Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Making Butter

Come, butter, come; come, butter, come.
Peter stands at the gate
Waiting for his buttered cake,
Come, butter, come.

That's an old rhyme that you're supposed to chant over and over as you sit by the homestead hearth, butter forming to the accompaniment of the soft, rhythmic thunk-chunk of churn and dasher.

Ha! Not only do I not have a lovely, antique churn and dasher, but I don't even have a hand-cranked (or electric) butter churn!

Jordan, over at Blueberry Hills Homestead, has been experimenting making her own butter using a recently acquired hand-cranked glass and metal butter churn. Reading her recent posts brought back memories of when we had our dairy goats and I made our butter . . . using my electric blender. I dug out the recipe, took out an extra two cups of heavy cream I had in the refrig and made butter yesterday afternoon.

Thinking my method might be of some use if you're interested in trying your hand at making butter, here's how I do it.

I poured the two cups of heavy cream in my blender. My original recipe says to have the cream at 55°. I've tried making butter with the cream at that temperature and with the cream straight out of the refrigerator and can't tell any difference in the end product.

Cover the blender and start at a slower speed increasing it until the surface of the cream no longer moves. Then turn the blender off and stir the cream with a spatula. A little air bubble "burps" up from the bottom. You can tell the cream is already getting thicker. Continue blending on a higher speed until the top becomes stationary again. Another stir, another burp, and so on.

By this time I've gone way beyond whipped cream. Small curds form now, and the cream has a slick, greasy look. When I get a big clump sitting in a thin liquid, I'm done with the blending.

I drained the liquid off into this blue bowl so you could see it. It's technically whey and you can use it in cooking, or feed it to the chickens.

Now I rinsed the butter with cold water several times. I just ran cold water into the blender and carefully poured it off holding the cover slightly ajar so I could drain the water but keep the butter in the blender. Do this until the water coming out is clear.

I weighed the butter to see how much salt I should add. I had 14 ounces which is, of course, just under a pound. I put the butter into a bowl. I've read that it is best to work the butter in a wooden bowl (why, I don't know) but I don't have one right now so I used a rigid plastic bowl.

My recipe says to add one tablespoon of salt per pound of butter, but whoops, I had forgotten that was too salty for our taste. (I should have marked this on the recipe card but hadn't.) So I went ahead and added a scant tablespoon of salt before I remembered. It turned out okay since we use only sea salt, and it doesn't have as "sharp" a taste as regular table salt, BUT I would advise you to start with maybe 1-1/2 teaspoons salt and add more if it turns out you'd like more.

After sprinkling on the salt, let the mixture rest for 10 minutes. This allows the salt to draw more moisture out of the butter.

After this rest, more moisture will have run out of the butter. I drained this off.

Now comes the part I like . . . when I feel like I'm really "making" butter. You need to "work" the butter to get the last of the liquid out. (I saved all of the liquid/whey I worked out and it came to about 1/2 cup.)

Using a wooden paddle, cut the butter as you would cut shortening into flour, never rubbing or smearing. (The above picture shows two wooden paddles in comparison to a small rubber spatula. Yesterday I used the small paddle on the right, because I couldn't find my larger paddle . . . until this morning! I believe the larger one [which was the one I've always used when making butter] would have done a quicker, better job.)

Starting on the left of the mound of butter in the bowl, I cut down through the mound (from top to bottom) over and over working across to the right hand side. Then I gave the bowl a quarter turn and repeated the same process. Can you see the grid pattern made by the paddle on the bottom of the bowl? (I have the mound of butter pushed over to the side for this picture. When working it, it would be spread across the bottom of the bowl.)

I worked the butter (draining off the liquid as it formed in the bottom of the bowl) until the soft, slippery lump became a smooth, compact, bright, waxy ball of the high priced spread. Yesterday this step took twenty minutes, but I know I've done it in about ten minutes before. (Maybe I'm out of practice?)

Here's my finished product in a glass dish. The very white color has me stumped. Usually, even in winter time when the cows have only dried hay to eat, the butter will have a light yellow tint to it. This I made yesterday looks extremely white. When I made butter with our goats' cream, it was always white because goat cream is never yellow. I used to add a couple of drops of vegetable dandelion butter color so it didn't look so much like lard!

This morning we taste tested the butter on our toast and we both thought it was delicious, even though a smidge bit salty.

I had forgotten what a sense of accomplishment making butter gives. And like so many other foods that are homemade, fresh butter just tastes better!


RuthieJ said...

Yum! I remember when we were little kids making butter with Grandma's crank handle, wooden paddle butter churn seemed like a lot of work, but very tasty.

Erin said...

That's awesome! I read someone else's post where they took turns shaking a rubbermaid container for butter as a kid's project, but of course the kid got tired way before the mom... this looks better! My verification word this evening - "woolyshin", is it trying to tell me that winter's over and it's high time I shaved my legs LOL?!

Mama Pea said...

Hi, Ruthie - I think if we were ever to get back into dairy goats again (and we talk about it every now and then) I'd like to get an actual electric butter churn. I think they're just like the ones your grandma had but with a little motor on it.

Hey, Erin - "Woolyshin!" I love it! (It's probably a problem we all face along about this time of year!)

Jennifer Jo said...

I make it like you do! Except that I wash/knead the butter in a bowl in the sink, water running into it continually, till all the whey is out---then I add the salt.

One other thing: Put the buttermilk in clean glass jars (fill them up on 3/4ths of the way) and then cover them with a cloth (no lid) and let them sit at room temp for 2-4 days. When the buttermilk has thickened to the texture of yogurt, clap on a lid and pop them into the freezer. Now you have thick, chunky buttermilk to use in cooking whenever you want!

Jordan said...

When you write it like this, it seems so easy! I'm going to buy me some cream from the grocery store today and try it this weekend ... with the churn since I don't have a blender.

Mama Pea said...

Hi, JJ - I'm sure there are lots of slightly different ways of doing things when you're making butter. I mean, people did it hundreds of years ago under lots of different circumstances . . . and they all probably worked.

Thanks bunches for the tip on the whey/buttermilk. Good to know.

Hey, Jordan - I'm betting dollars to donuts that you'll have butter in no time!

MaineCelt said...

I love the "come, butter" rhyme. From whom did you learn it? I know a couple of milking croons in Scottish Gaelic that have similar lines. One translates roughly as, "Come, butter, come cream. Come cream up to my wrist, come butter up to my elbow!" (which makes sense if you imagine measuring the milk against your hand in the milking pail).

Now, about that white butter: I believe my grandmother used to colour her winter butter with a bunch of carrot shavings tied in a small cheesecloth bag so that the colour was released as she worked the handle of the churn. (My mother doesn't remember doing this more than a few times, but she does recall making butter with a hand-crank "daizy" churn, which she loved.) This wouldn't, of course, work in a modern blender! I've also heard of calendula petals, "poor man's saffron," being used for the purpose.

Thanks for a lovely lesson in buttery goodness! Makes me actually wish for a cow, but that's not in our farm plan for another few years. For now, we enjoy our visits to the dairy farm down the road.

KM said...

Mama Pea... I just wanted to stop in and let you know I appreciate your blog. I learn from you and plan to make butter for the first time!

Mama Pea said...

Hi, MaineCelt - Where did I get the butter churning rhyme from? I don't remember. Complete memory loss. Sorry. I used to write a column for a local publication and when I started to write this blog entry on making butter, I looked back on one of the columns I wrote about making butter when we had our goats to see if there was something there I should include. As with this blog entry, I used the rhyme at the top of the column but without identification as to where I got it. (Bad, Mama Pea, bad!)

I've also heard about using carrots for coloring butter, but the calendula petals is a new one for me.

Hi, KM - Thanks you so much for commenting. Please do it again! Anytime! Let me know how your butter making comes out. I feel the more things we can do, make, build, grow ourselves the better off we all are. Plus, it's fun!

Jenyfer Matthews said...

I may have to try this one. It would come in handy for those times when salted butter mysteriously disappears from the local grocery stores in my neighborhood in Cairo...also, I too just like to know how to do things like this, just because :)

Mama Pea said...

Hi, Jen - You're so right. We've lost so many of the old "skills" that people once commonly did for themselves. We rely on other people for so many things that it's still possible to do for ourselves (at least to a certain degree) that it's good to keep learning (re-learning?) these basic crafts.

Angela said...

Thank you so much for this tutorial! I have been wanting to make butter for some time. Will try to get it made by Tuesday. Have chemo on Wednesday. Would it still have a good consistency on Saturday? We are having our Easter dinner here then. Thank you again.

Mama Pea said...

Hi, Angela - Welcome and thanks for commenting. By doing so, now I've found your blog and will be a regular reader!

Assuming you make the butter with fresh cream (duh, like why wouldn't you??), the butter will stay fresh in the refrig for a loooong time so have no fear of making it several days before Easter dinner.

I will be thinking of you on Wednesday and sending blessings.

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