Cream is a milk product that naturally separates from whole milk before it has been homogenized. While most cream is white (especially cream from goats, but also cows that are fed grain), some breeds such as the Jersey produce an off-yellowish cream when allowed to eat plants.
In the United States, cream is divided into many distinct categories depending on how much milk fat it contains. In order from lightest to heaviest, they are:
- Half and Half (between 10.5% and 18%)
- Light Cream (also called coffee or table cream -- between 18% and 30%)
- Medium Cream (25%)
- Whipping Cream (between 30% and 36%)
- Heavy whipping cream (36% or more)
- Double cream (also called extra heavy or manufacturers -- 38% or more)
Most cream sold in the United States is ultrapasteurized because it sells much more slowly than other milk products. Ultrapasteurization means that cream has a longer shelf life when unopened, but at the cost of a flat, burnt flavor and less ability to hold air when being whipped. This lack of ability to hold structure is moderated by the addition of carageenan, sodium alginate, or other stabilizers.
Cream can be turned into butter through agitation, though it is much more difficult to churn modern cream into butter.
In cocktails, cream is typically used to provide richness and to mute flavors of alcohol. Care must be taken with acidic ingredients, as it may cause the drink to curdle.