It’s not a cheese, but just what is it? The space between milk and cheese is a fluid space where cultures (that’s a good thing) may have been added, but it’s not yet cheese. Why? Milk needs to coagulate to be considered cheese.
So what are these milky outliers? Some are household items you know well, like butter, cottage cheese, sour cream, and yogurt. Less known are some options worth discovering.
Consider the pair of confusing options from England: Double Devon Cream and Clotted Cream, arguably, the best examples of milk from the channel Island Jersey and Guernsey cows. In Double Devon cream, the cream can reach in excess of 45 percent butterfat. By contrast, some of the thickest half-and-half only reach 18 percent butterfat. Double Devon cream has a golden hue and natural sweetness that makes it ideal with fresh berries or offsetting the bitterness of tea. Think cream tea.
Its counterpart, clotted cream, is regulated by British law that requires it must contain at least 55 percent butterfat. Getting cream to that level of richness requires gentle scalding, setting, and skimming of the cream. The results yield a deeper amber color and texture that’s noticeably thicker than Double Devon. The taste has a more savory (nutty) character that pairs well with baked goods. Think scones.
Mascarpone, Italian in origin, weighs in at up to 70 percent butterfat. Considered a double or triple cream in texture, it’s more like pudding. Sweet in nature, you have probably tasted it in the classic dessert Tiramisu. Personally, I love it at breakfast mixed with maple syrup and drizzled on French toast. Despite its natural sweet character Italians like to mix it with savory elements (anchovies, mustard, and herbs) and spread it on bread.
Creme Fraiche? Think of this as French sour cream that won’t break apart in heat. Use in savory recipes and don’t be afraid to stir it in simmering soups, beef stroganoff, or splash in the sauté pan. It won’t break apart and can be used to make delightful patterns while delivering richness to meals.
There are dozens more of these “almost cheeses,” like Quark or Fromage Blanc that can kick up your meals and enhance your enjoyment of both sweet and savory. To my way of thinking, now that you know what some of these are, take a chance and try one of these “outliers” in your kitchen. Their discovery will be your rich reward.