Cook it 2012: (On How Not to) Make Butter

This is where I should remind you that you shouldn’t necessarily do as I do.  Making butter, for example. Easy enough, right? Last year  Tigress made it look so easy. So simple. And so damn beautiful! Really…could butter be more gorgeous? No, no it could not.

Caroline (Grow It Cook It Can It) selected butter as the thing to learn this month. Simple, right? I mean…don’t I see on small children on blogs everywhere shaking their sweet little jars of cream and then gasping in pure joy as it turns into butter? Isn’t that just the kind of simple magic kids love?   Yes! We would make butter! She would declare me the most brilliant Mimi in all the universe by virtue of my kitchen wizardry!

grow and resist butter making

Uh huh. Sure.

Two weeks ago I we set out to make butter. Actually, let me expand on that.  The night before I decided to make butter, the Babylady vomited in her sleep 3 times. Obviously, she stayed home from school the next day. My therapy day. Somehow, via a series of randomness I ended up bringing her with me.  To therapy.

By randomness I mean that, while I couldn’t in good conscience send her to school, I remained disillusioned enough to believe that drop-in daycare was a realistic option. Bad idea, I know! Unconscionable really. Lucky for her (and society) I found out the center is no longer available for drop-in and needed to bring her to therapy with me. The drop-in daycare was a horrible idea anyway. I know! My bad. Don’t worry. I got my comeuppance.

So, yeah. Therapy with a 4-year-old coloring next to me. Awesome times. (However, lest you think I’d drag my child to a session and force her to endure the processing of my anxiety-addled brain… my therapist also helps me with new business planning, so all topics were business-related.) Afterwards, somewhat frazzled, but apparently not deterred, I decided to push my luck and go to the store to get cream for butter-making. The awesome Madison Market (Central Co-op) is in the area and I had a wild hair to get different types of cream so I could note any differences in the resulting butter.

grow and resist butter making

I picked up some whole, raw goat milk.  Some whole, raw grass-fed cow milk. And finally, some pasteurized (not ultra) whole cow milk. All local and organic.

And, all milk. Milk. MILK! Not cream. Milk. In my scattered daze, I somehow went to buy a variety of local and not ultra-pastuerized cream and came home with effing milk. A hell of a lot of milk.  A fact I didn’t even realize until 2 days later when I got ready to make butter with said milk. (The silver lining in this is that I realized that actual milk- real, raw, and grass-fed cow milk is absolutely delicious and tastes nothing like regular, over-processed milk. A whole new ball game kids!)

At that point the kiddo was still really sick. Fevered. Sleeping. So I waited until the next week to go ahead with the butter plan because, again, I was pretty sure kids were into this kind of thing.

Two kinds of local cream secured. One raw. One pasteurized. Butter-making commenced. However, her enthusiasm for shaking cream in a jar lasted a whopping 8 seconds. Seriously. She couldn’t wait to pour it in the mixer and be done with the whole shebang. WTH?  I dunno.  Maybe it is because she cooks and gardens with me so often that taking an ingredient (or seed) and having it turn into something else entirely is old news.  Perhaps dairy turning into another form of dairy isn’t exactly flashy to a kid that knows the basics of bread-making and has her own cabbage garden. Who knows?!

grow and resist butter making

All that nonsense aside, basic butter making is easy.

  1. Get awesome (and not ultra-pasteurized) cream. Not milk.  You’ll be mad if you accidentally buy milk. Trust me.grow and resist butter making
  2. Put in mixer and beat on high as it turns to whipped cream and then separates into butter and buttermilk.grow and resist butter making
  3. Drain off the buttermilk (into a jar), which I found to be easier said than done. I ended up with bits of butter, well, everywhere. It snuck out under the spoon. Over the spoon. Around the spoon.  It was a mess. grow and resist butter making
  4. Gather up butter bits and chunks and squish together in a bowl at least twice as big as the amount of butter you have. Really. Do as I say. Not as I did. I used a small container of a size I thought I would store it in.  Bad idea.grow and resist butter making
  5. Press and press (and press) to get all the buttermilk out. In a small bowl this results in butter being squished over the top.
  6. Run very cold water over butter and press some more until the water run off is no longer milky. A too small bowl means not much room for all that cold water.
  7. Butter. You now have butter. Salt. Or not. Freeze up to a year or refrigerate a week or two.

I didn’t take any more pictures. Now would be the time to tell you that, unbeknownst to me, I also was coming down with the same stomach virus. I was feeling a bit off at the beginning of butter-making and by the end I was dizzy, nauseated, and feverish.  Which explains my dumb bowl decisions, lack of patience with the pressing, and irritation at the resulting mess.

It also explains why I’m off butter at the moment and why my stomach churns at the sight of butter. Hopefully I’ll be over that soon and the next Cook It is more successful around our house!

Check out earlier Cook It 2012 challenges: Cook It: Pasta and Cook It: (Sourdough) Bread.

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12 Responses to Cook it 2012: (On How Not to) Make Butter

  1. Mama Turtle says:

    I never had issues with butter being messy except for the greasy fingers and frankly my dry cuticles love it… although I will tell you that putting the butter into a square of muslin fabric then gathering it and twisting it shut helps A LOT with the squeezing process. You don’t have to go buy fancy “butter muslin” although they make it just for that, any fine muslin will do. You use the same muslin for cheesemaking, since modern “cheesecloth” is essentially gauze and not what it used to be. I pour cream in my Kitchen Aid mixer, flip it on at increasing speed until it goes “eggy” then slow it down until it clumps up on my beater, dump it into a sieve held over a funneled mason jar, transfer the butter clumps to muslin and squeeze, then take it out and knead it in a big bowl of cold water, then knead it under cold running water to finish. I then pat it dry with a clean floursack towel (no lint), wrap it in waxed paper and store. The leftover buttermilk makes fantastic waffles.

  2. That’s funny. I can’t believe how many awesome milk & cream options you have! Hope everyone’s feeling better : )

  3. Good milk is hugely different, isn’t it?
    Our butter-making is never as romantic as it looks on the internet. The sweet jar shaking lasted maybe ten minutes and I broke out a mixer. It’s on our list, though, of things to make over spring break next week… what we made last time was very delicious, if not beautiful. :)

  4. Seattle Seedling says:

    It’s hard to take pics with butter all over your hands. I love to make butter, but I think the whole process is easier said than done. Well done doing so with a sick child. You’re ambitious. :)

  5. I’m too lazy to pull the Kitchen Aid upstairs from the garage, so when I make butter, I use the food processor. I find it not only quicker, but less messy; the butter stays in one general clump, then you just pick it out and squish it a few times under cold running water. Helps to have your cream very cold when it goes in; and watch it like a hawk (or an eagle, in your case) because it goes from whipped cream to butter in an instant and you don’t want to over-process the butter as it becomes harder to separate.

    Bonus tip: when I have too much milk, I always make mac ‘n cheese. There are worse things. :)

    • Ok, if I ever make butter again I’ll use the food processor. And I’ll watch like an eagle (they are more amazing all the time btw!) I’ve decided that unless the world runs out of readily available butter there is no good reason for me to wash butter making dishes to make my own. But that could be my still-delicate stomach talking. Just looking at the pictures I did take causes my belly to churn. Sad.

      Mac & cheese…love. (Do you know I have the only child on the face of the earth that won’t eat mac & cheese!? That is just wrong.) Jen made a lot of chocolate pudding. =) I’m spoiled for really good milk forever now.

      • I’m with you; I really only ever make it when I have heavy cream in the fridge, that I bought for something else and never got around to making. So I’ll use it up to make butter, because butter freezes, but heavy cream? Not so much.

        Hope the belly is doing better!

  6. Memaw Elise says:

    Oh Meg, that was a great blog. I never really understood the story about all the milk when I was there but now I understand. I am so sorry to tell you that it sounds like something I would do. Glad you’re feeling better!

  7. Pingback: Paula Deen Would Be Proud Of Us | grow it cook it can it

  8. I’m loving the ideas of using the food processor instead (to avoid the evil mess I ended up with!) and straining the butter using muslin or cheesecloth. Yay! I learned two more things, just from your commenters — thanks!

  9. aimbug says:

    Great post! I liked the hand mixer approach I used, but I was definitely very cautious with speed at various stages. The straining with cheesecloth is an excellent tip for next time – thank you!

  10. Pingback: Cook It 2012: Cheese! | Grow & Resist

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