Item: Trader Joe's Shelf-Stable Whipping Cream
Price: $1.29 for 8 oz
Overall Impression: It has its downsides, but all-in-all it's a handy, serviceable way to be sure you have cream in your pantry.
Whipping cream is not an everyday ingredient in my kitchen, so it's not something I usually keep on hand. When I do buy cream, it's for a special occasion or a specific dish, and that probably happens maybe two or three times a year. Still, it would be nice to have cream tucked away for those times when it sneaks up on me in a recipe or when unexpected guests stop in and I'd like to fancy up the dessert. So I was intrigued when I spied Trader Joe's newest product: a shelf-stable whipping cream in an aseptic box. Read on for my review.
The small box is reasonably priced at $1.29 for 8 oz (or 1 cup) of cream. It is not organic, which is a bit of an issue for me since I try to keep my dairy as organic as possible. The box contains cream and carrageenan (a natural seaweed-based additive that promotes viscosity.) I purchased my cream on September 22 and, according to the stamp on the box, it should be good until February 4, 2013.
I tasted the cream at room temperature, and again after it was refrigerated for three hours. At room temperature I would give it medium marks for flavor. It wasn't horrid, but it wasn't divine either. There was some nice dairy flavor but was muted, and it was missing some of the natural sweetness of cream. After it cooled, I found the taste even more muted which chilling can do. The lack of flavor is not a surprise, however, because in order for the cream to be shelf-stable, it needs to be exposed to a very high heat which kills of much of its subtle and complex flavor compounds. But be fair, I am used to purchasing local organic cream so the bar is set very high.
The texture was very nice and quite velvety. I'm not sure if it was my imagination, but the cream seemed to thicken up in the refrigerator (maybe this is another function of the carrageenan?). It produced a lovely, silky base for a quiche I made using Emma's ratio of 1 cup milk and 1/2 cup cream to 3 eggs.
But Does It Whip?
Yes, but it took a lot of work. I whipped the cream by hand (which I am used to) and was surprised at how long it took to form soft peaks (at least twice as long as it usually does). The directions on the box say that the cream needs to be refrigerated for 6 hours before whipping and I suspect that the chilling here is even more important than with regular cream. I ended up putting the cream in a glass bowl with the whisk in it and put the whole thing in the refrigerator so that everything was chilled. Even then it was quite the wrist workout. I did not try it using an electric mixer which would of course be easier and more efficient.
Would I Buy It Again?
Sure, especially with the holidays coming up. I would use it more as an ingredient than whipping cream, however, since the flavor is very important in whipping cream and it didn't score high marks in that area for me. Also, since the box needs to be chilled for several hours in order for it to whip, it doesn't quite work for last minute emergencies. (I suppose you could just store it in the refrigerator.) But all-in-all this is a handy, serviceable way to be sure you have cream in your pantry. And obviously it would travel well, too.
Now, can we move on to solve the real heavy cream dilemma: What do you do when you just want a tablespoon or two of fresh cream but you have to buy a whole carton?
Related: Basic Technique: How to Make Whipping Cream
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf.
(Image: Dana Velden)