Thursday, February 26, 2015

like buttah

Except it's not just like butter.  It actually is real butter!  I just realized I've never given you a post on how I make butter.  I'm kind of embarrassed to do it, because it's not much of a "recipe," to speak of.  It's just a series of actions with one ingredient that takes about half an hour.

And that half an hour each week is totally worth it to me!  To have fresh, raw, local butter.  At a great price!  (Works out to about $6/lb for me.)

Here's what I do.

Each Monday evening, we pick up our milk from the co-op.  We usually get one gallon of milk, one pint of cream, and one dozen eggs per week.  We bring it home, and I pull whatever cream was left from last week out of the fridge.  I combine it with whatever cream I won't be using for recipes during the week from the new pint.  Usually it works out to about a pint or so of cream altogether.  Sometimes I wait until I have more cream built up and do a quart at a time.  Your preference.  The more cream you use, the longer it takes to curdle, but then you have more butter.  You can always freeze the excess if you'd rather do a big batch at once.

You have a choice at this point.  Do you want:

1)  Sweet cream butter?
      Pros:  neutral flavor, good for baking, can be made with cream straight out of the fridge.
     Cons:  shorter shelf life on the counter, leftover buttermilk is basically just skim milk and cannot be used as an acid in baking (unless you add some additional acid to it, like lemon juice or vinegar).


2)  Cultured cream butter?
      Pros:  slightly tangy flavor, European-style, longer shelf life on the counter, leftover buttermilk is cultured and behaves just like store-bought buttermilk in baking (that is, it acts as an acid with chemical leaveners like baking soda.)
      Cons:  not as good for baking because of flavor profile, the cream must sit and culture first at room temperature.

If you want to culture, it's really easy:  just sit the cream on the counter and leave it for 12-24 hours before you make butter.  Done.  I always make sweet cream butter, just because I prefer the flavor.

So here's how I make the butter:

I put the cream into my stand mixer with the whisk attachment.

I cover the whole thing with a dish towel (or you will splash buttermilk in places you didn't even know existed in your kitchen!).

I turn it on to a moderately high speed (maybe a 6 on my Kitchenaid), and let it whip.

Just leave it alone and let it do its thing.  It will turn into whipped cream,

then it will break and shrink back down,

and finally it will begin to separate into butterfat and buttermilk.

I stop it just one time, after the whipped cream has broken, to scrape the sides of the bowl and be sure it is all incorporated.  For a pint of cream, this stage generally takes about 20-30 minutes.  If you have more cream, it will take longer.

When it's fully broken, you will hear a lot of sloshing in the mixer bowl.  Stop the mixer and strain the butter away from the buttermilk.

Put the butter curds into a large mixing bowl.

Use the back of a wooden spoon to press as much moisture as you possibly can out of the curds.

Spread the butter around the bowl with the spoon and then push it together.  A lot of buttermilk will continue to come out of the butter.  Drain it off into the jar with the other buttermilk.  Really work as hard as you can to get the buttermilk out of the butter, because any liquid left in the butter is what causes it to spoil.  I usually knead the butter with the spoon for about 5-10 minutes.  Some people do this with their hands, but I've found my hands are way too warm and they just end up with melted butter smeared all over them and wasted.

Once you are satisfied that no more buttermilk is coming out, put your butter into a glass dish and either keep it on the counter to use immediately or in the freezer for storage.  I always keep some out so it's spreadable.  I find that the butter will taste sweet and good for 2 weeks in winter, and closer to 1 week in summer.


[This post submitted to Fat Tuesday 2/24/15 and the HomeAcre Hop 2/26/15.]

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