The most important part of choosing Devonshire cream is ensuring that the cream is actually made in Devon, a county in the southwestern corner of England. Made anywhere else, the product is simply known as “clotted cream.” Even within Devon, however, there are many different cream manufacturers. Most products are similar, but factors such as price, freshness, and treatment of dairy herds are all things to be considered when making your selection.
It is usually easy to find clotted cream in grocery stores and tea shops throughout the United Kingdom, and in import and specialty shops in other parts of the world. Clotted cream is an extremely popular facet of British cuisine and is a staple of traditional English cream tea. All Devonshire creams are clotted creams, but not all clotted creams can be labeled “Devonshire.” The Devon designation can only be used if the clotted cream is actually manufactured in the county of Devon, using Devon milk cows fed on Devon grasses.
Choosing the best Devonshire cream is usually a matter of evaluating your options, and deciding which factors are most important to you. There are many small farms throughout the county that contribute to the supply. The region is also home to a number of major commercial manufacturers that sell Devonshire cream in large quantities both throughout the UK and abroad.
With few exceptions, the process for making Devon cream is consistent, regardless the manufacturer. Creameries heat fresh milk, then let it sit for a set amount of time to allow the natural cream to separate. The “clots” that form on top of the milk are then strained and packaged for use. Quality of milk is, in most instances, the only variable.
Devonshire cream varies in color from off-white to rich yellow. Yellow-hued cream is usually a result of vitamin-rich grasses and grains consumed by the dairy cows. Color can also sometimes be related to the breed of cow, as well as the cow’s overall health. Some epicureans detect a slight taste difference based on color, but for the most part, hue has no bearing on overall flavor and richness.
If the ethics of product manufacturing concern you, you should look into farm policies before making your Devonshire cream choice. Different farms have different practices with respect to dairy cow treatment, cream pasteurization, cleanliness of creamery facilities, and integrity of packaging. Most creameries will share any information if asked, though it is often also a good idea to research issues you care about with objective outside sources as well.