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Every week, a DIY expert spares us a trip to the grocery store and shows us how to make small batches of great foods at home.
I like to think that I’d be able to survive, perhaps even thrive, in a culture from generations past where laundry was done in a stream and the ingredients for dinner were a few feet from the kitchen, growing in the garden. In my mind it’s a serene little cottage where the flowers bloom in abundance, the hue of the grass rivals that of an emerald, and the vegetables grow free of bugs in perfectly formed rows.
The reality is I’d probably never do laundry (I rarely do it now with a washing machine in my home). And considering my desperate reaction when my iPhone was lost for three days this past week, I think I might have a hard time with that lifestyle. Pathetic really. Regardless of my modern needs I still do love the idea of being self-sufficient.
It thrills me to not have to rely on anything else besides myself in order to create a pantry staple. I realize that I don’t have a cow so in order to get the cream to make this homemade butter I did have to go to the store but I think you know what I mean. I get great satisfaction when I realize that something that I so often depend on the store for can be easily made at home. And, as is often the case, the homemade version is much better -- especially when the cream is allowed to meld with some tangy yogurt, culturing the cream and giving the finished butter a complex flavor that tastes as if it came directly from the farm.
The process of making homemade butter is incredibly simple. If you skip the culturing step all you need to do, essentially, is over-whip cream. The reward for culturing your cream with yogurt first for a few hours is a nuanced flavor that rivals fine European butters. What remains in the bowl after whipping is sweet, creamy butter and enough buttermilk to whip up a batch of pancakes.
My kids love to get pulled into this process eagerly watching the fat in the cream cling to itself forcing the liquid out. Perhaps they are just amusing me as the reward for their help in the kitchen is a warm slice of toast slathered with our homemade butter.
While I may enjoy the comfort of many of our modern conveniences I still imagine a life from the past where our neighbors are a herd of jersey cows who happily provide us with enough cream to make plenty of homemade butter. And really, who cares about clean clothes when the pantry is stocked with homemade butter?
Homemade Cultured Butter
makes 200g (7oz.)
1 pint heavy cream
2 tablespoons plain whole-milk yogurt
¼ teaspoon sea salt
(Try to find ingredients that do not have additives or stabilizers.)
Pour the cream into a jar or bowl. Add 2 tablespoons yogurt. Stir gently until well combined, then cover. Set the bowl in a warm (around 70*) spot. Leave it out for at least a couple of hours. Check it often and test for flavor. You want it to have a nice sour flavor but the intensity is up to you.
Beat the cream with a stand mixer or hand-held mixer until the buttermilk separates from the fat. Alternately you can place in a jar and shake firmly. Either mixing method will take quite a bit of time. As the butter separates from the buttermilk pour off the liquid (save it for tomorrow’s pancakes) and continue to beat, getting out as much of the buttermilk as you can.
When most of the buttermilk has been released add ½ cup very cold water and continue to mix on low. Pour off the liquid and repeat until it’s nearly clear.
While still in the bowl knead the butter by hand as you would bread dough. Pour off any remaining liquid as it accumulates. Knead in the salt. Taste and add more if desired.
At this point your butter is ready to use. I recommend reserving this special butter to be used to slather on toast and as a finishing ingredient where you’ll really be able to enjoy the flavor. It can be used in baking, although the liquid content is different than conventional butter.