Aerosol whipped cream is hard to come by this holiday season, thanks to a nationwide shortage of nitrous oxide, the critical propellant that gets the cream out of the can.

But the shortage is a boon to home cooks everywhere. Homemade whipped cream is infinitely tastier — no surprise when you consider that the leading brand of aerosol, Reddi-wip, contains not only cream but also water, sugar, corn syrup, nonfat milk, artificial flavors, and carrageenan (a thickener), among other ingredients.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

The traditional method for whipping cream is simple: Pour one cup of cold heavy cream into a large, clean bowl along with a tablespoonful or two of sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. With an electric beater (or handheld “egg beater” or, for the strong of arm, a balloon whisk) beat slowly at first until the cream becomes foamy, and then quickly until it is smooth, shiny and forms soft peaks. Don’t overbeat or you’ll wind up with butter.

Even easier is this method for whipping cream in a Mason jar: Pour the cream, sugar and vanilla extract into a clean Mason jar (at least 1 pint capacity and no more than 1 quart), screw on the lid tightly and place in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes. Shake vigorously until the cream turns thick and creamy — anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes.

No matter the method you use, keep in mind:

* Most heavy cream sold in supermarkets is UHT (ultrahigh temperature) pasteurized. Because the high temperature destroys some of cream’s whippability, it also contains thickening additives such as carrageenan. UHT cream also takes much longer to whip. If you can, seek out heavy cream that has only been subjected to regular pasteurization. (Trader Joe’s usually carries this and it will be labeled, simply, “pasteurized.”)

* The higher the milkfat content, the better the whip. Buy heavy cream (36 to 40 percent) and not what’s labeled “whipping cream.”