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Sour cream is a dairy product obtained by fermenting a 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 stems from the production of lactic acid by bacterial fermentation, which is called souring. The taste of sour cream is only mildly sour.
Traditionally, sour cream was made by letting cream that was skimmed off of the top of milk ferment at a moderate temperature. The bacteria that developed during fermentation thickened the cream and made it more acidic, part of milk’s natural way of preserving itself.
Traditional sour cream contains from 18 to 20 percent butterfat - about 22 grams per 120 millilitre serving;— and gets its characteristic tang from the lactic acid created by the bacteria.
Commercially produced sour cream usually contains 14 percent milk fat, and can contain additional thickening agents such as gelatine, 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 flavouring 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.
Sour cream can also provide the base for various forms of dip used for dipping potato chips or crackers, such as onion dip.
In Tex-Mex cuisine, it is often used as a substitute for crema in nachos, tacos, burritos, taquitos or guacamole.
Sour cream is one of the main ingredients in chicken paprikash and beef Stroganoff. It is also the main ingredient in the traditional Norwegian porridge Rømmegrøt which is named after the cream.
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