A top brand here in the U.S. (ETS image)

A top brand here in the U.S. (ETS image)

One of the wonders of that very special style of British tea time known as the “cream tea” is it’s central figure – clotted cream. Many people here in the U.S. ask what it is and even find the name a bit of a turn-off (I suspect it’s the word “clotted” since it makes us think of blood). Time to take a look at what it really is and the kind that is considered genuine (yes, there is a claim to that effect).

What Clotted Cream Is

Simply put, clotted cream is a thick version of cream that has a high fat content of 50% or more. Start with full-cream cow’s milk, heat it indirectly in a steam or water bath, the pour into shallow pans and let it cool slowly. The cream will rise to the surface and form clumps or “clots” that can then be skimmed off. Production is common in Devon and Cornwall counties in England, with the Cornish firm Rodda’s being the largest commercial producer. About 16 years ago, “Cornish clotted cream” became a protected designation by the EU – it has to be produced in Cornwall and have a minimum fat content of 55%.

What Clotted Cream Is NOT

Butter, whipped cream, heavy cream. These are each substituted for clotted cream by those who, like me, get a bit desperate at tea time and discover the clotted cream container is empty. None of these quite fills the bill. Butter is not sweet enough, whipped cream is too sweet and not thick enough, and heavy cream – well, it’s pourable, not spreadable.

Homemade Clotted Cream

Yes, you can make your own at home. Start with heavy whipping cream that isn’t ultra-pasteurized (unpasteurized or pasteurized is fine, though) and has as high a fat content as you can find. Preheat the oven to 180°F. Take a heavy-bottomed pot that is safe for use in the oven. Pour enough cream into it to come one to three inches up the side. Cover the pot and put it into the oven for about 8 to 12 hours (yes, it’s a fairly slow process) to give enough time for a thick yellowish skin to form on top (that’s the clotted cream). Take the pot out of the oven and let it sit to cool. Once it’s at about room temperature, put the pot in the refrigerator for 8 hours more. Once chilled, take the pot out and skim off the clotted cream from the top. The cream that is left can be used for other recipes calling for cream.

Genuine Clotted Cream

The folks at Rodda’s claim that title. Having tasted their products, I would say it’s well-deserved. But I’m hardly likely to jump on a jet to fly over there for a cream tea. So, I settle for the brands available to us here in the U.S. and find them more than satisfactory, not to mention a lot cheaper, considering the cost of airfare these days.

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

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