Thursday, November 13, 2008

butter

the creme de la creme.

I'm pretty sure that I was the last to read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle but even with all the talk about it I still managed to be surprised when Barbara and her family visit Ashfield, MA which is just 15 minutes from my house. If you have read the book you'll remember that they visit a farmer that has a beautiful greenhouse full of early tomatoes and lives in a small round house with a living roof. Well what is not mentioned in the book is that Amy and Paul not only grow tomatoes but have a small herd of jersey cows that is completely pastured and they sell the most amazing raw milk.

I have wanted to make butter for years but finally getting the River Cottage Family Cookbook sent me over the edge and I special ordered 3 gallons of cream. Hello! Only one gallon was for me, and the other two were for my good friends, and fellow crazy-project-planning friends Meg and Victoria. The plan was to make some raw, cultured, pastured butter (which costs the weight of your first born child in gold at the store). I did some math...actually the mathematician I am married to did some math...and it looked like we would get about 4 pounds of butter from each gallon.

mixing up the cream

I wish I had taken pictures up at the farm - it is a really magical spot in the woods - but it was raining and foggy. Meg and I drove up with our broods, had some yummy breakfast at Elmer's and then picked up our gigantic amount of dairy products. In addition to our cream we each also got some whole milk to drink and yogurt to each and help culture the cream, and I got some half-and-half for some amazing hot cocoa I was seeing in my future.

thicker than whipped cream
this is when I slowed my mixer

I used these instructions for the butter making though I only added 2/3 of a cup of yogurt for the whole gallon - it seemed like a lot already. Meg went totally Nourshing Traditions and just left it out on the counter. We need to have a taste test (in the name of science of course) to see how they differed.

the butter milk has separated from the butter

We set up both our mixes and tried to watch for when to slow the mixing down but, of course, Mtg's went from "not yet whipped cream" straight to "big mess all over pantry". Luckily Meg has a dog who made short work of all the mess at ground level.

the big mess

We made two batches each and then salted the butter (I only salted one half to leave the other for baking) with some fancy crunchy fleur de sel. I weighed them out into 8 ounce log-shapped portions (adorably on a baby scale) and then wrapped them in parchment paper and put them in a gallon freezer zip lock. They should be good for about three months but with how much I ate that first day I might go through it a bit quicker...

washing the butter

The butter is so deep yellow because the cows are fed only grass (and hay in the winter) and it is slightly tangy from the culturing and it is so...buttery is the only word I can use to describe it. I learned so much about butter in my researching this project. I had no idea that because 80% fat is the lowest threshold for butter in the U.S., butter-makers actually add water to bring the fat content down to 80% to save money. And that many add food coloring to give it that yellow-look. Not my butter. All there is in there is good cream and good salt.


Yum.

4 comments:

Drew Kime said...

Hah! I know exactly how Meg feels. You try and try to catch it in time, but when it gets there ... Boom, you've got butter. (And a freakin' mess.)

karenjane said...

gosh you inspire me to think outside the square (well in this case think outside the supermarket!) this is definately something i must try one day. i wouldnt have thought of using electric mixer, which makes it very do-able. thanks for the great post!

Gillian said...

oh try it soon karenjane! Next time you run out of butter get a big container of heavy whipping cream instead and give it a go. We made two gallons of cream into almost 8 pounds of butter in just a few hours while we also had two 6 month olds and two 3 years olds underfoot. I'm sure with less distraction you could whip up a batch in no time at all.

life in yonder said...

What a brilliant post. I'll need to try this sometime soon. Looks delicious :-)