Cultured Butter

In the midst of all the peak-of-season preserving, I haven’t forgotten my mission to review The Lost Art of Real Cooking, by Ken Albala and Rosanna Nafziger (A Perigee Book, published by the Penguin Group).  You may remember my experiment with Swazi Sauce; I was more than a little frustrated with the lack of detail in the recipe, but since then, author Ken Albala not only stopped by to offer a comment on the post, but made the original recipe again and discussed it on his blog (check it out!).

Today’s recipe comes to us from Rosanna Nafziger and Chapter 9 of The Lost Art, “Dairy Products and Cheese.”  I’ve made butter at home before; usually, for Waste-Not-Want-Not Girl, it’s a matter of preserving cream before it goes bad (butter freezes nicely; cream, not so much), but I will admit that there is something quite satisfying about making this kind of basic pantry staple yourself.  Not only do you control the ingredients, free to choose salt or no, regular old grocery store cream or raw sweet cream, straight from the happy, pastured cow (Have you ever seen raw cream butter for sale? Nope, neither have I.), but there is that satisfaction of creating something with your own two hands.  Why, after all, does anyone ever knit a sweater, bake a loaf of bread, throw a pottery bowl, when it is much easier (and usually cheaper) to go to the store and buy it?  Because, it’s fun.  And the same is true of making butter.

As I said, I’ve made butter, but never cultured butter, so I was intrigued enough to give it a try.  Culturing butter is simply the process of introducing some good bacteria, in the form of a dollop of good yogurt (or cultured buttermilk or crème fraîche); this thickens up the cream, eliminates some of the water content, and results in a thick, creamy butter, with the bonus of a higher yield than when making uncultured butter.  And the taste?  I’m sold. When I smelled the cream in the morning, I thought I had added too much yogurt; it smelled definitely tangy.  But once I had squeezed out the buttermilk, the butter left behind was simply, amazingly, gloriously buttery.  When I have the time (and the yogurt) this is how I will be making butter from now on.

A few notes on the recipe: Ms. Nafziger goes all-out old-fashioned and stirs her bowl of cultured cream with a wooden spoon until butter forms. In the interest of recipe-testing verisimilitude, I did spend a good 4 to 5 minutes vigrousouly stirring my bowl of cream; at this point, upon viewing the few grains of proto-butter produced by my then-aching shoulder, I gave up and popped the cream into the food processor. Old-fashioned technique, meet new-fandled kitchen gadget: it’s a match made in heaven!  Ms. Nafziger also suggests using “at least a couple of quarts of cream.” Clearly, she does not live in Westchester County.  Not having $30 to spend on butter this week, I opted for a pint and a half (lest I be tempted to make these again).  I do love her suggestion of using a fancy butter mold – what a sweet housewarming gift for a fellow real food geek; homemade, cultured butter in an antique butter mold.  Watch out, eBay, I’m heading your way!

Adapted from Cultured Butter  in The Lost Art of Real Cooking by Ken Albala and Rosanna Nafziger

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Cultured Butter

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups heavy cream, not ultra-pasteurized (preferably farm-fresh from pastured cows)
  • 2 tbsp plain yogurt (with active bacterial cultures; I used Stoneyfield Farm organic)

METHODS

  1. Day 1. Pour cream and yogurt into a large bowl. Swish a bit to mix in yogurt.  Cover with a clean tea towel and allow to rest in a warm spot (about 75 degrees F) overnight.
  2. Day 2. Cream should have thickened, perhaps developed a skin.  Pour cream mixture into the bowl of a food processor (do this in two batches if you have a tiny processor, like me). Turn processor on (wrap a kitchen towel around top edge of food processor for the intial burst if yours, like mine, tends to leak) and watch cream carefully.  It will thicken almost immediately, and then looked like whipped cream. It will continue to thicken, then start to look the slightest bit grainy; suddenly it will become noticeably yellow, grainy, and butter will clump together in the bowl. Stop the motor as soon as you see butter clumping together (you don’t want to re-integrate the butter into the buttermilk). The whole process takes about 2 minutes in my machine.
  3. Drain the buttermilk off (reserve for pancakes, scones, etc.). Refrigerate the butter for at least an hour to firm it up for final removal of buttermilk.
  4. Press and knead the chilled butter, using a rubber spatula, the back of a wooden spoon, or your hands, working out every last bit of buttermilk that you can (buttermilk remaining in the butter will turn rancid more quickly, spoiling the butter). Rinse the butter several times in ice-cold water as you knead; once the water runs clear, the butter is done.  Pack into small ramekins, quarter-pint jars, rice bowls or small Tupperware.

Yields about 3/4 pound butter.

OPTIONS

  1. If you do not have a food processor, you can make butter in a stand mixer (cover the top of  the bowl with a clean kitchen towel), using a hand beater, by shaking in a quart Mason jar (a marble, or pie weights, for agitation speeds up the process) or simply by stirring endlessly rapidly in a large bowl.
  2. For salted butter, add fine grain salt in at the kneading step. Try about 1/2 tsp salt per pound of butter to start.
  3. My interpretation of the recipe’s “dollop” of yogurt was about 2 tablespoons. I’m sure you can use a bit more or less with similar results.
  4. If you don’t have the time (or the yogurt) for cultured butter, the same method works for cream straight out of the fridge; I find yield is a bit lower for cold cream, however, so do try to let it warm up to room temperature first. Warming for several hours on the counter will ‘ripen’ the cream in a slightly milder version of culturing.
  5. If you leave the cream out for a couple of days, and do not agitate to separate the butterfat, you will have homemade crème fraîche. Regrigerate and use within 1 week.

STORE

Refrigerated; whatever you cannot use up in about a week, store frozen for up to 6 months.

SEASON

Year round.

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4 comments

  1. I’ve never heard of cultured butter, so reading this post was very educational (something I’m always after). Even though I can’t eat dairy, I know some friends who would also like to try this, and I’ll pass along your post to them 🙂

  2. eeee I’ve just finished reading that one too. I LOVE IT. And cultured butter, seriously, on the top of my list. The dairy I used to get raw milk from, they made it from the raw cream and gahhh it was soooo good. I let part of it sit for weeks and weeks until it tasted cheesy, and oh man.

  3. I keep ending up on posts on your site–just made butter for the first time successfully (tried once before, and learned the hard way that you have to avoid the ultrapasteurized stuff). Thanks for the explanation and pictures–it turns out it’s one of those things that sounds harder than it actually is!

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