Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Butter Butter Butter

I told myself that when spring came around and the local cows started noshing on the new green grass, that I would buy some pastured cream and try to make some butter.  I read in Nutrition and Physical Degeneration how the isolated alpine Swiss celebrated the milk at this time in the year as sacred.  Butter made from spring milk is full of Weston Price's Activator X

Spring is here in Georgia and I have noticed lately that our milk has turned from white to beige as the cows eat the lovely green grass.  The new grass is so full of carotenoids that the milk gets a little yellow with it.  And apparently, butter and cheese made with this milk will be yellow as well.  This past winter I was buying butter made from local, grass fed milk but since the cows were eating hay, the butter was white. 

So, I got myself a gallon of cream (not raw, but vat pasteurized from a local grass fed dairy, Johnston Family Farms.) and I started making butter.

First, I made sweet cream butter, meaning that I just used the fresh cream and did not culture it.  I poured about a pint of cream into my Kitchen Aid mixer and used the whisk attachment.  It takes a lot of high speed whisking to finally get to the butter.  It also spatters quite a bit.  Note to self:  try using the food processor next time.  You know you've gotten there when the cream starts to clump and separate from the liquid.  I drained off the liquid (buttermilk) with my mesh strainer.  Tiny globs of butter made it through the mesh. Note to self: strain it through a cloth next time.  Then I poured about a half a cup of ice cold water into the bowl and mixed again.  And strained again. And again.  This is called "washing" the butter.  You want to keep at it until the strained water is clear. This process helps preserve the butter.  It won't go rancid as quickly if it has all the milk solids washed out.  I added some salt as I worked it. Salt helps to preserve the butter, as well. I didn't really measure; I just sprinkled it on as I went.

I turned the big glob of butter out on to my big cutting board and worked it with my plastic spatula until I couldn't squeeze out any more water.  It was a lovely, creamy yellow.  Fresh butter is amazing--light and sweet.  I could almost taste the fresh green grass.

The second time around, I used my food processor with the dough blade.  It didn't spatter but it also required more stopping and scraping the sides.  I think I prefer using the stand mixer.  Washing and working the butter to remove the milk solids is a bit tedious.  This time, I kept the butter in a bowl as I worked it with my spatula.  I think they used to use a paddle for this job and I could see how my spatula was not an efficient size or shape for the job..  As I worked the butter against the side of the bowl, a little pool of water would form at the bottom and I just tipped it out as I went.  This was an easier and neater method than working it on my cutting board. 

I wrapped the balls of butter in some wax paper, put them in a freezer bag and put it in the freezer.  Butter is supposed to stay good in the freezer for 6 months. 

The third time I made butter, I used cream that I had cultured.  I couldn't find any buttermilk or sour cream in the store that had active, live cultures, so I decided to use my piima culture.  I've been using piima to make sour cream and it has a lovely, mild taste.  I figured it would make good butter.  I used the stand mixer and after just a few minutes the buttermilk separated.  I washed it a little but the butter seemed light and airy, it didn't get thick like fresh cream had.  I decided to whip it for awhile longer...and ended up with very light, whipped butter.  I am not sure if I made a mistake or if this is what the piima culture did to my butter.  I ended up putting it into mason jars and storing it in the fridge--it'll be lovely on veggies and rice but probably not great to cook with.   I am going to try piima again...I'll edit this post if my results are any different.

I bought another gallon of cream this I'll continue butter making for a little while, at least.  I am not sure that it is worth the time to make this a regular part of my Real Food Revolution...I can buy good butter (Kerrygold) from Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and even Costco.  It's pricey but not unreasonable.  But for the time being, butter making is fun and interesting.  And I am excited about stocking my freezer with locally sourced Activator X.

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