The Sour Cream Rises
Happy Chanukah. Last night may have been the first evening of this Winter Solstice holiday, but today is the first day. Go fig.
As a kid Chanukah used to be my favorite Jewish holiday because of the eight nights of presents. Now Chanukah is my favorite holiday because of the carte blanche it provides for the consumption of fried foods. It is one of many Jewish holidays that’s best surmised by the mantra, “They tried to kill us. We survived. Let’s eat.”
I’ll replace the sufganiyot available in Israel with the jelly-donuts from Bella Napoli available in the Capital Region. They are the best we’ve got, and they are pretty damn good. Really the only thing that would make them better is if they were stuffed with a high quality handmade jam. Maybe if I got them some jam they would do a custom order. Oh man, that would be amazing.
Last night we had latkes (AKA fried potato pancakes), another traditional holiday food. Actually we’ll have them again tonight too. And as a kid I loved to dip them in applesauce. However as my sweet tooth morphed into a fat tooth, applesauce was replaced by sour cream.
The only problem is a good sour cream is hard to find.
Dairy products are delicious. There are only a few problems. I’ve discussed these in the past, but for the sake of those who might be reading for the first time let’s very quickly review. One is the common use of rBST injections to artificially increase milk production. Another is subtherapeutic doses of antibiotics in feed. Sure, there are other issues surrounding feed, like GMOs and poultry waste, but let’s put those aside for now.
Over the past several years, fluid dairy (aka liquid milk) has been very good about walking away from milk made from the cows treated with rBST/rBGH. You can tell because their cartons all share the same disclaimer about the pledges their farmers take not to use the stuff, while at the same time professing that science hasn’t proven rBST to be harmful.
However, the pledge to avoid synthetically produced growth hormones isn’t always echoed on the full line of a brand’s products. Cabot has some strict quality guidelines for its producers, and when I told one of these producers that the Cabot butter doesn’t make a claim about rBST she was shocked. But it’s not there. I keep on looking for it.
Cabot does indeed have the pledge predominantly placed on their carton of sour cream. Huzzah!
Except there’s a problem. Just because something starts off with better ingredients doesn’t mean all of the ingredients are going to be of equally high quality. It’s kind of counterintuitive, as a consumer might expect a small local producer of milk to not sully their product with dreck. But it happens all the time. The moral of the story is to always read the ingredients.
Here’s what’s in the Cabot Sour Cream, “Cultured milk, cream, modified corn starch, guar gum, sodium citrate, carrageenan, locust bean gum.”
That’s not okay.
When I buy sour cream, I’m buying it for the fat. For its rich, mouth filling, delicious and expensive butter fat. Things like starches, gums, and carrageenan are there to give the perception of fat without the expense. Their addition allows a manufacturer to dial back on the butterfat to save money. And that’s wrong.
You want to play those sort of games with light sour cream, and you won’t hear from me. If that’s what you want, that’s what you’ll get. But don’t mess with the good stuff.
Luckily, I also found a tub of Organic Valley sour cream. But I have to confess that it made me nervous too. Because when I turned it around to look at the ingredients, this is what I found: Organic cultured pasteurized nonfat milk, organic pasteurized cream, Acidophilus and Bifidus cultures, microbial enzyme.
Nonfat milk?!?! That’s madness.
However, upon close cross-examination with other sour creams on the shelves, the proof was in the Nutrition Facts. The Organic Valley sour cream had 60 calories for every two tablespoons of the rich tart and thick goodness inside, with 50 of those calories coming from fat. This was in line with other sour cream brands that eschewed nonfat milk and stuck solely to cream.
As far as I can tell, the only possible way this could work is if the Organic Valley cream was just super fatty and needed to be thinned out to make a parity product with the national supermarket brands.
Regardless, I’m glad I found it. Maybe there are other good sour creams out there. And given this week full of fried potato pancakes, I’ll be on the lookout. As I find others, I’ll keep you posted.