It’s easy enough to get confused about cream if you’re in the UK and using a British cook book. If you then start using a Australian cook book, or have to deal with New Zealand ingredients, the confusion’s that much greater!
So let’s have a look at cream and the different varieties available in the Australian and New Zealand markets.
Australia and New Zealand
One bit of (comparative) good news is that food standards in Australia and New Zealand are dealt with by a single bi-national government agency, Food Standards Australia New Zealand. So you don’t have the same problems that you do, say, in multiple jurisdictions like the US and the EU.
Not only that, but there are fewer definitions to wrestle with, too. The very basic standard for cream is that it must contain no less than 350g of milk fat per kilogram; and that the final composition of cream obtained by separation from milk may be adjusted by adding milk or milk-derived products. So it seems that when you buy Aussie or Kiwi cream, you’re actually getting something which isn’t chock full of additives, which is good. (As long as it’s not thickened cream – see below!)
This is the basic standard for cream in Aus and NZ. It contains 35% fat, so it’s quite heavy – it equates roughly to the UK definition of whipping cream.
This contains 18% fat and therefore equates pretty much directly to UK single cream.
Other creams, dairy or otherwise
Much the same as the UK definition of crème fraîche, but a little heavier; pure cream that’s been soured by lactic acid producing bacteria. The fat content percentage is generally in the high 30s (38% or so).
Light sour cream
This is more like UK sour or soured cream – 18% fat cream soured by lactic acid producing bacteria.
Canned cream (reduced-fat)
This must contain at least 25% fat, so it’s rather thicker than UK single cream. Don’t be misled by the ‘(reduced-fat)’ in the name!
Commercial whipped aerosol cream
This comes in at about 28% milk fat, though it’s not reduced-fat as such – it’s produced by mixing cream with a propellant (usually nitrous oxide) and adding stabilisers, emulsifiers and sugar.
This refers to a process – it’s possible to get thickened cream at either 35% or 18% fat. The thickening is done by separating the milk into a highly concentrated milk fat stream (cream) and a non-milk fat stream (skimmed milk) and adding gelatine and/or vegetable gum to increase the viscosity.
UHT thickened cream
Aus/NZ ultra high temperature thickened cream is pure cream that’s had vegetable gum added and then been heated to 133°C-140°C for at least one second before packaging to give it longer shelf life and higher viscosity. Comes in at 35% fat.