3Mar2008

Butter!

Well, today I learned why food processors exist! Inspired by the March issue of Saveur that focused on butter and all of its regional uses and charms, I obtained some very farm-fresh milk, and got started. Saveur gave a very idyllic picture story of how to make your butter at home with fresh heavy cream by whisking it in a nice rustic wooden bowl. I got my balloon whisk and started whisking. Of course, I decided to whip up some butter on the day that I started my Spring workout regimen – today was heavy on the push-ups…
I tired out early in the butter-making process, and was encouraged by helpful Spencer to break out our recently-purchased hand mixer. This quickly got me to the soft-peak and stiff-peak stages, and suddenly I realized it was 30 minutes into the churning stage! Saveur slyly mentioned nothing about how long this wooden-bowl whisking technique was supposed to take. Surely something had to be wrong! I took a break to check some websites and soon discovered I was in this for at least another 30 minutes! My arms burning (I even whisked with my left arm!), I returned to the web to see if any other helpful information could be gleaned, and that’s when I found it!! A recipe for food-processor butter! While I love traditional methods as a general rule, I was desperate for a new tactic, and so I broke out my modern churner. I popped in the dough blade, poured in my only kinda lumpy buttery-milk, and turned it on. In no less than 5 minutes, I had bona-fide butterfat separating from the buttermilk! Eureka! It IS possible! I gotta say, I completely understood Michael Pollan’s sentiment in the Omnivore’s Dilemma after he worked on Joel Salatin’s farm in Virginia. After working with the chickens and seeing all the trouble farmers go through to produce an incredible egg, he said he’d never complain about the high prices of farm products ever again – even $1 an egg seemed reasonable to him! Well, My butter endeavor makes me happy to pay $5-$7 a pound! My 7 hours of butter-making today yielded me 2.25 oz. of creamy perfection, that’s a little more than 1/8 of a pound. My picture story below…..

I have access to farm-fresh milk, and brought home 1.5 gallons.
You can see the creamline in this picture.

I carefully scooped out the cream from the top of each jar.
I had exactly 2 cups – 1 pint of cream to work with.

It is so pretty!

Ok. So 6 of the 7 hours of the project was letting the butter sit
to try and “culture” a bit as Savuer advised me. So here it sits.

Let the whisking begin! It got thick pretty quickly, and
I was soon thinking of June strawberries and whipped cream!

Tiring of the whisk, I broke out the mixer and was soon at the
soft peak, then stiff peak stage.

As you can see here.

Feeling weird using the machine, I returned to the whisk, which worked
until I had arm muscle failure. You can see the butterfat starting to form.

Out comes the food processor.

This allowed me to get my strainer in a bowl and cheesecloth ready for straining.

And, voila! Yellow butterfat and creamy buttermilk!! I think if I would have started with the food processor, it would have shaved off maybe 15 minutes or so from the 1 hour of processing time. Maybe. Next time I’ll try it!

So now the butterfat is in the cheesecloth in the strainer, and you’re supposed to knead it a bit to expel any extra buttermilk. You can’t help but touch it at this stage – it is such an incredible texture! Notice my fingerprints filled with buttermilk.

You’re supposed to rinse and knead to get all the buttermilk out. If any is left in the butter, it will go bad really fast, or at least turn the butter flavor in directions you don’t expect.

Here’s the fingerprints with clear water – ready for molding!

My end products! Almost a pint of buttermilk (mmmm biscuits!) and 2.25 oz. of butter! Now I have to get Spencer to make his famous French bread….. YUM!!

Upon re-visiting the Saveur article, I laughed out loud to see a 1915 picture of a man with a strong upper body structure and an older woman behind him with a knowing look on her face, sort of saying, “Better you than me!”. He issitting at a butter churn looking very tired out, and she looked like she was super-happy to let him do it. There you have it! Justification for using modern machinery to get the same product. At any rate, it was fun and I will definitely do it again, maybe just not after a lot of push-ups or with a whisk at all…

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