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How to Make Sour Cream

Although we can get lots of dairy products at the Union Square greenmarket, we haven’t been able to find sour cream. I needed some for a Super Bowl dip , so I did a little internet research. Everyone seems to use the same method and it’s insanely easy. Will we use it every time? Probably not.   In most recipes we substitute our homemade yogurt for sour cream, but it might be worth it the few times we can’t make the switch.

  1. Heat 1 cup of cream to 180 degrees in a double boiler (or our makeshift Pyrex measuring cup in a pot of water). If you don’t have a thermometer, heat the cream until it’s almost, but not quite, boiling.

    ur makeshift double boiler: a glass measuring cup in a pot of water

  2. Remove the cream from heat and let it cool down to 80-90 degrees. This took about 2 hours sitting on the counter, but would go faster if you put it in the refrigerator or an ice bath. If you don’t have a thermometer, judge by touch – the cream should be body temperature, not hot or cold, when you stick your finger in it.

    Sour cream as it sits to cool

  3. Pour the cream into a glass container (we used a pint jar) and either whisk in 1 tablespoon of buttermilk or add the buttermilk and give the jar a good shake.
  4. Leave the jar (covered) on your counter for 24-48 hours.

    Sour cream once it has culturedClose up

We used it after 24 hours, because we had to leave for the party, but it was a little thin. Extra time would have probably thickened it up. It still tasted delicious, though! It’s very similar to making yogurt at home. It’s mentally hard, at first, to encourage bacteria to grow in something you plan to eat, but the results helped us get over that!

Homemade sour cream

2 comments to How to Make Sour Cream

  • Hey – I was just thinking today that it would be neat to have home made sour cream! Thanks for the inspiration! I have a few questions for you ;) — 1) I assume you used heavy cream for this? 2) Did you use cultured buttermilk, or was it the real by-product-of-making-butter buttermilk? 3) Do you think it matter which buttermilk I used? I don’t have a local cultured buttermilk source. 4) (OK – I have a lot of questions!) Do you think sour cream is like yogurt in that once you have it going you can use some from one batch to “start” the next??
    How exciting!!

  • Lindsay

    Hi Wendy,

    It was really easy! You should definitely try it out.

    We did use heavy cream, but I was thinking of using half and half. Maybe next time? Let us know if you try something different.

    We used cultured buttermilk, not the “real” stuff, since we were needed the culture to get things going. I doubt it matters what kind you use, as long as it has active cultures.

    I’m not sure if sour cream is endless like yogurt, but I have read that buttermilk is. I’m planning on following these instructions soon –

    Take care,