Butter is one of those things that I never thought of making myself.
Which is saying something, because I bake most of our own bread, and have yoghurt, cheese, and sausages queued up to make in the ‘when I have a day to myself’ column.
It was in [amazon_link id=”0762780215″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]my friend Niamh’s lovely cookbook[/amazon_link] that I first came across the idea of making butter at home. Well, that and my obsession with the Victorian/Edwardian/Wartime Farm series, but that’s not quite the same thing.
I googled it as well, to be sure there wasn’t something I was missing. It seems not, on a small scale anyway.
You will need a quantity of whipping cream, or double cream, depending on where you live.
Making butter is the process of separating nearly all of the butterfat from the buttermilk. You do this by agitating the cream so much that it separates, collecting the butter in one big lump, leaving behind the buttermilk. If you’ve ever overwhipped cream, you’ve seen this in action. You can make this happen pretty much however you like, from shaking it vigorously in a mason jar, to using many small appliances – food processors, blenders and stand mixers all work, according to my friends on twitter.
I used my Kitchenaid stand mixer, with the whisk attachment. Empty your whipping cream into the mixer, turn it on and gradually increase the speed as the cream thickens. When using a mixer, keep an eye on the proceedings, because once the magic happens and your cream separates – it will be a mass stuck to the whisk slapping around in a bowl of buttermilk! I was hovering nearby with a dishtowel to throw over it, and that seems to do the trick. I carefully poured my buttermilk into a container for future use.
Coax the butter into a cheesecloth, and over a medium bowl in the sink, squeeze squeeze squeeze it. Hang the butter in the cheesecloth from the faucet over the bowl for a further two hours. I added the resulting buttermilk to my container, and then added salt slowly to the butter using a spatula. Okay, actually I got frustrated and ended up doing it with my bare clean hands. You can leave it unsalted, of course, but it won’t last as long.
My husband, at the end of all this, understandably asked gently why I would bother making butter myself. I handed him a piece of baguette with the fresh butter on it and all that came out of his mouth was… ‘whoa’.
That’s the thing – it tastes like poshest butter I’ve ever had. I can’t figure out why. I used organic whipping cream from our big local dairy, so it was good but not impossibly so. The salt I used is Murray River Pink Flake from Australia, which is lovely, but I still don’t think it put it over the edge. Whatever it is, I’m not sure I can go back to bog standard butter bricks in foil from the shop. This is much too good.
The photo above is my homemade butter melting on blueberry buttermilk muffins made with – of course – the buttermilk from the butter-making process. Butter in a bowl looks pretty uninspiring no matter what you do with it, I now realise!