovered on the internet for making creme fraiche specify buttermilk as the key ingredient, and further research on commercial buttermilk suggests this normally contains streptococci, lactobacilli and leuconostoc species.
This is sufficiently similar that I imagine we are talking something very similar to creme fraiche even if not exactly identical. Certainly it is very close in appearance and taste.
Well, I thought Quiche David was pretty special too when I invented it only to find that Lorraine got there years ago.
Put lid on loosely, and place in dark cupboard at air temperature. From time to time, as you're passing or every 3 or 4 hours, give it a stir, and after 24-36 hours you will notice it beginning to thicken. Stirring not compulsory, but helpful for uniformity of texture.
From here on in, use it as you need it, and top up with fresh cream for next time. It is a thick pouring cream, perhaps a touch spritzig, slightly sharp, and with less of the "fatty" taste that cream normally has. If the next use is some time out, store it in the fridge, where the fermentation process will slow right down.
So far with this one, I have had the same continuous brew operating for nearly a fortnight with no signs of deterioration or "off" flavours. It's probably important, though to keep the brew away from light.
Spooned over strawberries with a touch of icing sugar on top it is delicious. Poured over gin soaked damsons after the damson gin has been strained off, they are an alcoholic delight, but caution is indicated.
Just for fun, I checked out current prices for creme fraiche at Woolworths Supermarket.
For creme fraiche, prices range from $4.60 to $5.60 for 250g.
500 ml of ordinary cream costs $2.45. If we add, say, 20c for the 100ml of milk in your starter culture, that's $2.65 for 600ml of "home-made" creme fraiche against approx $11 for the same amount of bought stuff.
I'm not including the cost of the starter because that replaces itself in a few hours with the addition of 100ml of milk for the 100ml of starter that you used. With savings like this available, the initial costs of the starter culture are already looking very reasonable.
Remember, you can order it here:
Update: I haven't been using the commercial culture for some time now, so next time I made creme fraiche I decided to try the grains. I used a ratio of approximately 4 parts of cream to one part of grains, and proceeded as above.
Sure enough, in a day or two, it was all happening. When the cream looked and tasted about right I simply removed the grains with a spoon, and replaced them in the next lot of milk-for-kefir with the other grains, and stored the cream in the fridge.
I have since experimented with adding a little milk to the cream at the beginning of the ferment. This produced a faster, but slightly thinner result, still tasting delicious.
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