Smetana is one of the names for a range of sour creams from Central and Eastern Europe. It is a dairy product produced by souring heavy cream
. It is similar to crème fraîche
(28% fat), but nowadays mainly sold with 10% to 30% milkfat content depending on the country. Its cooking properties are different from crème fraîche and the lighter sour creams
sold in the US, which contain 12 to 16% butterfat. It is widely used in cooking and baking.
Cream or sour cream, such as Smântâna in Romania, as well as Schmand/t in German language countries is also used as Smetana in other central Central and Eastern European cuisines: in appetizers, main courses, soups and desserts. For example, it may be blended with soups, vegetable salads, cole slaw, and meat dishes; served with dumplings (pelmeni, pierogi, vareniki), or with pancakes (bliny, nalesniki, oladyi, syrniki); or used as a filling in savoury pancakes
. Smetana can be blended to a Liptauer-like cheese spread with quark or cottage cheeses
and other spices, eaten with bread. It is often used in cooking, as it is high enough in fat not to curdle at higher temperatures. It is used in the preparation of meat or vegetable stews and casseroles
, or other dishes that require a long cooking time in the oven. Smetana does not melt in the oven and it does not soak the whole dish like crème fraîche. Hungarian cooks use it as an ingredient in sauces such as paprikas and in recipes such as ham-filled crepes (palacsinta). The current trend to reduce fat content of the milk products has caused the taste and consistency of many milk products to deteriorate. To imitate Hungarian-style cooking and the use of smetana (called tejföl in Hungarian), Hungarian cookbooks recommend using Western sour cream mixed with heavy whipping cream
(38–40% milkfat). Homogenization breaks the fat into smaller sizes. Smetana is not homogenized.
In Central European countries, such as Czech Republic, the word Smetana (Cream) is used as follows:
(Whipping) cream or sour cream, such as Smetana is a dairy product, it is the fattest part of the milk, which is deposited on its surface. It is produced by skimming or other ways and the shops sell it either as sweet or sour. Containing at least 10% fat. Smetana, which has at least 30% fat, is called Smetana ke šlehání (whipping cream) and is used for the production of Šlehacka (whipped cream). Is a subset of high-fat cream with at least 35% fat. So in modern language understanding the word Smetana means different kinds of dairy products, does not translate as sour cream, which in Czech would be called kysaná smetana or zakysaná smetana.
In Ukrainian, Belarusian, Polish, and Russian cuisines, sour cream is often added to borscht and other soups, and is used as a salad dressing and as a condiment for dumplings, such as vareniki, pierogi, and pelmeni. It is used in gravies served with Bohemian cuisine, such as the marinated beef Svícková, somewhat similar to German Sauerbraten except for the added sour cream.
Schmand or Schmant is typical for some German local cuisines, especially Hesse and Thuringia. Schmant mit Glumse (whipped cream with Quark (dairy product)) is well documented for many centuries in Prussian and other cuisine. Of note, it is not only used in savory dishes, but also for cakes called Schmandkuchen and desserts. In 1677 a German Medical book recommends Schmant or Milchraam as the best substance of the milk. Schmand is the cream of the milk, or foam that rises up, like the white on the beer. Schmand or Schmant also describes other fatty foamy material and is known as byproduct of mining for example in vitriol development.
When comparing brands or suppliers of smetana, the Polish and Russian practice is to compare the fat content of the varieties. Fat content can range from 10% (runny) to 70% (thick). The most common supermarket smetanas are 10 to 40% fat (milk fat only for an authentic product). Addition of thickeners such as gelatine is not forbidden by relevant regulations, so today one hardly can find real, thickener-free smetana in an ordinary shop, which is regarded by discriminate buyers as cheating and the product is considered substandard and unsuitable for culinary use, since some recipes are easily spoiled by the presence of a thickener. Farmer's smetana should be used instead.