“If you’re afraid of butter, as many people are nowadays, just put in cream!” Julia Child
“My dear boy, when curds are churned, the finest part rises upward and turns into butter. So too, dear boy, when food is eaten the choice parts rise upward and become mind.” Chandogya Upanishad (‘Choice Cuts’ by Mark Kurlansky, 2002)
Butter. Creamy, fresh, rich butter. Melt in your mouth butter. No additives, no colorings, no chemicals… just cream from a wandering grass fed pasture raised cow… real butter!
Olive oil, tallow (rendered beef fat), and butter are the only fats I use in cooking. Each have their own purposes and benefits. I believe knowing exactly where these ingredients come from I can better manage the “good fats” that come into my family’s life. As part of our quest to adjust our lifestyle habits by making most of what we consume by scratch – I started making our own butter a couple of months ago. After that first taste I couldn’t understand why I hadn’t made my own butter sooner. It was the BEST butter I’ve ever tasted.
Growing up I can’t say I remember eating REAL butter. I remember Country Crock, Imperial, and then later down the line HeartSmart, I Can’t Believe…, and so on. All of which are margarines either in a solid form or a spreadable form.
As information becomes more easily available we are learning what margarine is really made of, how it’s made, and why we really should stay far…far away from it. In the early 1900’s, food chemists discovered how to harden liquid oils by reacting them with hydrogen in the presence of metal catalysts and heat. There is a common misconception regarding the mono-poly-and saturated fats in margarine. It must be clear that the process of hardening vegetable oils by artificial hydrogenation creates saturated fat. Butter is basically a natural product, and its fatty acids are structurally similar to the fatty acids in our bodies. The heat and chemicals used to transform vegetable oils into margarine change fatty acids into unnatural forms that may be most unhealthy to eat.
Once out on my own, I was in control of my groceries. I started buying butter instead of the margarines that I was use to in the past. Today, I use butter in everything! Not in everything like the “Paula Dean” way, but it is used often. Today, I choose to eat butter made from cows raised without added hormones or antibiotics, preferably organic, and grass fed pasture raised.
I am learning that there is a vast health difference between a dairy cow raised on a factory lot vs. a dairy cow raised on pasture its entire life. The pastured grass fed cow does not receive hormones or antibiotics because it’s only eating wild forage or supplemented grass, alfalfa, and hay. These hormones and antibiotics are used to combat the illnesses developed when the cows eat a diet of grains, soy, and other unknown byproducts. Their bodies, by nature, were not developed to withstand the dangers of this diet thus they get sick. The reason for the grain byproduct diet is increased milk production. Typically the milk is watered down and because of the high risk involved with the infections, they must over process it removing everything – good and bad. This is why you see the terms “fortified with…” because they’ve had to add back certain nutrients to make it even qualify as ‘milk’.
Some positive health examples of consuming the butter from a grass-fed pasture raised animal is that it has higher omega-3 (aka ‘the good fat’), Vitamin E & A, beta carotene, and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid aka ‘the good fat’) levels. In a 1998 study, allowing cattle to forage on fresh pasture alone resulted in higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than feeding them a diet that contained 10% fish meal for 168 days (I.B. Mandell et al, The Return of Omega-3 Fatty Acids into the Food Supply, World Rev Nutr Diet, 83:144-59, 1998). Omega-3 fatty acids are documented to fight inflammation and reduce the risk of type II diabetes, thyroid disorders, and obesity. Linolenic acid is part of the omega-3 family and has an anti-inflammatory effect in the body, which may lessen heart disease. In lab tests on animals, CLA helped prevent cancer and heart disease. (Don Beitz, an ISU professor of animal science and bio-chemistry).
I am going to stick to the natural fats… the real stuff…that nature made. Making my own butter has been fun to learn, easy to do, satisfying knowing the only ingredient is cream, and local cream at that. It is not necessarily most cost effective given 1lb of organic butter typically costs me $6.00 and up and 2 pints of organic cream costs about the same. Again, it goes back to the satisfaction of knowing my ingredients, using the healthiest of ingredients, and supporting my local vendors. I’ll just have to get my own dairy cow one of these days soon!
For now, here is my take on making homemade butter. It’s quick, easy, and the BEST BUTTER I’ve ever had! Enjoy!
yield: 1 pound butter
- 2 pints heavy cream
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (optional)
- Food Processor or Stand Mixer
- Dairy Thermometer
Step 1: Bring your cream to room temperature. I chose to place the cream in a glass container and set out on the counter, with the dairy thermometer inserted. Depending on how warm your environment is, it could take 30 minutes or more to come to temperature 72 – 74 F degrees. This process raises the acidity in the cream allowing for easier whipping.
Step 2: Once your cream is at room temperature, pour into a stand mixer bowl or food processor. Begin operation at a slow to medium speed. NOTE: if using a stand mixer as I have here be prepared for some over spray from the separating buttermilk as you increase the speed. I recommend using a food processor to avoid any loss of buttermilk and to avoid a milky mess in general. END NOTE
After a couple of minutes increase the speed to high and finish processing the cream. This will begin the butter forming stage…
Step 3: using a spatula, remove the butter from the machine, place into a separate bowl and drain off the remaining buttermilk. I save the buttermilk to use in other baking recipes such as breads, pancakes, quiches, etc.
Step 4: run cold water over the butter in the bowl. Use the spatula turning and combining the butter. This is helping to remove any leftover buttermilk. Dump the water and continue rinsing until the water runs clean. Strain off remaining water and mix in kosher salt now, if you choose to have salted butter.
Step 5: remove the butter from the bowl and place on a cutting board. With a spatula, begin to press the butter repeatedly. The pressing helps to remove any remaining buttermilk or water. The more buttermilk & water removed the better, allowing for longer term storage. If too much buttermilk is left in the butter it can go rancid fast. Continue pressing until you no longer see any liquid expelling from the butter.
STORAGE OPTIONS FOR BUTTER:
Once your butter is pressed, it is ready for consumption. You can store it at room temperature in a butter crock, or in a container in the refrigerator or freezer. I choose to line a glass dish with wax paper and press the butter into the dish. I cover the dish and place in the refrigerator overnight giving the butter time to solidify. The next day I remove the block of butter from the glass dish, cut into 4 separate squares (for accurate measuring, use a kitchen scale – but for purposes of this post I placed a store bought block of butter next to the homemade to give you an idea of cutting size). I wrap each square in wax paper and place into a storage bag. This bag then goes into the freezer. When I’m ready to use the butter, I remove it from the freezer and either place it in the refrigerator or on the counter to thaw. There is no consistency issues or fat separation issues with freezing.
OTHER PROCESSING OPTIONS
I took this picture a few weeks back at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Cooking for Solutions event. This is a Clover Dairy employee demonstrating that with a little muscle, a covered container, and fresh room temperature cream… you too can have the delightful goodness of homemade butter!