In France, crème fraîche is known as a liquid cream, which has an added starter culture to slightly thicken and acidify it. But it can also be an even thicker, spoonable product, closer to what the UK calls sour or soured cream.
Crème fraîche is usually made with cream that has at least a 30% fat content. This creates a product that is naturally thicker and creamier in flavour, with a lower level of acidity than sour cream.
Crème fraîche is available in low-fat and no-fat versions.
Crème fraîche is available commercially all year round.
Choose the best
Ideally, crème fraîche should have a relatively high fat content. Any product with a low fat content will likely contain additives to achieve the same creamy flavour and texture of the original. Check the label and make your choice accordingly.
Traditionally, the acidic element of crème fraîche would keep it fresh and palatable for longer than fresh cream. It should keep for some time in a refrigerator, but always follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Crème fraîche is often dolloped onto baked potatoes, tossed with spinach, carrots and celeriac, or eaten with puddings and fruit. Other soured products can be too harsh for delicately flavoured dishes, so crème fraîche will work well due to its subtle acidity.
It is also used to add sweetness, richness and slight acidity to hot sauces, and is particularly suited to white meats, such as chicken and guinea fowl. You can use it to enrich seafood sauces and salad dressings, and whisked into a hot sauce at the last moment, traditional crème fraiche won't curdle the way sour cream would.
With so many variations on the traditional crème fraîche, it’s impossible to give guidance on how to use all of them, especially the low-fat and no-fat versions. It’s a journey you’ll have to take yourself.