Something is stirring in the previously staid state of sour cream. Straus Family Creamery and Redwood Hill, under the Green Valley Organics brand, are dipping their toes in the artisanal sour cream stream. Two's a trend, so I took a tasting.
I used Trader Joe's Organic Sour Cream, our house standard, as a baseline. T.J.'s taste is slightly sour-sharp and creamy, exactly what you expect from sour cream.
The Straus and Green Valley products take it to a whole new level.
Straus' sour cream, found at Whole Foods, Bi-Rite Market, and Rainbow Grocery, is available in full fat and light. The company says it's slow-cultured using a traditional 16-hour process in small batches. Suggested retail is $2.99 for 16 ounces.
Green Valley Organics comes from Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery in Sebastopol, known for its goats and goat cheeses. The sour cream is from cow's milk, though, and the company has pronounced it lactose-free. A 16-ounce container is about $3.99 at Whole Foods, Cal-Mart, Rainbow Grocery, and other locations.
Straus has a lighter mouthfeel than my Trader Joe's standard, with a similarly light, sharp-sour flavor, but also a rich, buttery component and a pleasant, lightly sour finish. Straus makes Trader Joe's Organic "European Style" private label yogurt (a good thing to know if you want to save a bit), so for all I know Straus make T.J.'s sour cream too, but they tasted different to me.
Green Valley steps it up even more. It's like eating cream off the top of unhomogenized milk: cream that's a few days in. It's lush, almost velvety, with an even stronger sense of butter. The "sour" in this sour cream is barely there, like a vapor. The company says "the sour cream is more like a crème fraiche," and that's accurate. I drizzled honey on it, like Greek yogurt; it's a nice combination. Looks like I found a new house standard.
By the way, if you have leftover sour cream you're not going to use up, add it to milk in a pancake or waffle recipe for some extra character. Just underpour the milk and add the sour cream until it rises to the measurement you need.