The Forging Fromage group had two challenges for August: cultured butter and Colby cheese. I’d love to say I made both, but this month has been a bit crazy (which explains why I haven’t been writing much here) and I just haven’t yet had a day this month where I could set aside enough hours for real cheese making. Sorry, Colby, we’ll have to reschedule for another time.
Butter making, however? Sure, I had time for a quick get-together with butter!
The fact is, butter making is very simple. Take heavy cream, agitate it for awhile (shake it in a cup, beat it with a whisk, tell it all the things it’s done wrong) and before you know it the milk fats consolidate, the rest of the milk falls away, and you have butter (and, as a side benefit, you also have buttermilk).
Making cultured butter is much the same process, only you first let the cream ferment briefly either by letting the cream sit around for a few days to naturally begin fermenting, or by introducing the cultures directly, either via cheese making cultures or an already fermented dairy source, like yogurt. The recipe we followed used yogurt as the starter.
The first step is to mix the cream with some whole milk yogurt in a glass or ceramic bowl (you can find the recipe with quantities here). Then let the mixture sit overnight. The next morning, it will have thickened and started to bubble a bit. Taste it to see if it’s slightly tangy. You want that slightly sharp flavor. That’s the “cultcha”.
Once you’ve got the flavor you want (it could take from 12-18 hours or even more, depending on the temperature of your kitchen), put the mixture in a mixing bowl and beat it, preferably with a whisk attachment. At first you’ll just have a liquid mess, then you’ll have whipped cream (which is a tempting place to stop the whole enterprise), and then, suddenly, magically, you’ll have butter on the beater and buttermilk in the bowl. Stop mixing!
Strain off the buttermilk and reserve for another use, and then press the butter to remove as much remaining buttermilk as you can. Then pour ice water in the bowl of butter, to cover the butter, and start kneading the butter under the ice water. The idea here is to keep the butter in a solid mass while still extracting as much buttermilk as you can. Buttermilk left in the butter tends to make the butter spoil more quickly, so you want it out.
I started kneading with my hands, and while that was satisfying, the water was so cold, the process quickly turned painful. So I reached for our potato masher instead and that made a fine kneading tool.
After kneading for a few minutes, pour off the water/buttermilk, add fresh, clean ice water, and repeat, until the water remains clear.
When the butter is clean, remove it from the bowl and knead it on the counter or a board for just a minute to make it smooth. You can’t knead for too long outside of the ice water because the butter begins to melt and you get a mess. Just knead it long enough to smooth it out and consolidate all the separate bits of butter. At this point, if you wish to add salt, you can knead that in, too.
You have buttah!
If you don’t eat it all right away (this recipe makes about 12 ounces of butter, so I really hope you don’t eat it all immediately), you can store it in your butter keeper or dish, or you can roll it into logs, wrap in plastic, and put it into long-term storage in the freezer. You can also freeze the buttermilk, or use it in the next couple of days for any recipe that calls for buttermilk.
We made buttermilk biscuits, which we then slathered with the butter we made (doesn’t that sound slightly, I don’t know… wrong?).
I put one third of the butter in a small butter dish, and the other two thirds are wrapped and safe in the freezer. ‘m thinking about that butter right now. It’s calling to me. Time to make a fresh loaf of bread?
Love being elbow deep in milk? Come join us at Forging Fromage. Check the web site for the current recipes and their due dates. Make the recipe, write about it, then email your link to the contact email listed on the site to be included in the posted round-up.