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What Is Clotted Cream?

A good chef is always looking for new ingredients and recipes for their kitchen. Clotted cream looks like a creamy, fluffy substance that many would at least attempt to use. However, without proper knowledge of what clotted cream is, it’s impossible to use it or enjoy it correctly.

Clotted cream is a thick, creamy substance made from full-fat cow’s milk that is heated gently, typically using hot water baths, and then cooled slowly. It is often used as a spread on toast or as a topping for scones. 

In this article, you’ll learn what clotted cream is. In addition, as you keep reading, you’ll learn how to use it and the best way to store it. Finally, you’ll even learn about how clotted cream is made and why that proves to be controversial and even illegal in some countries. 

What is a Clotted Cream?

Clotted cream is traditionally served alongside scones in a British tea. It is very unique in flavor and texture. It’s not quite as smooth as sour cream. Instead, it’s essentially curdled like cottage cheese to reach a slightly clumpy but still spreadable consistency. 

The way that interesting texture is achieved is by heating up the milk “indirectly.” Rather than boiling the milk itself, the milk is placed in a dish, and that dish is then placed into the hot water. This gently heats the cream so that it doesn’t spoil, but it does produce those small clots as the fat in the cream rises to the top.

What is in Clotted Cream?

If you’re attempting to make clotted cream at home, you’ll need to use full-fat milk. Cow’s milk is most often used for this purpose, but goat’s milk is also used. Goat’s milk achieves the same creamy texture and flavor, so it’s just a matter of personal preference. 

Milk that is not full fat does not work for clotted cream. The reason the cream clots in the first place is because of that excessive fat content; the fat rises to the top and gives it that texture. 

While pasteurized whole milk can technically be used to make clotted cream, many believe that whole unpasteurized raw milk is the correct type to use in order to make “authentic” clotted cream. 

What is Clotted Cream in America?

The traditional clotted cream made from unpasteurized milk is actually illegal in the United States.  

The United States has very strict regulations for dairy and clotted cream that is made with unpasteurized raw milk goes against those regulations. Raw milk has not undergone the process of pasteurization, which heats the milk in order to kill the harmful bacteria that exist within it. 

Consumption of unpasteurized milk puts individuals at risk for several food-borne illnesses, including:

  • E. Coli 
  • Listeria 
  • Salmonella 

Luckily, today, clotted cream can be, and typically is, made with pasteurized milk, so it is totally safe to consume. If a vendor’s clotted cream does contain unpasteurized milk, it will be disclosed on the packaging. 

 What Does Clotted Cream Taste Like?

Clotted cream has a subtle flavor, even though it might not look that way. It’s not tangy like sour cream at all.  People describe it as having a taste similar to a high quality unsalted butter, because that’s basically what it is.  It can also develop a slightly nutty taste if the milk is slowly cooked for a long time.  Clotted cream lovers describe this dairy product as:

  • Creamy 
  • Slightly sweet 
  • Fresh tasting 
  • Sometimes nutty

Is Clotted Cream Sweet?

A true clotted cream should not be sweet.   You might detect a slightly sweet flavor – the same flavor you’d find in an unsalted butter, but clotted cream should never have any added sweeteners.  

clotted cream and jam on a scone

What is Clotted Cream Used For?

The subtle flavor provided by using clotted cream is what makes it so popular for day-to-day spreading and topping baked goods especially. Many enjoy using a dollop or two on a piece of freshly toasted bread and then topping it with some nice fruity preserves. Clotted cream can also be used in ice cream. 

Clotted cream should never be used in beverages. Since it is partially curdled, the cream will separate completely and turn your drink into an unappetizing, curdled-up mess. Some foods that clotted cream goes best with are:

  • Fresh fruit
  • Ice cream 
  • Jam
  • Scones 
  • Tarts
  • Warm bread

Since clotted cream is naturally a little sweeter, it’s most often used for desserts and pastries, but it can be used for savory items as well. Clotted cream should never be used in place of sour cream; the texture and flavor of the final product will be adversely affected. 

Storing Clotted Cream 

Storing clotted cream is relatively easy. The best way to store it is in an airtight container in the fridge; make sure it’s properly covered. If you made it yourself, refrigerate it straight away, but if it’s store-bought and shelf-stable, you can wait to refrigerate it until after opening. 

Once clotted cream has been opened and exposed to the air, it’s good in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. 

Can Clotted Cream be Frozen?

Freezing clotted cream is a divisive topic. You can technically freeze it, which many people do if they’re going to use it for ice cream. However, freezing the clotted cream can compromise the texture and turn it from slightly lumpy and very creamy into a watery, clumpy mess. 

If you do choose to freeze your clotted cream, make sure that you’re doing so purposefully. Once you freeze it and thaw it out, the clotted cream should not be refrozen. For optimal results, though, it’s best to make it fresh in small batches and use what you need each time rather than storing it in your freezer. 

Clotted Cream vs. Whipped Cream 

Clotted cream and whipped cream look similar, and they do have a lot of similar uses. They even have semi-similar flavors, so it might seem like an obvious conclusion that the two are interchangeable. 

In a pinch, maybe you could substitute clotted cream for whipped cream. However, texture alone is a major reason why whipped, and clotted creams should not be interchanged unless absolutely necessary. Whipped cream is beaten to a completely smooth, fluffy consistency. It can be whipped together with pudding or cake mix to create a light and airy dessert. Clotted cream, however, can’t offer that. It would simply be like adding extra butter to your pastry.

Where Can You Buy Clotted Cream?

A common misconception about clotted cream is that it’s flat-out illegal in several countries. However, you can find clotted cream in stores like: 

  • Trader Joes
  • Whole Foods 
  • Even Walmart 

So as long as it’s made from pasteurized milk, you can find it in many markets in the United States. 

Clotted Cream:  A delicious addition to your tea menu 

Clotted cream is a surprisingly complex dairy product with an equally complex relationship with the law. As far as uses go, clotted cream can really spice up your tea-time toast or an early morning scone. It’s essentially whipped cream’s estranged cousin, but you better believe it’s not butter, either. 

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