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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

From Cream to Butter Without Fear

"If you're afraid of butter, use cream." -Julia Child

 I had a half gallon of heavy cream that needed to be used up, so decided it was time to make butter. We buy  milk and heavy cream from  Working Cows Dairy,  an organic dairy farm in Slocomb, Alabama.  The milk and cream from Working Cows is pasteurized, but not ultra-pasteurized, which makes it perfect for making butter, cheese and yogurt.

When I first began making butter, I used  a stand mixer.  That worked well, but was a little messy at times.  Now I use  my food processor- less mess and  much faster.  Here are some pics to show  how it works:

First I  let the cream set out until it reaches room temperature.  Cold cream straight from the fridge  takes forever to break (more about that later) but  if you begin with  room temp cream, it takes less time, which means less wear on your machine's motor.

Next, it goes in the processor.  I keep a separate processor bowl  that I use exclusively for butter, in case  some stray garlic, onion or other smells have managed to work their way  into the  plastic bowl I  keep for general food preparation.
Put the lid on and begin processing.  At first the cream will whip up into a stiff cream:
Then it will begin to form some cracks:
Keep going.  You'll hear a different sound  as the cream begins to "break" or separate. Notice that the cream is  getting yellow and  looks  sort of  curdled, but this is how it's supposed to look:  Process a little more- we're almost there.
Very quickly, you'll  see  that the solids have separated from the liquids- now you have butter and buttermilk!
Let it run until  you have  good separation, then pour off the buttermilk.  I usually squeeze the solids against the side of the bowl to get as much liquid out as possible.  Now you have  buttermilk to use in baking, pancakes or whatever. This is not like the cultured buttermilk you get in the grocery store- it's more watery, with  lovely little bits of butter floating in it. It tastes pretty good just as it is, but I've heard of people sprinkling a little pepper on it before drinking it.

 Now we need to rinse the butter to remove any remaining buttermilk. This helps keep the butter from going rancid quickly. Pour some ice water into the bowl with the butter and process. Pour off the water, add more ice water and pulse a few times.  Repeat this process until the water is clear:
At this point, I pour off the water, squeezing the butter against the bowl, then turn the butter out onto a flat surface covered with  wax paper .  I don't have butter molds or paddles, so I continue to press the butter with spatulas until I've gotten out as much liquid as I can.  At this point you could knead in a little salt, if you prefer salted butter. I don't add salt to mine, since we prefer unsalted butter:
I divide up the butter into 4 oz. segments, form each segment into a stick.  The butter that won't be used right away gets wrapped in freezer paper and goes in the freezer.
And that's all there is to it. Lovely fresh butter from organic cream.