A tub of clotted cream, showing top crust.
|Clouted cream, Cornish cream, Devonshire cream|
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Clotted cream (sometimes called clouted cream or Cornish cream) is a thick cream made by indirectly heating full-cream cow's milk using steam or a water bath and then leaving it in shallow pans to cool slowly. During this time, the cream content rises to the surface and forms 'clots' or 'clouts'. It forms an essential part of a cream tea.
Although its origin is uncertain, the cream's production is commonly associated with dairy farms in South West England and in particular the counties of Cornwall and Devon. The current largest commercial producer in the UK is Rodda's in Redruth, Cornwall, which can produce up to 25 tons (25,000 kg; 55,000 lb) of clotted cream a day. In 1998 the term Cornish clotted cream became a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) by European Union directive, as long as the milk is produced in Cornwall and the minimum fat content is 55%.
Clotted cream has been described as having a "nutty, cooked milk" flavour, and a "rich sweet flavour" with a texture that is grainy, sometimes with oily globules on the crusted surface. It is a thick cream, with a very high fat content (a minimum of 55%, but an average of 64%); in the United States it would be classified as butter. For comparison, the fat content of single cream is only 18%. Despite its popularity, virtually none is exported due to its short shelf life.
Due to its high saturated fat content, the regular consumption of clotted cream is usually thought to be bad for health, though some dairy fat in the diet is considered beneficial. A 2006 survey of nutrition professionals ranked clotted cream as the least healthy of 120 foods selected to be representative of the British diet. According to the United Kingdom's Food Standards Agency, a 100-gram (3.5 oz) tub of clotted cream provides 586 kilocalories (2,450 kJ), roughly equivalent to a 200-gram (7.1 oz) cheeseburger.
Originally made by farmers to reduce the amount of waste from their milk, clotted cream has become so deep-rooted in the culture of South West England that it is now a tourist attraction. While there is no doubt of its strong association with Cornwall and Devon, it is not clear where it first originated. It is similar to kaymak (or kajmak), a Near Eastern delicacy that is made throughout the Middle East, Southeast Europe, Iran, Afghanistan, India and Turkey. According to the Oxford Companion to Food, it may have been introduced to Cornwall by Phoenician traders in search of tin. However, ancient food experts, noting Strabo's commentaries on Britain ("They live off their herds ... As they have mines of tin and lead, they give these metals and hides from their cattle to the sea traders ... instead of olive oil they use butter."), have proposed that the early Britons would probably have clotted cream to preserve its freshness.
More recently, regional archaeologists  have associated the stone fogous (dial. 'fuggy-hole'), or souterrains, found across Atlantic Britain, France and Ireland as a possible form of 'cold store' for dairy production of milk, cream and cheese in particular. Similar functions are ascribed the linney (dial. 'lean-to') stone-built form, often used as a dairy in later medieval longhouses in the same regions.
It has long been disputed whether clotted cream originated in Devon or Cornwall, and which county makes it the best. There is evidence that the monks of Tavistock Abbey were making clotted cream in the early 1300s. After their abbey had been ransacked by Vikings in 997 AD, the monks rebuilt it with the help of Ordulf, Earl of Devon. Local workers were drafted in to help with the repairs, and the monks rewarded them with bread, clotted cream and strawberry preserves. The 1658 cookery book The Compleat Cook had a recipe for "clouted cream".
In the 19th century it was regarded as better nourishment than "raw" cream because that cream was liable to go sour and be difficult to digest, causing illness. An article from 1853 calculates that creating clotted cream will produce 25% more cream than regular methods. In Devon, it was so common that in the mid-1800s it was used in the formative processes of butter, instead of churning cream or milk. The butter made in this way had a longer lifespan and was free from any negative flavours added by the churning.
It has long been the practice for local residents in South West England, or those on holiday to send small tins or tubs of clotted cream by post to friends and relations in other parts of the British Isles. Food regulations for perishable goods prohibit it being sent abroad.
In 1993, an application was made for the name Cornish clotted cream to have a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) in the European Union for cream produced by the traditional recipe in Cornwall. This was accepted in 1998. Cornish clotted cream must be made from milk produced in Cornwall and have a minimum butterfat content of 55%. The unique, slightly yellow, Cornish clotted cream colour is due to the high carotene levels in the grass.
Traditionally, clotted cream was created by straining fresh cow's milk, letting it stand in a shallow pan in a cool place for several hours to allow the cream to rise to the surface, then heating it either over hot cinders or in a water bath, before a slow cooling. The clots that had formed on the top were then skimmed off with a long-handled cream-skimmer, known in Devon as a reamer or raimer. By the mid-1930s, the traditional way of using milk brought straight from the dairy was becoming a rarity in Devon because using a cream separator actively separated the cream from the milk using centrifugal force, whereas before heating produced far more clotted cream for the same amount of milk: as a farmer's wife in Poundsgate said, "the separator saves a whole cow!"
Today, there are two distinct modern methods for making clotted cream. The "Float Cream method" includes scalding a floating layer of double cream in milk (skimmed or whole) in shallow trays. To scald, the trays are heated using steam or very hot water. After the mixture has been heated for up to an hour it is slowly cooled over 12 hours or more, before the cream is separated and packaged. The "Scald Cream method" is similar, but the milk layer is removed and a layer of cream which has been mechanically separated to a minimum fat level is used. This cream is then heated in a similar manner, but at a lower temperature and after a set amount of time it is then chilled and packaged. In the United Kingdom the resultant cream is deemed to be equivalent to pasteurised for legal purposes. Unlike pasteurisation, however, there is no requirement for the temperatures to be recorded on thermograph charts. As the temperatures are lower than used in standard pasteurisation, much care is needed in ensuring high standards of hygiene.
The largest UK manufacturer is Rodda's, a family-owned business based in Scorrier, Cornwall. Founded in 1890, the company was producing over 1,000,000 pounds (450,000 kg) per year in 1985, and in 2010 the managing director said that they might produce as little as 5 or 6 tons (5,000 or 6,000 kg) a day in January, but up to 25 tons (25,000 kg) a day as Christmas approached. In the early 1980s, Rodda's signed deals with international airlines to serve small tubs of clotted cream with the in-flight desserts, and the company considers the annual Wimbledon tennis championships one of their peak selling periods. As a by-product, for every 100 imperial gallons (450 l; 120 US gal) of milk used, 94 imperial gallons (430 l; 113 US gal) of skimmed milk is produced, which is then used in food manufacture.
One Devon manufacturer, Definitely Devon was purchased by Robert Wiseman Dairies in March 2006, closing one of the two Devon dairies and moving all production to Okehampton. However, in 2011 Robert Wiseman sold the Definitely Devon Brand to Rodda's, who moved the production of Definitely Devon to Cornwall, which caused some controversy as the name was not changed, prompting an investigation by Trading Standards.
Throughout Cornwall and south-west England clotted cream manufacture is a cottage industry, with many farms and dairies producing cream for sale in local outlets. As clotted cream is not regularly available outside south-west England, there are a number of ways to create an approximation. One example is to mix mascarpone with whipped cream, a little sugar and vanilla extract.
Clotted cream is an essential part of a cream tea, a favourite with tourists in Cornwall and Devon. It is served on scones—or the more traditional 'splits' in Cornwall—with strawberry or raspberry jam, along with a pot of tea. Traditionally, there are differences in the way it is eaten in each county: in Devon, the cream is traditionally spread first on the scone, with the jam dolloped on top; in Cornwall the jam is spread first with a dollop of cream. Cream teas spread to southern Australia as early immigrants from Cornwall and Devon took their traditional recipes with them. In 2010, Langage Farm in Devon started a campaign for "Devon cream tea" to have protected designation of origin similar to "Cornish clotted cream". One variation on a cream tea is called "Thunder and Lightning" which consists of a round of bread, topped with clotted cream and golden syrup, honey or treacle.
It can be used as an accompaniment to hot or cold desserts. Clotted cream, especially clotted cream from Devon, where it is less yellow due to lower carotene levels in the grass, is regularly used in baking. It is used throughout the south-west of England in the production of ice cream and fudge.
Cabbage cream (which does not contain cabbage) was a delicacy in the mid-17th century: layers of clotted cream were interspersed with sugar and rosewater, creating a cabbage effect when served. In 1881 it was said to have all the health-giving properties of cod liver oil, with the benefit of a better taste. It was a common accompaniment to junket, a milk-based dessert which went out of fashion in the mid-20th century.
Literature and folklore
"Ne would she scorn the simple shepherd swain,
For she would call him often heam,
And give him curds and clouted cream."
As with many Cornish and Devonian icons, clotted cream has become entrenched in local folklore. For example, one myth tells of Jenny who enticed the giant Blunderbore (sometimes called Moran) by feeding him clotted cream. He eventually fell in love with her and made her his fourth wife. Another myth, from Dartmoor, tells of a princess who wanted to marry an elven prince, but according to tradition had to bathe in pure cream first. Unfortunately, a witch who wanted the prince for her daughter kept souring the cream. Eventually, the prince offered the princess clotted cream, which the witch was unable to sour.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Clotted cream.|
- BBC Devon: article on clotted, or clouted, cream
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- Clay, Xanthe (13 July 2007). "Full fat takes the cream". London: The Telegraph. Retrieved 2011-03-01. "No one is suggesting that eating clotted cream for breakfast every day is life-prolonging, but a moderate amount of dairy fat in your diet is not only not going to do you harm, it's actually healthy, as well as life-enhancing."
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