Lisbeth Meunier Goddik

Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, U.S.A.

I. INTRODUCTION

Sour cream is a relatively heavy, viscous product with a glossy sheen. It has a delicate, lactic acid taste with a balanced, pleasant, buttery-like (diacetyl) aroma (1). Various types of sour cream are found in many regions of the world. The products vary in regard to fat content and by the presence or absence of nondairy ingredients. Furthermore, both cultured and direct acidification is utilized to lower pH. This chapter will cover sour cream as it is produced in the United States and its French counterpart—creme fraiche.

II. SOUR CREAM

A. Definition

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (21CFR 131.160) defines sour cream as follows (2): ''Sour cream results from the souring, by lactic acid producing bacteria, of pasteurized cream. Sour cream contains not less than 18 percent milkfat; Sour cream has a titratable acidity of not less than 0.5 percent, calculated as lactic acid.'' If stabilizers are used, the fat content of the dairy fraction must be at least 18% fat and above 14.4% of the entire product.

Consumer desire for decreasing dietary fat content has created a market for low-fat sour creams. Among these products, the reduced fat (at least 50% fat reduction), and nonfat versions are common, in part due to FDA labeling requirements for low-fat products (21 CFR 101). Sales data over the past 25 years for the U.S. market (3) is illustrated in Fig. 1. The trend clearly shows increased sales. In 2000, nearly 400 million kg of sour cream was sold. Per capita sales of sour cream and dips was 1.4 kg. In comparison, per capita sales for yogurt, heavy cream, and half and half were 2.1 kg, 0.9 kg, and 1.7 kg, respectively (3).

B. Sensory Characteristics

Traditionally, the flavor of sour cream was well characterized by ''sour.'' However, the trend in cultured dairy products is toward a milder flavor (4), which permits the sensation of aromatic compounds produced by lactic acid cultures. Lindsay et al. (5) found that important flavor compounds in sour cream include diacetyl, acetic acid, acetaldehyde, and

1975 1980 19s5 1990 1995 200q

Year

Figure 1 Sales, in million kg, of sour cream and dips in the United States between 1975 and 2000. From USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service.

1975 1980 19s5 1990 1995 200q

Year

Figure 1 Sales, in million kg, of sour cream and dips in the United States between 1975 and 2000. From USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service.

dimethyl sulfide. Sour cream is highly viscous and should be smooth and free of particulate matter. As for appearance, a homogeneous, glossy surface is preferred, and no whey separation should be visible in the container (6).

C. Utilization

Sour cream is predominantly utilized as an accompaniment with warm entrees such as baked potatoes and burritos. This usage imposes certain demands on the sensory characteristics of the product, especially in regard to texture when in contact with warm surfaces. Sour cream must remain viscous without whey separation when placed on warm food. Some have even requested that baked potatoes can be reheated in the microwave with sour cream already added, and the sour cream should remain unaltered by this treatment. In addition, flavor characteristics become less significant when sour cream is mixed with high-intensity savory flavor notes such as those encountered in Mexican cuisine. In fact, for some usages the absence of off-flavors may be considered as the primary flavor attribute. This general shift in emphasis away from flavor toward texture has led to a renewed interest in a ''back to basics'' sour cream such as creme fraiche, which is described later in this chapter.

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