What Is Clotted Cream?

Tea time, with scones, clotted cream and jam

Tea time, with scones, clotted cream and jam

First of all, it’s clotted, not whipped.  Secondly, it’s a rich and creamy dairy product that most people associate with England, but is now available widely around the world.  Thirdly, it’s a luxury item that is usually spread on scones, desserts and fresh fruit, especially at afternoon tea taken in the English tradition.

Clotted cream is made by pouring fresh milk into a pan and then letting it sit for several hours, allowing the cream to rise to the top.  Then it’s simmered over low heat until clots form on the surface, trapping the cream inside. The clots are then skimmed off to make clotted cream.  The signature golden hue comes from the butterfat content in the whole milk.

Some sources claim clotted cream first originated as early as 16th century England, while others indicate the 19th century.  In any case, it seems clear that it arose as a method for preserving excess milk supplies, at least for a few extra days. Since that time, the process for making it has barely changed.

For authentic clotted cream, you need to start with unpasteurized milk, otherwise the clots will not form. Today, however, large dairy companies manufacture clotted cream with pasteurized milk and use mechanical separators to extract the cream from the cow’s whole milk, thus bypassing the slow “cream rising to the top” process. The clotted cream made from pasteurized milk also has a much longer shelf life.

Clotted cream should contain at least 55% milk fat, and it is often used as a luxury substitute for butter.

Devonshire cream does not have to originate from Devon exclusively, but Cornish clotted cream must come from Cornwall (as it has earned the European Union’s PDO or protected designation of origin).

Finally, most people associate clotted cream with southwestern England – the counties of Devon, Cornwall and Somerset.  There they raise a breed of cows (like Jersey) that produce milk with a high fat content, ideal for making clotted cream.

One thought on “What Is Clotted Cream?

  1. This is a wonderful website about the very top end of afternoon teas. We serve afternoon tea every day at our B&B in Cape May NJ. I’ve found that something extremely chocolate, and something not chocolate (for the sad folk who don’t like chocolate), something in individual portions and something big to cut – makes a nice teatime presentation. Sometimes we serve scones and crumpets at the same tea with clotted cream and marmalade for an extra-British feature. By the way, both scones and crumpets are Scottish, not English, as my wife (who is the Leith) will tell you.

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