The Sour Cream of My People, apparently?
August 29, 2011 11:10 AM   Subscribe

What makes sour cream "Canadian-style"?

I recently bought some sour cream in a local market - in the US, the Bay Area specifically - that was labelled Canadian-style (pic). Having grown up in Canada and eaten more than my share of sour cream I feel like I should know what makes this the sour cream of my people. But I have no idea. It tastes pretty much like I'd expect sour cream to taste except possibly a tad less sour? (I didn't do a taste test or anything though).

Googling seems to indicate that sour cream being labelled as Canadian-style is a Russian thing. And the market does cater a bit to Russians, but it doesn't answer my questions:

1. What specifically would they think is "Canadian" about it? It's more/less X than "ABC" sour cream?

2. In places where there is Canadian-style, what are the other styles?

The market may have other styles but I haven't had a chance to go check. I am not above a pseudo-scientific comparison test using various styles of sour cream delivered in both dip form and on perogies, baked potatoes, etc.
posted by marylynn to Food & Drink (26 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I would have guessed bacon, but I can't see any bacon in there.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:21 AM on August 29, 2011

Best answer: Weird.

Here's the ingredients and stuff, if that helps.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:23 AM on August 29, 2011

Maybe it means "Not Russian-style" sour cream (it's that other kind --- Canadian style).
posted by goethean at 11:31 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The "Village Style" sour cream by the same company has the exact same ingredients and nutritional profile. The description reads " the old country style.". Still a mystery what that might be (for me, Canada is "the old country"!).
posted by marylynn at 11:33 AM on August 29, 2011

Since the store caters to Russians, I bet "the old country style" is Russian-style, whatever that may mean, and Canadian style is Canadian style (or American style, but perhaps the company is based out of Canada?). I'll ask my Russian boyfriend about this -- one thing is certain, Russians eat a LOT of sour cream.
posted by peacheater at 11:35 AM on August 29, 2011

Best answer: For grins, I called their customer care line on the web site (1.888.767.0778) and asked directly if they could tell me what made it Canadian style and I was told directly 'no.' And every time I asked if I could find information about their products, I was told 'no.' Finally, the customer carehostility representative took my name and number. If I hear, I'll post. From the sound of the person on the other end of line, I think she was just someone who was assigned to answer the phone and was not in any way trained to actually talk to anyone.
posted by plinth at 11:36 AM on August 29, 2011 [18 favorites]

As a Canadian who's spent time in Russia, I'll try. I'd say it means 'not-Russian' too. Sour cream in Russia is called smetana - wikipedia article here. Apparently, it's generally richer than sour creams in North America. I'd say 'Canadian' here really means 'North American', and they didn't want to call it American sour cream for marketing purposes (maybe due to a general low-level anti-American sentiment).
posted by kitcat at 11:37 AM on August 29, 2011 [6 favorites]

I'd guess they mean not-smetana too (which is, in my experience, a little less solid, a little less sour, and possibly a little higher in fat, in other words, a little bit more like a rich yoghurt than the style you are used to). There are a lot of similar, but different soured creams in the world from US/Canadian style sour cream, to Mexican cremas, to creme fraiche, smetana and surely many more. They are all made from cream, but variations in bacterial culture, fermentation time and temperature, and fat content produce differing products.

Perhaps you should buy a tub of smetana to compare.
posted by ssg at 12:10 PM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

not pasteurized?
posted by sexyrobot at 12:13 PM on August 29, 2011

Smetana is the best dairy product on earth, fwiw.

In my eyes, the sour cream goes like this:

Mexican -> American -> Canadian -> Russian (smetana)

American is the most sour and solid.
posted by k8t at 12:20 PM on August 29, 2011

Sour cream in Russia is called smetana - wikipedia article here. Apparently, it's generally richer than sour creams in North America.

Smetana isn't as solid, so it dissolves in your soup, even when your soup is cold. It's more like the Mexican Crema Fresca (sort of like more sour creme fraiche).

American-style sour cream often has gelatin in it, even. It's pretty darn solid until it's added to something hot, and even then it tends to break up in little chunks, compared to the Russian stuff.

I like American style as a condiment and Russian style as an ingredient, except on crepes or mixed with fruit, when Russian style is always better.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:32 PM on August 29, 2011

A cool chart on wikipedia comparing fermented milk products.

Damn, I <3 the internet.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:40 PM on August 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I'm gonna agree with ssg as far as it's a different culture they use to inoculate the cream. Probably the "village style" has a more funky, earthy flavor that might be unpalatable to more sensitive, less adventurous eaters.
posted by Jon_Evil at 1:53 PM on August 29, 2011

I wonder if Canadian style refers to the large Ukrainian populations in the praries of Canada - who may have developed a style (more North America) than traditional Eastern European soured creams.
posted by helmutdog at 1:54 PM on August 29, 2011

Response by poster: I'm going to have to go back to the market (The Milk Pail, for those of you in the area who can feel my claustrophobic pain) and try to find the Village Style version and compare, huh? Like, for science. I'd certainly like to know how the exact same label turns out differently (surely even if they did something different to the ingredients it would change the fat % or something?).
posted by marylynn at 1:58 PM on August 29, 2011

Well, I don't know anything about smetana, but your description of the sour cream as "a tad less sour" fits with my experience of all Canadian dairy products, or at least Canadian dairy products that I've purchased in British Columbia. The cottage cheese is so mild and creamy, and so is the yogurt, and so is the sour cream. Why this should be I don't know, but it is. Personally I love it, and am always hoping to find cottage cheese in the US as good as what I've had up there.
posted by HotToddy at 2:02 PM on August 29, 2011

In the absence of any other evidence, I am going to go with "marketing ploy." I am American. I live in Ireland. I am constantly annoyed with the way products are packaged as "American style" that are not remotely American in style, origin or uniqueness.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:48 PM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

DarlingBri, I would love to see a blog or something of these! I LOVED what people considered "American" when I was in St. Petersburg, Russia. (Fess up, Mefites- which one of you spilled the beans that singing "Mack the Knife" was an American Thanksgiving tradition?)
posted by small_ruminant at 3:00 PM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Off the top of my head, cola, mustard, pre-cooked non-frozen pancakes the likes of which don't exist in the US, doughnuts, 3000 kinds of interestingly made up baked goods that have never seen US soil, frozen Irish goods in double sizes like extra thick potato waffles or stuffed burgers, and several kinds of frozen breaded products. It's often shorthand for This Product: Lard Ass Version. Photos: ok I'll try!
posted by DarlingBri at 3:26 PM on August 29, 2011 [5 favorites]

DarlingBri's list reminded me that there is "Canadian" cheddar at Trader Joes which I bought once as a joke and then it turned out to be so much better than American-style cheddar cheese. The difference, as near as I could figure it, was that old/fort Canadian cheddar (even the stuff in the grocery store) is naturally aged and very tangy. American-style cheddar just doesn't have that "old/fort" flavour, even whatever they call the 'strongest' flavour. So maybe there's an aging difference between Canadian sour cream and American sour cream? Natural vs. artificial?
posted by hydrobatidae at 3:45 PM on August 29, 2011

I love that it is made with Real California Milk!
posted by calgirl at 6:41 PM on August 29, 2011

...what is the fat content? I've lived in the US and Canada and noticed some dairy fat differences, though I can't quite remember specifics now. But perhaps...?

Western Creamery Sour Cream
is what I buy in and around Ottawa, and 5.5% is "light," "regular," 14%, and "extra rich" (DELICIOUS) is a whopping 30%. 14% seems to me to be the standard fat content of sour cream here. 14% 14%

In re. HotToddy's observations, I spent a year on Vancouver Island, and when I returned to Ontario I kept throwing out containers of cottage cheese thinking it'd gone bad. BC, or at least "Island Farms," has unusually wonderful dairy products, or at least it did in the early 90s. But US dairy was wretched compared to Ontario's and I ate little sour cream in the US; "Breakstone's" is one brand I remember as being awful.

Googling around I am unable to find (1) a US sour cream that lists its fat % unless it is "light" or "fat free," so if somebody wants to check their fridge...? The as-usual US-slanted Wikipedia says that sour cream is 18 to 20 percent butterfat; (2) a Canadian "regular" sour cream that is not 14%. If your sour cream is not 14% I call shenanigans on "Canadian style."

It's all full of corn starch and crap! Sheesh
This question on another forum, not answered
posted by kmennie at 6:48 PM on August 29, 2011

Based on sysreqs ingredient list and and k8t's chart of smoothness I have a strong hunch its the added guar gum, locust bean gum, and carageen (sp). To prove this I would need to source some of this spetena or find it online to see the ingredient list. There's likely going to be some cryllic involved.
posted by sleslie at 6:55 PM on August 29, 2011

My Google-fu fails me, but it made me wonder if it's another word for Winnipeg-style. I mean, there's Winnipeg-style cream cheese. So maybe there's Winnipeg-style sour cream. Barring that, my guess would be that it has to do with restrictions around fat content that eventually led to differentiation between what you get in the US and Canada.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 8:29 PM on August 29, 2011

Its the winnipeg connection that made me interested on this question. spetama sounds like out wouldn't really work on top of perioges whereas north american sour cream works like a charm.

We would be well served by a response from one of those wonderful winnipeg ukranian restaurants.
posted by sleslie at 8:56 PM on August 29, 2011

Response by poster: Sys Rq linked to the company's webpage for the Canadian Style one in the 2nd comment. It shows the nutrition info and ingredients. They are IDENTICAL to the ingredients and nutrition info on the Village Style one. In both cases, the total fat is 8%. I can confirm that this is the same info on the package themselves.

I braved the madness that is the Milk Pail yesterday and bought some Village style sour cream. Once I got them home (and it's visible on the websites as well), I noticed that both had "cmetaha" on the barrel that the (presumably) Russian man is carrying. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that that's the famed "Smetana" noted above. So they're seemingly advertising both of them that way - and the banner on the Canadian one even lists it again.

I also sacrificed myself further and tasted both of them side by side - both just on a spoon and on top of pierogies. I would have posted last night but I was in a coma (those were only about half of what I ate). The Village (presumed Russian) style sour cream was definitely thicker - very much like Greek yogurt. The Canadian style has the consistency I'd think of for bog-standard non-light US-born sour cream. Neither is actually more sour than the other, but the Village style seems to have a more immediate sour taste and then that taste disappears, while the Canadian one takes more time to appear (almost like you taste it further back on your tongue) and then there's a lingering note afterwards. In direct comparison I find a distinct preference for the Village one.

And now I have two giant containers of sour cream and no questions left to ask what else I should eat it with! I guess I'm making dips and some stroganoff and maybe some borscht?

Still not sure why a bunch of Russians think it's "Canadian" though. I hope plinth gets a call back from them still!
posted by marylynn at 9:57 AM on August 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

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