Heavy cream is often an ingredient in soups, sauces, desserts, and, of course, whipped cream. But these recipes usually call for small amounts, leaving a partially full container of heavy cream that can go bad if left unused for too long. Luckily, heavy cream can be frozen until you need it next. The process differs for freezing small or large amounts of heavy cream, but either method will take just a few minutes.
Freezing Small Amounts of Cream
If you most often use small amounts of cream when cooking, then it would make the most sense to freeze the cream in smaller quantities. An ice cube tray is an ideal tool. Pour the heavy cream into the tray and place in the freezer. Once the cubes are frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag. Each cube is usually equal to 2 tablespoons of heavy cream, but it is best to first measure your ice cube tray to see how much it holds (use water and a tablespoon measure). To make larger cubes, use a 2-inch ice cube tray where each cube is equal to 1/2 cup of heavy cream.
Freezing Large Amounts
If the recipes you most often cook that require cream are more likely to call for larger quantities, then it may be best to freeze the cream in the carton that it came in. If the container is full, pour out an inch of the heavy cream to allow room for expansion when it freezes. Then simply place the carton in the freezer.
Using Frozen Heavy Cream
How you incorporate the frozen cream into a recipe will depend on how it was frozen and whether the dish you are making is hot or cold. If the entire container was placed in the freezer, you need to thaw it in the refrigerator first. Once it is no longer solid, give it a good shake (or stir) to redistribute the butterfat. Previously frozen heavy cream will behave the same way as refrigerated cream, and will still whip into stiff peaks. In fact, cold cream actually whips better.
If you're planning to use the frozen cubes of heavy cream in a hot dish, just add them directly to the recipe. There's no need to thaw out first. If the recipe will not be heated, or you plan on whipping the cream, then the cubes need to thaw beforehand. Use or defrost only as many cubes as needed, calculating one cube for every 2 tablespoons of cream called for in a recipe. For example, if a recipe calls for 1/4 cup of cream, use two cubes, for 1 cup, eight cubes. If the ice cube tray is large, figure one cube equals 1/2 cup of cream.
Fresh Heavy Cream Substitutes
If you are making a recipe calling for heavy cream and find yourself without, there are a few alternatives to choose from. The closest substitution to heavy cream is half-and-half; it may be fewer calories but it will provide similar taste. Greek yogurt mixed well with some milk is also a decent stand-in for heavy cream. Another option is to combine milk and cooled melted butter. While these last two replacements will contribute the same flavor and texture, they cannot be whipped. If you need whipped cream, you can try using half-and-half. Just keep in mind you won't get the same stiff peaks as whipped heavy cream.
If you don't have heavy cream on hand when you need it, or it always goes bad before you get to use it, consider switching to powdered heavy cream. It's shelf-stable and allows you to mix up heavy cream on demand. You aren't likely to find it in your local grocery store, but it's readily available online.
Tips and Hints
If you always seem to have too much heavy cream left over, and you don't want to freeze it, there are plenty of recipes that use heavy cream. You can use it to make sour cream, butter, whipped cream, ice cream, and cheese, or to thicken soups, add heft to pasta sauces, and even to upgrade scrambled eggs.
Before you decide to freeze your heavy cream or use it in one of these recipes, make sure it is still good. Often just a sniff will let you know.
Freezing Other Dairy Products
After you learn how to freeze heavy cream, take a bit of time to discover how to freeze milk, butter, buttermilk, cream cheese, and sour cream. This way, you can safely stock up when on sale, or prevent leftovers from going to waste.