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Clotted cream is a dairy product closely associated with England, although other cultures make variants of it. It is difficult to describe for those who have not experienced it, with a rich, creamy flavor and a stiffness that reminds some people of whipped cream. In England, this cream is served over scones, desserts, and fresh fruit, and it is a very popular luxury. Some companies in England manufacture it for export, although it does not have the same flavor as the fresh product. It is also possible to make it at home.
The origins of clotted cream appear to lie in Southwest England, in the counties of Devon and Cornwall. In fact, an alternate name for it is Devonshire cream or Devon cream, in a reference to its county of possible origin. Cornish clotted cream has attained an appellation of controlled origin, meaning that only cream prepared in a certain way that comes from Cornwall may be so labeled.
Clotted cream is made by allowing fresh, unpasteurized milk to stand for about 12 hours before gently heating it and allowing it to stand again. The cream in the milk slowly rises to the surface, forming clots that are sometimes studded with small golden dots of butterfat. This intensely rich cream is skimmed off and sold. Fresh clotted cream should be used within three to four days, although shelf stabilized and pasteurized versions are also available.
It is possible to make this cream at home, using much the same techniques. For cooks who do not have access to unpasteurized milk, lightly pasteurized, but not homogenized, milk may be used. Mixing milk with whipping cream may yield more of the cream at the end. Some cooks also make a reasonable approximation with mascarpone cheese beaten with whipping cream.
The fat content of clotted cream is usually around 55%, and it has a creamy, slightly sweet flavor all on its own. Some cooks like to add small amounts of sugar or flavoring such as vanilla, especially when it's used on fresh fruit. On scones, the natural sweetness of the scone is all that is needed, and sweetened cream can seem cloying on desserts. While traveling in England and Ireland, it should be eaten fresh, if it is offered, since it is a unique experience.