Are you a dairy fanatic like me? I adore all things dairy: cheese, butter, gelato, crème fraîche, ice cream, cream cheese frosting—I’m drooling just writing this. When a lesser-known British dairy invention waltzed into my life a handful of years ago, it completely knocked my socks off. It was upon my first visit to the most southwest part of England, Cornwall, that I was introduced to clotted cream.
Cornish clotted cream is a buttery bite of heaven; a catastrophically delightful blend of butter meets gelato in taste and consistency. It is a decadent dance of satin smoothness topped with a divine top crust that is truly unique. I will forever remain hopelessly enamored with Cornish clotted cream.
I spoke with Belinda Shipp, marketing manager for Rodda’s dairy, the U.K.’s largest producer of clotted cream. It’s a family-run business that has been churning out epically enticing clotted cream since 1890. Rodda’s is celebrating their 125th anniversary, and are based at the same farmhouse in Redruth, Cornwall, where Eliza Jane Rodda developed her sumptuous recipe.
While tangy crème fraîche and cream cheese are fermented, clotted cream is basically cooked and cooled cream. It’s not tart at all, just thick creamy globs of goodness with a sweet and soft edge. Shipp said the most distinct difference between clotted cream and its counterparts is the golden crust. “The gold crust forms when the tastiest bits rise to the top, it seals in the freshness and the silkiness of the cream below. That’s what forms the thick silky dollapable-ness,” Shipp said.
Also, what sets Cornish clotted cream apart is that in 1998, it became a Protected Designation of Origin. PDOs are an award granted by the European Commission and the label ensures authenticity of regional food products. Just like Champagne and Prosciutto de Parma, you can expect a high-quality product that is produced entirely in its own acclaimed neck of the woods. Cornish clotted cream has to adhere to the traditional cooking process and use milk from cows grazing in picturesque Cornish pastures.
“Clotted cream is very much part of Cornish culture,” Shipp said. “It’s known to have been in Cornwall since 500 BC, at that time it was traded with the Phonecians who came over here in search of tin,” Shipp continued, stating that farmers’ wives would make clotted cream as a preservation tactic and utilized only the finest part of the milk.
Afternoon tea was introduced by the Duchess of Bedford in 1840, and clotted cream easily found a place as a featured player in the ritual. Recently, I was able to experience clotted cream in its most-loved context while visiting Cornwall. I went to partake in Cornish cream tea at the Headland Hotel in Newquay, a stunning Victorian hotel set upon a peninsula with a backdrop of windswept, rocky cliffs. The Headland brings old-world charm to the table with its lovely presentation of Cornish cream tea—two scones, sides of strawberry jam and clotted cream, and of course a pot of tea. The symphony of bright cream, sugary acidic jam and fluffy sweet scone is a combination suitable for the gods.
There is a heated debate over which gets slathered on first atop the scone: the cream or the jam. For me, the clotted cream goes first, though Rodda’s would vehemently disagree. I say do it however you please, and be prepared for love at first bite.
Afernoon tea with scones is my go-to way to get my clotted cream on, but other uses include slathering it on any kind of bread or cake, or serving with pie. Another popular use for it in Cornwall is in ice cream; it’s a divine flavor in frozen treats.
Rodda’s is available throughout the U.K., and a few other fortunate international locations. Shipp said that Rodda’s is not in the United States…yet. Let’s hope that Cornish clotted cream will be available stateside in the future.
Annie Merkley is a freelance journalist, banjo strummin’ songstress, traveler by simple means, poet, and dreamer of dreams and things. She has worked in restaurants from Athens, Georgia to Ischia, Italy, from New York City to Cornwall, England. From serving to being a cook, baker, bartender, barista and manager she’s seen the insides of restaurants at every angle. Annie is on an around the world trip for the year of 2015 and writing about it along the way.
Photo of clotted cream close-up courtesy of Rodda’s
Scone photos by Annie Merkeley