There is little under the culinary sun not available in New Zealand these days, provided you know where to look, from every conceivable Asian ingredient to obscure eastern European cheeses. If you’ve heard of it, it’s probably here somewhere. Viva globalisation. Kidding.
In fact, for my purposes there is only one product that I just can’t find – and oh how I’ve searched. Clotted Cream. It was available for a time, back in the 90s, and damn fine it was too, but quickly fell victim to fat-phobia and an ignorant market. Since then it’s been nowt but a happy, calorific memory. So resigned was I to the passing of this genuine crème de la crème, that I almost forgot it existed at all. But a couple of weeks ago I happened upon an episode of the very good BBC series Edwardian Farm, which featured a demonstration of traditional clotted (or ‘clouted’) cream production. Just to clarify, clotted cream is effectively a cream concentrate, made by heating fresh cream until some of the water evaporates, the sugars caramelise and the proteins set slightly. It has a thick, sticky texture and a sweet, scalded-milk flavour. Clotted cream is the traditional accompaniment for Devonshire teas (scones, jams etc), but goes very well with most hot desserts, and is the perfect foil for poached fruit- particularly quince.
Originally, the cream was produced as a means of extending the shelf life of fresh cream so that it reached market (possibly several days later) in an edible- and more importantly- saleable condition. It is however so much more than long-life cream, with its gorgeous butterscotch notes and almost chewy texture its comparable to a fresh cream cheese or the very best mascarpone. Of course it’s loaded with saturated fat – upwards of 70% – but aren’t all the best things?
Making clotted cream, as it turns out, is extremely easy – it just takes a while:
Add 1 litre of cream to 1 litre of full milk and heat it over a double boiler (on medium) for around 5 hours. You will need to keep the water in the bottom pot topped up during this time. Do not disturb the yellow skin that forms on the surface of the cream- this is where the magic happens. After 5 hours remove from the heat and allow to cool completely in the fridge, preferably overnight. Now carefully remove the raft of cream (which will be topped with a thin layer of golden butter-fat) on the surface, and transfer to a sealable container. The remaining liquid is effectively skimmed milk and can be used as such.
That’s all there is to it.
So far I’ve served the scrumptious stuff with scones, some every fine Malaysian steamed puddings and stirred through a barley risotto. It is truly the finest of fats.
But it’s all gone now and I think it’s in my very best interest that I don’t make any more for while. It’s far too easy to eat.