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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Crème Fraîche - Creme Fraiche. What is Crème Fraîche? Crème Fraîche on French Menus.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan Newman
Updated June 2017.
Crème Fraîche d'Isigny sur Mer, AOC/AOP, 40% fat.
France’s top rated crème fraiche.

There is no English translation for crème fraîche; it is a uniquely French creation and so crème fraiche it remains in English. (English translations mostly miss out on the accent over the I but that is all). 

The taste of crème fraiche.

Crème fraiche has a creamy texture, and while it is not at all like sour cream or yoghurt then neither is it a sweet cream. Crème fraîche is a pasteurized and naturally thickened cow’s milk with most offerings having 30%, or more, fat. The unique taste of crème fraiche comes from the milk bacteria that are added.  This bacterium, originally, when made with non-pasteurized milk was a natural occurrence, now it is a supervised and inspected addition.

 French chefs use crème fraiche in many more sauce recipes than they will sweet cream. It is crème fraiche that produces much of that important, je ne sais quoi; that inexplicable, different, creamy taste, to French sauces, soups, and other recipes.  Crème Fraiche, sour cream, and yogurt all use special bacteria to give them their tastes. Crème fraiche is added to other ingredients when served cold; you will note it is much thicker than sour cream also it does not have the tang of sour cream or yogurt. To cooked dishes, crème fraiche adds its unique taste and does not curdle like sour cream.

Crème fraiche is truly different; if a chef makes a sauce or soup with fresh cream or sour cream then a decidedly different taste is achieved; taste the same dish with crème fraiche, and your mouth will pop as you appreciate the difference.

Crème Fraîche on French menus:

Escalope de Veau à la Crème Fraîche et aux Cèpes  A  boneless cut of veal prepared with crème fraiche and  France’s own porcini mushrooms.

Saumon Fumé par nos Soins, Mini Blinis et sa Crème Fraîche – Our home smoked Atlantic salmon served with mini blinis and crème fraiche. (A blini is a traditional Russian pancake made from buckwheat flour).

Œuf Coulant Sur Une Sauce Maroilles Et Crème Fraîche – A soft boiled runny egg served with a Maroilles cheese sauce made with crème fraiche.

Faisselle Du Vercors Avec Coulis De Fruits Rouges ou Crème Fraîche – A faisselle includes many soft fresh cheeses that may be made with cow’s milk, goat’s milk, and or sheep’s milk. This faisselle is served with a fruit coulis, a puree of red fruits and crème fraiche. (Here the cheese comes from Vercors; the Vercors Massif is rugged plateaus and mountains to the west of the city of Grenoble in the region of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and is part of the French pre-Alps. (The super region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes was created on 1-1-2016 when France reduced the number of regions in mainland France from 22 to 13). 
Noix de St Jacques Poêlées au Beurre Persillé et Crème Fraîche -  The meat of the king scallop lightly fried with parsley butter and crème fraiche.

La Tarte Tatin Tiède Et Sa Crème Fraîche Vanillée     -  A warm Tart Tatin served with vanilla flavored crème fraiche.  
Caviar smoked salmon and crème fraiche.
Photograph courtesy of avlxyz.

Today crème fraiche is available in the larger supermarkets around the world, from the USA to Australia; only a few countries that are exposed to French cuisine do not have at least one local producer of crème fraiche.
All over France crème fraiche is produced by dairies large and small; however,  one small town and its surrounding villages are recognized as the producer of the very best crème fraiche. This is the Crème Fraîche d’Isigny AOP.  The small town of Isigny sur Mer and the villages around it are in Normandy, in the department of Calvados so famous for its apple brandy of the same name. Isigny sur Mer has a population of close to 12,000 and apart from crème fraiche also produce an AOP butter, the Beurre d'Isigny AOP along with other excellent butter and milk products.  You may be sure that a large percentage of the population from Isigny sur Mer, from all the generations, are involved 24/7 in making their unique milk products. When you are visiting Calvados in search of their famous apple brandy, consider stopping for lunch in one of the many local restaurants where crème fraiche and the Calvados will be part of many dishes on the menu.
Homemade crème fraiche.
Recipes for homemade crème fraîche mostly include mixing sour cream, yogurt, and buttermilk. (Buttermilk is the liquid left over from making butter and not to be confused with whey which is the liquid left over from making cheese). None of these recipes has a result truly close to real crème fraiche, but they remain the closest option in countries where real crème fraiche is still not available.
Chilled asparagus soup
 with that essential ingredient crème fraiche.
Photograph courtesy of stu_spivak
Crème Fraîche or Crème Fraîche Epaisse
When the label reads Crème Fraîche Épaisse then that is the full name for crème fraiche that has 30% or more fat; there is no legal upper limit on the percentage of fat. Look for the percentage mark next to the word grasse on the label. (Grasse translates as fat in English). The word épaisse may translate as thick in your French-English travel dictionary; however, Crème Fraîche Épaisse is the standard crème fraîche.

Yoplait Creme Fraîche Épaisse,
A standard crème fraiche with over 30% fat
Crème Fraîche Légère - Low fat crème fraiche.
Low fat crème fraiche means less than 30% fat, and depending on the producer it may be as low as 18%.  There may be some out there that have a lower fat content, but I have never seen crème fraiche with less than 18% fat. To check the percentage of fat look at the percentage next to the word grasse on the label; that is the fat content.

The drop of crème fraîche in this lentil soup
will produce that je ne sais quoi.
Photograph courtesy of stu-spivack.
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Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu.
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