Those of you who know me well know how much I love my crock pot. Once I got it out of the basement and started using it, I was hooked – so much so that I burned out the timer on my first one. I still miss that crock – the lid was all Pyrex, so it could go in the oven. However, my new one allows me to manually select the “warm” setting, which is critical to this story. Let me explain…
The crock pot that I have (and it’s from Rival, so it’s really a crock pot) has four time settings: four hours, six hours, eight hours, and ten hours. The four and six settings are “high,” the eight and ten settings are “low.” What it does at the end of the time selected is click over to a “keep warm” level. That keeps everything sitting at a nice food-safe level, but backs off the heat so it doesn’t overcook *quite* as badly. My old crock would only go there after it had run through a cook cycle, but the new one allows me to select it. I figured I’d have a go at it.
There were a couple of experiments that went badly wrong. I tried letting it go overnight – I can’t remember if I had it on “low” or “warm,” but it boiled. Boiling is bad. I tossed that batch. I tried doing it during the day for less time… and it boiled. Down the drain. I think the third batch came out okay, but I didn’t realize it because I didn’t know what the consistency was *supposed* to be – I thought I was aiming for something whipped-cream like, and it turns out that I was aiming for something butter-like. Huh. But at any rate, fourth or fifth time was the charm! I took some to the Artifacts of a Life event, and hugh_mannity “tested” it, and allowed that his British grandmother would not throw me out of the kitchen. Ideally it would be even denser, but I’m limited by my raw materials. I suppose I could hunt down a farm with Jersey cows and get cream from them, but I’m lazy. It’s bad enough having to get to the Whole Foods in West Hartford.
So here is my process:
Tools and ingredients:
Rival Crock-Pot 7-Quart Smart Pot
Heavy cream – ½ gallon
Something to lift it out of the crock – this morning I used a flat, wide serving spoon and a pie server.
I just made a batch and photo documented it for your perusal.
My crock pot:
The cream I am currently using:
In a perfect world, first thing in the morning, I would take the cream out of the fridge, pour it into the crock, and allow it to come up to room temperature. But usually I look at the clock, panic, pour it in the crock and start from full cold. I haven’t noticed an issue.
Turn the crock to “warm.” Put the lid on, but prop one end open with a chop stick, like so. Walk away for five to eight hours. Do not stir. Do not agitate. Do not take the top off.
Here’s what it looked like at about an hour. See how the surface is looking curdled? Perfect.
Two or three hours in. See the puddles of standing butter? Don't panic - that's okay.
At the end of five or eight or nine hours, turn off the heat. This is at five hours when I pulled the plug – see how it’s browning around the edge? I’ve let that go too far in the past, and while this isn’t difficult or particularly expensive, it takes a lot of time if you need to start over (beginning with a long drive to Whole Foods.) Remove the lid, and allow the crock to cool. Do not move it at this point – you don’t want it to slosh.
Once the crock has cooled enough that you’re not going to cause problems in your fridge (or sooner if you really want to go to bed) *very carefully* put the crock in the fridge. No tipping, no sloshing, no jostling. I try to leave the lid off during the initial temperature drop, because I read that you don’t want condensation dripping down into it. I put the lid on as soon as I can to keep it from picking up ambient fridge flavors, though. Walk away. I’ve been leaving mine in the fridge overnight.
In the morning take the crock out. There will be an unappetizing looking, congealed mass on the top of the crock. Seriously – this does not look like anything you would want to eat, and it definitely does not look “spreadable.”
Get a large bowl. Take a knife and run it along the edges to cut it away from the ceramic – the butter has created a seal. Then take something spatula like – two of them – and working from both sides, pick up that congealed mass and put it in the bowl. I have a couple of big, flat serving spoons that I use – just be careful to get as little of the liquid underneath as possible.
Pour off that liquid – either down the drain, or into a container. I’m told you can use it for anything for which you would use heavy cream. I put this into the fridge, and used it in place of the milk to make scones. Not sure what I’m going to do with the rest of it. Soak the crock.
Now – back to that bowl. Looks awful, doesn’t it?
The first time I got that product, I thought I’d done it wrong. Then I got that same product a second time, and started to wonder. Since I had nothing to lose, I took my pastry blender and chopped/mixed it together – and it got wonderfully smooth and creamy. This time I just used a spoon, and had one less thing to wash. I tried some, and it was lovely – and the consistency was now such that I could get it into a container.
I was worried when it set up in the fridge, but it still tasted lovely, and Hugh tells me it’s supposed to be like that. Store it in the fridge, spread it like butter, and eat it on things. On scones with strawberry jam is particularly delightful.
Now, of course, you need to make scones. Here’s a link to the recipe I’m using. http://www.food.com/recipe/simple-sweet-scones-66409
That’s it. Seriously. It’s a little fussy, but rocket science it is not.
Here’s some things that may or may not be important to you.
*Temperature: you’re aiming for 180 degrees Fahrenheit. I read that the “good” range is 180 – 200. You do NOT want it to boil. If it boils, it's ruined. I checked with an infrared thermometer, and set to warm, with the lid on, but propped open, I’m running right around 180 at the surface. Propped open with a wooden spoon was too much, with a toothpick was too little. For my crock, the chop stick is just right.
*Crock pot size: The key to this process is surface area. You want lots and lots. I have a large, oval crock pot, and when I put a half gallon of heavy cream in it, I end up with a nice spread-out, shallow pool of cream. That’s perfect. It sucks when I’m trying to make three quarts of dinner, but for these purposes it’s perfect. You can do it with a crock that’s narrower and deeper, but you’ll have more waste to product. If I were to try this in my mom’s old classic crock pot, I’d do it a quart at a time. And probably leave the lid off altogether.
*The appearance while it’s cooking is… odd. It’s supposed to look congealed, so don’t fret. The puddles of fluid on the top are butter – that’s just fine.
*Tan, caramelized looking bits are fine. Just not the whole thing.
*Sometimes I have more liquid left over, sometimes less. I have no idea why it changes. Possibly cook time.
*Cream: I read a lot online about how you cannot possibly make clotted cream with cream from the grocery store because of the preservatives. I also read about how you cannot possibly make clotted cream with ultra-pasteurized cream. I don’t know about either of those things. Yet. In order to avoid that issue as much as possible, I picked up The Farmer’s Cow brand heavy cream. This is a Connecticut brand – it’s basically six or so Connecticut dairies who are distributing locally. That allows for a somewhat fresher product, and they use standard pasteurization because they’re not shipping as far. For the same reason, there are no preservatives added – the only thing in there is cream.
I think that’s about as good as I’m going to get without actually hunting down a dairy, and to be honest, I don’t particularly want to play with raw milk. We invented pasteurization for a reason, and listeria sounds like a whole lot of bad news. Yes, I understand that heating it to 180 or so for eight hours is effectively pasteurizing it. I choose not to play around with it. We all have our comfort levels, and I do believe I’ve found mine.
I’m going to try a batch with standard heavy cream from the grocery store. Ultra-high temperature pasteurized, homogenized, and with carrageenan for preservation. Just to see how it comes out (or not) by comparison.
So there it is. That’s how I make clotted cream in my crock pot. It’s really stinkin' easy, if you have the right tools. Of course, THEN you have to make scones. And then you eat them. And I really don’t need more encouragement to eat. But for a treat? I’m all over it.