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FeaturesStories from The Takeout about food, drink, and how we live.  

Go ahead, call me stupid for this: Did you know sour cream is just soured cream? I’m not sure what I thought it was—some complex combination of lactic acid and various milk products that I could never replicate—but you can allegedly make sour cream at home with just two ingredients: heavy cream and buttermilk.

The cookbook in question
Photo: Kate Bernot

I was flipping through a cookbook at my boyfriend’s parents’ house over Thanksgiving when I came across a recipe for some Mexican dish that noted: “Dairy sour cream may be used, or a more authentic version can be made at home by combining 2 tablespoons buttermilk with 1 cup heavy cream and allowing it to ripen in a covered bowl at room temperature for 6 hours or until thickened.”

I unabashedly love sour cream. I’ll dip tortilla chips straight in the plastic container, and I would always prefer my loaded baked potato only be about 25 percent potato under a mass of sour cream and cheddar. So I was ashamed that I’d never tried to make my own version of a product I love so much.

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On the other hand, sour cream costs what, $1.50 at the grocery store? And no one really ever has buttermilk on hand (though you can DIY that, too, with milk and vinegar or lemon juice).

So is this do-it-yourself, artisanal-and-small-batch sour cream worth it? After trying this method with store-bought buttermilk, I can say: Not really.

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Cons: It takes much longer than the 6 hours the recipe indicated. I had to let mine stand in a 70-degree house for almost 24 hours, then put it in the fridge for a few hours to chill. Making a cup of it also cost almost $3 between the buttermilk and heavy cream, when a much larger container of sour cream will run you less at the grocery store.

Pros: It did taste very fresh, with a rich milkiness and silky, fatty texture to the end product. I thought I was a true sour-cream aficionado, but this process is a bit much, even for me.

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