Cream is a dairy product that is composed of the higher-butterfat layer skimmed from the top of milk before homogenization. In un-homogenized milk, over time, the lighter fat rises to the top. In the industrial production of cream this process is accelerated by using centrifuges called "separators". In many countries, cream is sold in several grades depending on the total butterfat content. Cream can be dried to a powder for shipment to distant markets.
Cream skimmed from milk may be called "sweet cream" to distinguish it from whey cream skimmed from whey, a by-product of cheese-making. Whey cream has a lower fat content and tastes more salty, tangy and “cheesy”.
Cream produced by cows (particularly Jersey cattle) grazing on natural pasture often contains some natural carotenoid pigments derived from the plants they eat; this gives the cream a slight yellow tone, hence the name of the yellowish-white color, cream. Cream from cows fed indoors, on grain or grain-based pellets, is white.
North American classifications
- Half and half (10.5–18% fat)
- Light, coffee, or table cream (18–30% fat)
- Medium cream (25% fat)
- Whipping or light whipping cream (30–36% fat)
- Heavy whipping cream (36% or more)
- Extra-heavy, double, or manufacturer's cream (38–40% or more), generally not available at retail except at some warehouse and specialty stores.
- Clotted cream (55%)
- Double cream (48%)
- Whipping or whipped cream (35%)
- Sterilized cream (23%)
- Cream or single cream (18%)
- Sterilized or regular half cream (12%)