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Sour cream is a dairy product obtained by fermenting regular cream with certain kinds of lactic acid bacteria. The bacterial culture, which is introduced either deliberately or naturally, sours and thickens the cream. Its name comes from the production of lactic acid by bacterial fermentation, which is called souring.
Traditionally, sour cream was made by letting cream that was skimmed off the top of milk ferment at a moderate temperature. The bacteria that developed during fermentation thickened the cream and made it more acidic, a natural way of preserving it.
Commercially produced sour cream usually contains 14 percent milk fat, and can contain additional thickening agents such as gelatin, rennet, guar gum and carrageenan, as well as acids to artificially sour the product.
Light, or reduced-fat, sour cream contains less butterfat than regular sour cream, because it is made from a mixture of milk and cream rather than just cream. Fat-free "sour cream" contains no cream at all, and is made primarily from non-fat milk, modified cornstarch, thickeners and flavoring agents.
Sour cream is not fully fermented, and like many dairy products, must be refrigerated unopened and after use. It is sold with an expiration date stamped on the container, though whether this is a "sell by", a "best by" or a "use by" date varies with local regulation. Refrigerated unopened sour cream can last for 1–2 weeks beyond its sell by date while refrigerated opened sour cream generally lasts for 7–10 days.
Sour cream is used primarily in the cuisines of Europe and North America, often as a condiment. It is a traditional topping for baked potatoes, added cold along with chopped fresh chives. It is used as the base for some creamy salad dressings and can also be used in baking, added to the mix for cakes, cookies, American-style biscuits, doughnuts and scones. It can be eaten as a dessert, with fruits or berries and sugar topping. Also, it is sometimes used on top of waffles in addition to strawberry jam. In Central America, crema (a variation of sour cream) is a staple ingredient of a full breakfast.
A variation of sour cream known as smetana is also popular in eastern Europe and Russia as soup condiment, usually added to individual bowls and stirred until dissolved.
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- Cristina Plotka, V.; Clark, S. (2004). "Yogurt and Sour Cream". Handbook of Food and Beverage Fermentation Technology. CRC Press. doi:10.1201/9780203913550.ch9. ISBN 978-0-8247-4780-0.—notes on the industrial production process for sour cream and yogurt.
- Media related to sour cream at Wikimedia Commons