Saturday, November 9, 2013

How to make butter: regular and live culture butter recipe

Organic cream was on sale, so I made two kinds of butter, regular and cultured.  They were both delicious.  What's more, they were so easy, I don't think I will ever buy the flavourless butter bricks from the shop again.

A litre of cream makes about a pound of butter.  You can use a proper butter churn if you like - it makes things much easier - or you can use a water-tight container and shake the heck out of it (enlist helpers).  Either way, it takes about half an hour to an hour..  

How to make butter at home: just churning method

Cream, whipping cream or heavy cream (not half and half or cereal cream)
salt - no-iodine (optional, but recommended)

You will also need something to agitate the cream.  This could be a churn like the one in the photo, which is basically a tall, narrow container, with a lid that has a hole in the top, and a handle with a cross on the bottom.   The handle goes up and down, and the cross agitates the cream.  

Another option is to use a water tight container and shake the heck out of it.  You will need something inside the container to agitate it.  According to my families oral tradition, a tiny particle of butter, about half a centimetre cubed will do it.  But I used a small wooden spoon.  

I tried both methods and I liked the churn better.  The problem with the shaking method is that there is a point when the cream transforms into thick whipping cream and won't slosh around on it's own.  It took a lot of force to keep agitating it at that stage, whereas the churn took very little extra effort.

Basically, the method:

  • Put your cream in the vessel so that it does not fill more than half way (it needs room to slosh around).  Either shake or churn it until it becomes butter.
    • the yellow lumpiness is butter,
      the thin white milk like liquid is the buttermilk.
    • you will go through several stages from sloshy cream, to thicker cream, to whipped cream, to extra-thick whipped cream, to suddenly thick, pale yellow, clumps and white thin liquid.  That's the butter stage.
    • Expect this to take more than half an hour.  
    • There are some people who do this with an electric mixer.  Sure, it's a bit quicker, but it's very hard on the motor, so I don't recommend it.
  • Pour off the buttermilk and keep it for baking or pancakes or whatever.  
  • Put the butter in a large bowl.  Now we wash the butter.  This feels weird the first time you do it, but trust me.  Add about a cup of COLD water to the bowl with the butter.  
  • Washing the butter
  • Take a wooden spoon and push all the butter to one side of the bowl.  Cut into the butter with the spoon and move a small amount of butter through the water and to the other side of the bowl.  Repeat till all the butter is on the other side.  Now drain the water, and add fresh Cold water to the bowl.  Cut the butter like before.  As you do this, you will notice the water turns milky.  That milkiness is the milk that was trapped inside of the butter.  Do this, changing the water frequently, until the water is clear.  Do Not Skimp on this step!  Doing this properly will make all the difference to taste and shelf life of the finished butter.  It takes at least three changes of water, sometimes up to 10.
  • Now that the butter is washed, drain off any remaining liquid from the bowl.  Give the butter a squeeze (with the spoon against the side of the bowl, or with clean hands) to press out any extra liquid that got trapped in it.
  • Time to salt the butter.  Salting the butter adds flavour and drastically increases shelf life.  Unsalted butter starts to go rancid in less than a week, salted butter can last in the fridge for several weeks.  I use about 3/4 tsp of sea salt per pound of butter, but you can use just a pinch, or up to two teaspoons.  Stir the salt into the butter so that it's evenly distributed throughout.
    • In the days before refrigeration, they would use a lot more salt... sometimes they would take blocks of butter and coat them in salt to extend the shelf life.  But since we have a fridge, we don't need that much salt.
  • The butter is ready to put in your butter dish, or if you have a mold or butter press, let's do that.
This is the one I found:

I press the butter into it, firmly, then open the mold and pop the butter out.  Sometimes the butter is soft, so I need to chill the butter before opening the mold.  The mold has gaps in it that allow any excess liquid seep out of the butter as it's compressed into the mold.
  • Keep at room temp, in the fridge, or freeze.  The colder it is, the longer it will keep.

Cultured Butter:

This is butter that is made with fermented milk.  I used a room temperature yoghurt culture called Fil Mjolk to culture the cream before churning it.  Cultured butter has a slightly sour flavour to it, but in a light and refreshing good way.  It's brimming with probiotic goodness and keeps a little longer than your regular butter.  It can be used the same way as normal butter for cooking, eating, baking, whatever.

So far as I can tell, this only works with Fil Mjolk or Piima - however, there may be other cultures that will make yummy butter.  If you find out what they are, please let me know.

Starter culture like Fil Mjolk or Piima
salt (optional, but a good idea)

  • The day (or two) before you want to make butter, culture the cream as per normal.  I use the Fil Mjolk, so I'll describe my method.  When you make it, follow the instructions that come with your culture.
    • Add 1 Tbs of culture per cup of cream (4 cups in a litre).  Stir it well into the cream and cover with a cloth.  Leave at room temperature for 10 to 20 hours until the cream has set into a firm yoghurt-like consistency.  
    • Place the cultured cream into the fridge for at least 6 hours.
    • Remove starter for your next batch, then put the rest of the cultured cream into your butter churn and follow the instructions as per making regular butter above (churn, wash, salt, press, store)

Affordable?: Very much so.  A pound of, regular, store bought butter costs about $5 in the shop, which is the same price as a litre of organic cream.  The organic cream is often on sale when it nears the expiry date, so I usually wait till it's $1 to $3 a litre (which makes a pound of butter) and buy the lot.  The butter freezes well, so I can make loads when the cream is on sale.

Healthy?:  Yep.  There is a lot of evidence that butter is one of the healthiest fats for you and your brain.  But besides that, this way you can control how much salt is in the butter, and if you buy organic and/or cream from grass fed cows, it's even healthier.  

If you make cultured butter, then there are even more health benefits.  The butter will include live bacteria very much like you find in yoghurt, only more of it.  These probiotics are a vital component for gut health - and make the butter taste better.

Transition:  The idea of transitioning from a place where we are dependent on large business to provide for us, back to a place where we have control of our own basic needs is an awesome concept.  I've had a small amount of interaction with our local Transition group, and I think this is exactly the kind of activity that "reduces our oil dependence" and helps obtain "ecological sustainability" - the catch phrases are theirs not mine, thus the quotes.  The cream I bought was produced on the same island where I live.  This method for making butter takes pure human power, and does not need petroleum based anything.  

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