After so many years of reviewing products, it’s nearly impossible for me to walk into a store – any type, anywhere – get what I need and walk out. Like a cat, I’m always lured by shiny things. And just about everything on a store shelf is shiny to me. If you’re in a hurry, I’m not a fun shopping companion. Trust me.
And so it was the other day when I ran into Trader Joe’s to grab a couple bottles of red wine and a basil plant, which, for some unknown reason, is always drop dead gorgeous at Trader Joe’s. I had my items but couldn’t resist a little snooping, and that’s when the little baby blue box caught my eye. Shelf-stable whipping cream. Really? Sure, I’m familiar with UHT (Ultra-high temperature) milk but I hadn’t noticed whipping cream before.
And since the holidays are near – oh, yes, once you get to the “er” months, you’re careening toward the end of the year. Don’t blink right now because when you open your eyes, you’ll be wearing a silly hat, spitting out confetti and toasting 2013, wondering where the heck 2012 slipped off to. I’m not kidding. So, with the holidays near, it won’t hurt to have a little cream on hand for some unexpected or last-minute whipping.
I grabbed a carton, brought it home and popped it in the fridge. Of course, you can store the cream at room temperature, but the label suggests refrigerating it for six hours before whipping. I then placed my metal bowl and beaters in the freezer and prepared to see what Trader Joe’s whipping cream was all about. My results follow.
Trader Joe’s Shelf-Stable Grade A Whipping Cream, $1.29 for an 8-ounce carton.
First look: UHT milk products are popular in Europe, South America and many other parts of the world. The shelf stability comes from the ultra-high temperatures at which the cream (and milk) is heated during the pasteurization process, which eliminates bacteria. When cream is heated at the traditional, lower temperatures, bacteria starts to creep in and so refrigeration is necessary to retard spoiling. UHT cream comes in Aseptic packaging designed to keep air and light away from the product.
The ingredients in Trader Joe’s shelf-stable whipping cream are simple: Milk and carrageenan. Not unlike most whipping creams you find in the dairy case. Nutritionally, they match up as well.
Good news: It has the same thick consistency as regular cream and the same flavor right out of the carton. It’s fresh and buttery rich. The cartons are perfect for traveling or camping, but remember that this isn’t a magic potion. It needs to be refrigerated once you open the container.
When whipped, it behaves identically to cream from the dairy case. Not surprising since that’s pretty much what it is. Unless you have an extraordinarily fine-tuned palate, I don’t think you’ll be able to tell the difference.
I flavored it with a little vanilla sugar that I brought back from France, but you could easily use a little liquid vanilla and regular sugar.
The cream whipped up beautifully and was perfect to use in a piping bag.
I found it more stable than traditional whipping cream, which often tends to deflate fairly quickly. Once whipped, the cream kept its shape for hours and didn’t separate or get watery.
Bad news: There’s really no way to seal the container back so that it’s spill-proof or air-tight.
Last words: Let’s see. It’s far less expensive than whipping cream in the dairy case, tastes as fresh and it’s just as versatile. What’s not to love?