Saturday, January 23, 2010

Farm-Fresh Friday: Homemade Butter

I used to "make butter" for gifts and it always went over well. It was simple; I'd just soften storebought butter (a good brand, like Tillamook) and then mix in honey and cinnamon, or lemon juice and dill, or garlic and parsley, or any other combination I liked. Flavored butter is a great way to dress up a meal, and by adding edible flowers you can make it a beautiful addition to the table, too!

So with that experience under my belt, I read with interest the current issue of "Organic Gardening" magazine, which included a little article on how to actually make butter from cream. We all know the typical way they teach little kids - put cream in a jar and shake shake shake until your arms fall off - but it gets so much easier than that with the use of a little modern technology.

Meanwhile, this week my husband and I scored a great deal on some nice fresh raw milk and I wanted to put away some of it before it spoiled. I made some cheese (and a lovely soup with the leftover whey), and I made creme fraiche (about which more in a bit), and I made butter. It was a snap!

All I had to do was skim the cream off the milk (feel free to use storebought cream for this) and pour it into a bowl. Then I took an electric mixer to it and beat it up - first into whipped cream, and then it got grainy, and then after about 10 minutes of beating, the solid butterfat separated from the liquid buttermilk. I poured off the buttermilk, working the butterfat in a fine mesh strainer with a spoon to get all the liquid out, then added ice water to the bowl of butter and washed it. This sounds more complex than it is - you just press the butter up the sides of the bowl with a spoon, spreading it thin, then dumping the milky water and repeating with fresh ice water until the water stays clear. Then scoop the butter into a nice little dish and enjoy fresh raw probiotic vitamin-rich butter! Herbs and spices can be added at this point if desired.

To make creme fraiche, just stir a tablespoon of the leftover raw buttermilk into a little raw cream and let it sit out on the counter for a day or two. It cultures itself and thickens up all on its own! Ain't nature great?

The rest of the buttermilk can go to work making you the most rich, creamy biscuits you've ever had. This buttermilk tastes nothing like the thick buttermilk you get in a carton; it's light and sweet with a delicious tang. It's actually worth making butter just so you can have the buttermilk afterward!

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