Monday, July 30, 2012

Do You Know How to Make Butter?

I think making your own butter is one of those critical skills you will find quite useful if you ever have to live without electricity for any length of time - say like the two to three weeks the east coast just experienced. Under such circumstances, having butter for bread would be a real morale booster!  It is also fun and easy to make for everyday use. The best part, is you don't need any special equipment.

Just like in your great-grandmother's time, it is not necessary to put butter in the refrigerator. I will show you how to seal it so the butter stays fresh on the table- just as your great-grandmother did.

There is a shelf stable cream that you can add to your food storage program that works well to make butter. With this type of cream you can even make (and eat) butter without using electricity! I have purchased and used this cream.  It is delicious, good for cooking and makes good whipped cream as well as great butter.  I would take a picture of one of my boxes, but I am out at the moment.  I usually don't purchase it in the summer because it has to be shipped to my area. In the heat, I am afraid it will go bad. You can purchase it in stores if you live in Utah. I will resupply my stock come fall.

Here is a picture of the type of cream I use. I purchased mine from here

Today, I am using cream I purchased at a grocery store.

The first step is to prepare the cream. If using cream from the store, let it sit out on the counter until it is almost room temperature.  If using shelf stable cream, refrigerate it until it is chilled. If you don't want to chill it, that is OK, it will just take longer to turn to butter. 

I usually make butter in a quart canning jar. This makes it easy to see what is happening throughout the butter making process. Fill the jar half way with cream.  Whatever container you use, don't fill it more than half way because the cream will expand to fill the jar as you are making the butter.  Here is my glass jar.

 Now, all you have to do is shake the jar. That's it!  Really!  If using room temperature cream from the store, it shouldn't take more then 5 - 6 minutes.  If using shelf stable cream, it can take up to 30 minutes. Here is my jar after a few minutes of shaking.  You can see how the cream expands to fill the jar.

The first phase you will see the cream get to is whipped cream.  Since everyone knows what whipped cream looks like, I won't show a picture.  The next phase you will see the cream go through is a grainy phase.  The butter is just starting to form and is in small bits.  The cream hasn't separated yet, but has a grainy look about it.

Keep shaking, it is almost butter!  The butter will soon separate from the buttermilk.  You will know when it has separated. It looks like a ball of butter sitting in a jar of milk. That is real buttermilk - great for making bread!  Please don't throw it away. This is what it looks like.

Shake it for a few more minutes to make sure you get all the butter out of the buttermilk. Then, using a slotted spoon, remove the butter from the jar.  The slotted spoon is key here because you want to drain the buttermilk from the butter. 

When you take the butter out of the jar, place it in a bowl of cool water.  You can also add a few pieces of ice to the water the first few times you make butter.  This will firm the butter up a bit and give you better control over it. After you have a bit of experience, you won't need the ice.

Next, wash the butter.  You must wash the butter to get all the buttermilk out. This is not a step you can skip.  The butter will not be edible if you don't wash it. (Ask me how I know this!) 

To wash the butter, you are going to knead it in the water until the water turns milky white. You can do this one of two ways - you can knead it by hand or you can use the back of the spoon to press the butter against the side of the bowl.  When I first started making butter, I would knead by hand.  Now, I use the spoon and press the butter against the bowl. A slotted spoon is key here  as it makes the work go faster. Our great-grandmothers would wash their butter on a butter table and squeeze the buttermilk out with a rolling pin.

The picture does not show how truly milky the water is, wait until you try and you'll see for yourself.  The next step is to change the water and repeat the process.  Press the butter against the side of the bowl until the water turns milky white. Change the water and repeat, again.  You will continue to do this until the water is completely clear after pressing the butter against the bowl.  Then, change the water and repeat twice more. I picked up this bit of advice from Carla Emery in her book, The Encyclopedia of Country Living. After having tried it many times, I agree with this advice 100%. It is definitely worth the time and effort. The butter tastes better if rinsed very well. The total washing time is about 10 minutes.

Now, it is time to drain the water from the butter. At this stage in the process I put my butter on a sheet of freezer paper.  If you chill the butter now, the water will pool out faster.  However, it isn't necessary. I place mine on a cookie sheet at a slight angle and let it drain.

After the water drains from the butter, you can now add salt if you want.  I lightly salt mine and then mix well by folding the butter on itself.  I then taste and add more salt if needed.

Once the butter is drained and salted to taste, transfer it to a storage container.  If you want to put it in the refrigerator, you can use any kind of container. If you want to leave the butter on your counter or kitchen table, you should place it in a butter crock.  You can purchase a butter crock from many different places over the Internet.  You can find more information about a butter crock here.  This is my butter crock. The butter goes in the top piece.  The bottom is filled with water.  When you place the two pieces together, the water creates a seal around the butter keeping it fresh. 

In my experience using this crock, the butter will stay fresh for about 15 days in the summer (78 degrees in the house) and 30 days in the winter (68 degrees in the house).

And there you have it!  Your own homemade butter!

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