Do you remember those long hours plunging that ol’ butter churn up and down to help out grandma get her butter ready for her Sunday supper?
Butter is magical though, isn’t it? How can a spreadable delicious substance that can only be best described as buttery come from milk, a liquid?
Milk, from a state of matter perspective, is sort of deceptive. It is comprised of fat globules (solids) and of milk which is a liquid. When REAL milk is left to its own devices and is allowed to sit in time out for a minute (a least overnight) it will separate.
As you have probably heard the cream does RISE to the TOP. The cream is where butter starts. Even though it looks like it has fully segregated itself from the lowly milk on the bottom, there are still milk molecules hanging out suspended inside the cream.
The layer of cream that can be skimmed and collected. This is where they got the term “skim” milk.
Little known fact: Often times “skim” milk is fed to the piggies on small farms to fatten them up.
The fat molecules get all riled up and start getting clumped together for security. After all this turmoil, it gets pretty clickish and the fats stick with the fats and the milk liquids to the milk liquids. (That sneaky milk is still in there though. Don’t let it fool you now.)
This is one reason I feel it’s important to take the power of making our own food choices back into our own hands. Food is not what it says it is anymore. Unless we know our farmer and our food source, how can we really know what we are eating?
Real that has not been skimmed will have the cream that rises to the top if left still overnight. There are several ways to collect the cream from the top. Some are easier or require more equipment than others.
Pour the desired amount of heavy cream into your Kitchen Aid, or another method of agitation, and turn to medium speed.
There are several methods you can use here to agitate your cream. Before we got our official butter churn, my method choice was the Kitchen Aid with the whisk attachment.
Different Ways of Making Homemade Butter:
Whatever your preferred method of agitating your butter is, this part will feel the most frustrating because it takes so long.
Watch for separation and solidification. The solids will start to separate and have a grainy appearance. Wait for just a little longer until the "grains" become bigger and more clumped together.
Pour into a bowl and strain the butter solids from the buttermilk. You can use a strainer but I just like to use my hands and a bowl because it seems to always get caught in the mesh.
This is the part where you need to be most concerned about temperature. If the butter has gotten warm it will be sticky. It will stick to everything else BUT what you need it too when it is too warm.
* This is the most important part and most overlooked. If buttermilk or excess water is left inside it will cause your hard earned butter to go rancid.
Use VERY cold water to rinse your butter. Rinse 2-4 times or until the water runs almost clear.
You can rinse it by patting the granules together under cold water. Knead it as though you are kneading some dough.
When you feel you have gotten all the liquids out you can salt your butter to taste. I am usually working with a pound or two and start with a teaspoon. Work your butter until it is thoroughly incorporated.
Salting your butter can ensure a better shelf life if you decide to keep some out on the counter. It also seems to encourage the water molecules to head on out.
Unlike cream, butter stores very well in the freezer. Store in the freezer in a well-sealed container for up to a year.
The first draw of liquid is your "buttermilk". It will not behave the same way regular buttermilk will in recipes though unless you 1) cultured your cream to make cultured butter OR 2) Leave the buttermilk out with a cloth or half sealed lid overnight.
The problem with making yogurt is that most of the recipes I come across require getting the milk up to a temperature that will basically pasteurize it in order for the cultures to work their magic. I have found the ONE my heart desires. It lets you retain the raw goodness of your milk while also setting up to form a thick yogurt.