Heavy cream has a shelf life of approximately 15 days from purchase before it begins the process of turning rancid. To prevent spoiling and avoid having to throw food out, you can freeze cream with a fat content of 36 percent or greater. Lighter creams do not freeze well. Freezing will not affect the nutritional content, although the cream won't whip quite as well after it's frozen and thawed.
About Heavy Cream
Cream is made with different percentages of milk fat, and the amount of fat determines its purpose. Half-and-half varies from 10.8 to 18 percent fat and is often used in coffee and poured over fruit. Light whipping cream is 30 to 36 percent fat and has enough body to whip or to cook with. Heavy cream contains 36 to 38 percent fat and is the most versatile of the three. It can be used to thicken soups and sauces and can be made into whipped cream. Heavy cream can be diluted with milk to approximate lighter creams.
Freezing Heavy Cream
Cream with a fat content of 36 percent or more can be successfully frozen. This includes heavy cream and some whipping cream. Store an unopened carton in the freezer, or pour into a clean plastic or glass jar before freezing. Leave 1/2 inch air space at the top of the container to allow for expansion.
Label your container with the date it was frozen. Heavy cream is good for three to four months frozen at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or less.
Defrosting Heavy Cream
Defrost heavy cream in the refrigerator before you are ready to use it. Small portions may defrost in a day or less, while larger containers can take two or three days.
Heavy cream separates after being frozen and defrosted; it will look clotted or curdled. This is normal. Simply shake well before using.
Hints for Whipping Cream
Once heavy cream has defrosted, you will not be able to whip it to the same volume and airiness, because the jagged ice crystals that form during the freezing process that may pierce some of the fat globules.
If you intend to make whipped cream from your heavy cream, You could opt to sweeten and whip the cream before freezing. Portion whipped cream into individual mounds on a wax-paper lined cookie sheet, freeze, and then remove to store in a covered plastic container until ready for use. Frozen whipped cream will keep in the freezer for one to two months.
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Maggie Daniel has been writing on food, home, parenting, nature and travel for regional publications since 1999. She holds a B.A. in communications and environmental science from California State University, Monterey Bay.