The Weston A. Price Way

Monday, May 2, 2011

Making Sweet Cream, Cultured, Honey, Herb Butters & Coconut-Butter 'Spread'

Making butter at home is crazy easy and I was so happy to find out about it. Don't be afraid of butter, it is our friend...(See here.) The hardest part in the making of butter may well be deciding which type you'd like to make first...sweet cream or cultured?

Although many prefer the robust flavor of cultured butter, if you want to start off with butter that tastes the most like the grocer's, start with sweet cream. Consider also, whether you want your butter salted or unsalted. I've heard it said that cooks like salted butter while chefs like unsalted so they can have more control over how much salt goes into their dishes. I like both.

The difference between sweet cream butter and cultured? Sweet cream is made directly from the cream, just as it is. Cultured butter is made from cultured cream. How does one get cultured cream? By setting the cream on a shelf at room temperature up to 8 hours to culture or, 'sour'. I don't go over 4 hours and usually keep it more around 2 hours, but a strong butter isn't something I enjoy a whole lot, while you just might adore it.

Because I use the cream from one and a half gallons of raw milk, leaving some to do it's job of helping my body assimilate the good in the milk, I only come out with about a pint of cream, which nets 2 small sticks of butter. Sometimes, there is less cream and I only have one stick.

Jars of raw milk with cream on top.
Before starting to make butter, the cream must be skimmed off the top of the milk. The milk should be well-chilled and left alone for at least several hours after bringing home. Jostling, movement, and warmth will cause the cream to mix some with the milk and you want as much cream on top as possible.

This batch had a LOT of cream. Notice the line at the lower
shoulder. This will help you stay away from the milk during
the skimming process.
To remove the cream, I use a ladle and carefully press it down on top of the milk until the cream begins to enter the ladle. Don't do this as you get closer to the milk line, as you will force milk to mix with the cream. When you get close to the line, skim by running the edge of the ladle across the top of the cream. DO remember to pull the spoon up against the shoulder edges of the jars...That's where some of the thickest cream is found! I try to leave at least an inch of cream on top. The fat of the milk helps our bodies to make the most of the nutrients in the milk. We need this kind of fat. Don't fear it. The fat of milk brings satiation, ups nutrient value, and fights obesity.
Using a food processor, with the ridged blade, pour the cream into the bowl. If you are salting, start with 1/4 tsp. and add more to taste, if needed. (Don't use large-grained salt for this. Bob's Red Mill makes a finely ground sea salt, or you can grind your own large grains into small ones using a food processor.)

Level of cream before processing.
Level of cream after processing about 1 minute.
Place lid on processor and start. If the cream is cold, it will probably 'break' pretty quickly, but if it's warm, it will take a little while longer. Just let the processor continue until then. 'Breaking' is when the fats of the butter, (butterfats), separate from the liquid, (buttermilk).  The cream will go through a few stages on it's way to becoming butter and you will hear the processor sound differently at each stage. At first, it will just look like milk swishing around in the bowl, but then, it will begin to thicken. If you stop it at this point, you will see whipped cream and in another case, (without having added salt), you would at this point add unrefined sugar, teaspoon by teaspoon, with the processor going, stopping after each teaspoon to taste-test.

If you forgot to add salt,
now is a fine time to add it.
Whipped Cream

But today, we are making butter, so we don't stop at whipped cream, but allow the processor to continue until the sound changes yet again, and we notice a watery liquid is beginning to splash against the top and sides of the bowl. Give it a few more seconds, stop, and you should see that the cream has separated, leaving the yellow butter in clumpy mounds around the bowl.

Almost there!
'Breaking' has occurred!

Straining off the buttermilk.
Now, place a large bowl beneath a fine strainer. Pour the butter, along with the buttermilk, into the strainer which will allow the buttermilk to collect, while keeping the butter in the strainer. Pour the collected buttermilk into a mason jar and store in the refrigerator. Dry the bowl with a clean cloth or paper towel.

Some like to strain their
buttermilk twice to remove
small butter particles.
If you want your buttermilk to be clearer, you may strain again using an even finer-meshed strainer, as seen on the right.

Take the butter from the strainer and put it into the dried bowl. I use a rubber/plastic spatula to scrape any remaining butter off the strainer. I am a little compulsive about this because I have so little butter to spare, but if you are one of the lucky ones who has much raw milk to work with, you won't feel the need to be so particular.

It may seem at this point that you are ready to go. But there is another step, called 'washing' the butter. It's not that the butter's dirty, but you will find out as you follow through, that there is still quite a bit of buttermilk within it. It's important to get as much out as possible because by removing the buttermilk, the butter will last longer and have a smoother consistency throughout.

There are a few ways to wash the butter, and I will tell you of two because I haven't quite decided which I like better yet...It really depends on whether or not you are in the mood for getting your hands into the butter or keeping them out of it as much as possible.

'Washing' the butter: This is
nearly ready...The water hardly
shows any milkiness now.
Washing Way #1:  Even though you hopefully cleaned your hands prior to starting the process, clean them well again, now, being sure to clean beneath fingernails, too. Put the bowl in a clean sink. Hold the butter in your hands, over the bowl, but beneath the faucet. Turn the water faucet on a very low trickle, washing it over the ball of butter. Start squeezing the butter. The 'juice' that leaves the butter will be a milky white. Some of the butter may fall into the bowl, but will float on the collecting water. Just pick it back up, rejoining it to the ball of butter in your hands. When the bowl is full of water, collect any butter pieces that may have fallen, empty the bowl, (you don't want to keep the watered-down buttermilk), and start over with the 'butter squeezing'. Repeat this process 2 or 3 more times. You should notice that less and less milkiness is evident in the 'run-off'. Put the soft butter in a small bowl and place in refrigerator for 15-20 mins.
Sometimes, I use method #1
and squeeze the butter
beneath trickling water.

Washing Way #2:  This method will be seen more often if you are looking it up on the Internet, possibly because it seems more sanitary. Put the bowl in a clean sink. Fill the bowl about 2/3 with cold water. Use a spatula, (I like a flexible one over a rigid one, but see what you're more comfortable with), to turn the butter over and over upon itself, pressing push the buttermilk out of the pockets within the butter. You will notice the water becomes very milky. Pick up any floating bits of butter and incorporate them back into the ball of butter. Holding the butter with the spatula so it doesn't fall out, pour off the milky water. Fill the bowl again and repeat 2 or 3 more times...until the water appears to be mostly clear. Because the butter has been washed mostly beneath cold water, it won't be as soft as in the first method and may not need to be refrigerated before working it into shape, but if it is a little soft, put it in the refrigerator a few minutes to firm up. You do want it to be workable for the purpose of shaping it, so don't forget about it...BUT if you do forget about it, (things happen, I know!), just take it out for a little while to soften a bit.

The tool is just to give an idea of size.
In the meantime, cut a rectangle, or 2 if you have enough butter, of wax paper. When the butter is firm, divide into 2 pieces if it is large enough. If not, just take the whole amount and place on the wax paper, in the center. You will be shaping your butter into a cylinder. Wrap the paper around the butter, shaping as you go into a fat 'snake', much like when you were a kid making snakes from dough or putty. I have torn my wax paper on occasion, but just get out another and start again if this happens. When it is shaped to your satisfaction, twist the ends of the wax paper. I like to cut them so that they aren't more than an inch longer than the butter on each side-It's easier to store them in my refrigerator.
Rolling the butter into shape.
Snipping off the ends of
the wax paper...Nice and Neat!

Final Product. This batch made 2 sticks.
If you don't care about shaping, use a spatula to help place the soft butter into a lidded container.

Honeyed Butter:
After the butter is washed, Add 2 TBS raw honey, local is best nutritionally if you can find it. Stir well, then stir well some more. Place in a lidded container and store in fridge. Be sure to take out of fridge 15-30 mins. before you want to use it as butter can get quite hard when cold.

Herb Butter:
If you started with a pint of milk: Add to the washed butter, 1 tsp. of the herb of your choice. You can add more if you think it needs more, but you can't take it out if it's too much. So start low and go slow. I would only use 1/2 tsp. of stronger herbs, such as rosemary, before adding more.

Coconut-Butter Spread:
Rinse and dry off the food processor bowl, attachment and lid. After butter is washed, put the butter back in the processor. Eyeball an equal amount of unrefined coconut oil and put it in the blender with the butter. (If your kitchen is at about 72 degrees or above, the oil may be in liquid form. If so, you will want to chill it for a while to become hardened.) Process the coconut oil and butter together until thoroughly incorporated into each other...30 seconds to a minute, max. Product will be pourable, so pour into lidded container and place in fridge.
This is delicious, if you like coconut as we do, and won't have to be taken out of the fridge as far ahead as butter does. It's also a great way to get more mileage from your butter if you are limited in raw milk, as we are.

Sometimes, I will add a tad of flax seed oil for it's nutritional value, or toasted sesame oil, for it's special taste, but we are all really very happy with just the addition of the coconut oil.

Now that you have the basics, you can play with your butter! Be creative and see what great tastes you can come up with for your family's enjoyment.

I know I have spoken here specifically of making butter from raw milk, but other than the cultured milk, the other types can be made using pasteurized. Practicing as much as I can along the lines of traditional eating as recommended by WAPF, I can't heartily recommend it. I do understand, however, the desire to get in the kitchen and create from what's already there. Cultured butter can't be done with pasteurized milk because pasteurized milk becomes putrid when left out, while raw milk cultures/sours. Cultured milk will not harm you but putrid milk that should clue us in a little right there.

I realize there may be some reading this who have no desire to purchase or no way possible to purchase raw milk. But if making butter is still something you'd like to try, get heavy cream from the grocer and give it a whirl. If you can, get the hormone and antibiotic-free type.You should end up with a fine-tasting product, but without the same nutritional value as raw milk affords.

More about raw milk here.

~Butter's Up!

Since first writing this, I have left out the 'washing' step without any problems. We go through our butter rapidly, so there's no real need to worry too much about making it last longer.  I also rarely shape the butter any more, unless I want to give it as a gift.
Instead of washing the butter under cold water as shown above, I use very clean hands and hold the butter in a ball in one hand over the strainer, which is over the bowl that collects the buttermilk. 
Then, I push gently against the ball of butter, squishing extra liquid out. I do this no more than a minute, then reshape the butter into a ball and drop it into a nice little glass bowl. To make it look even more appetizing, I might use the back of a small spoon to swirl the butter prettily before placing the bowl in the fridge to harden. Cover with wax paper secured with a rubber band or if you prefer, plastic wrap. You can also place the butter into a butter crock and leave on the counter. 

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