Sour Cream Investigations

I wish I could quit you.

So I mentioned earlier that, after reading The Zero-Waste Lifestyle, I thought I might try to cut down on the number of plastic containers I bring into the house. Sour cream containers were at the top of the hit-list, so I checked out a recipe for homemade online.

First off, let's compare ingredients. In the Darigold corner we have:

Ingredients Statement

Cultured Pasteurized Cream and Milk, Whey, Modified Corn Starch, Sodium Phosphate, Guar Gum, Carrageenan, Calcium Sulfate, Maltodextrin, Citric Acid, Carob Bean Gum, Potassium Sorbate (as preservative).
These are my best guesses for why those ingredients are found within, but corrections are welcome!
  • Culturized Pasteurized Cream and Milk speaks for itself.
  • Whey is a by-product of the cheese-making industry. Because it still has nutrients in it, it's often used as a dough conditioner in baked products or a stretcher in dairy ones, such as here.
  • Modified Corn Starch is a thickener.
  • Sodium Phosphate: texturizer and prevents separation.
  • Guar Gum: another emulsifier, thickener and stabilizer
  • Carrageenan: another gum made from seaweed extract to stabilize, texturize, emulsify.
  • Calcium sulfate is a firming agent with preservative qualities.
  • Maltodextrin, a carbohydrate derived from rice, corn, or potatoes, fills and thickens.
  • Citric Acid enhances tart flavors and preserves food.
  • Carob Bean Gum is another thickener.
  • Potassium sorbate functions as a preservative, inhibiting the growth of yeast and mold.

As you can see, not bad for a processed food. Most of the ingredients are pretty harmless, and the preservatives and stabilizers wouldn't be so necessary if I were at the Darigold plant, spooning the sour cream right on to my enchiladas. But processed foods have to brave the passage of time and the ups and downs of transportation--hence all the stabilizers and preservatives.

I did guess that homemade sour cream would be a much thinner affair, since I wouldn't have four thickeners added to it. Check out the TWO ingredients of my homemade sour cream:

 Whipping cream and buttermilk. Which I then mixed together in the above proportions and let sit on the counter all day, loosely covered, until I went to bed.

Things looked rather grim at first, like lumpy cream in a jar--oh, wait, that's actually what it was! But it did finally set up by the end, and I covered it more tightly and stored it in the refrigerator.

Today I'm serving up the black-bean-and-cheese enchiladas, and we'll see how it goes. When I stirred it this morning I found it just a little thicker than a Mexican crema and less tangy than a storebought. Next time I might try heating the cream, as the recipe suggests, to get it to set up thicker. Another suggestion was to add dry milk powder, but I'm not a fan of that, since the whole idea was to get away from processed foods.

I'll definitely play around with this more, but processors have the advantage on me: homemade sour cream is more expensive than storebought because whipping cream is pricey, especially if you use an organic or local, smaller-farm brand. For this reason, I can't give this the #OrganicTightwad label, but you may want to give it a try as a special treat.

Next up: homemade laundry detergent!