This past Tuesday, Nick and I learned that Meadowbrook Farms won’t be able to bring us the butter we use every week from The Country Creamery in Canestota, NY any longer. The news was a bit alarming; we use 18 lbs of the stuff each week for croissants, scones, muffins and cookies. We love its rich flavor; plus, you would be hard-pressed to find better butter locally. The Country Creamery makes theirs from just sweet cream and salt; it’s hard, a creamy yellow and delicious, and we depend on it for consistently superior-tasting baked goods.
When I expressed my dismay and concern to the young man who does the heavy lifting during deliveries, I soon found Chuck Van Wie, one of the brothers who started Meadowbrook ages ago and still drives the delivery truck, at our back door. He explained that getting the butter just isn’t making fiscal sense for them anymore – they have to buy a very large amount at one time and drive ½ way to Syracuse (and back) to acquire it regularly – fuel costs ain’t what they used to be. Chuck made a recommendation: why not make our own butter from Meadowbrook’s vat-pasteurized heavy cream? He also mentioned this important note about their production process: Meadowbrook doesn’t allow their cream to travel through tubing or pipe that erodes it’s quality, like almost all other local dairies do and it is vat-pasteurized. I had already learned that the Van Wie family grows their own non-GMO alfalfa and the cows are primarily pasture raised…surely the makings of superior butter, and I could produce our own buttermilk too! Instead of feeling worried, I got excited.
I’ve been toying with the idea of making butter for some time now, but jettisoned the thought when we found The Country Creamery. Extra steps in our production schedule add extra time in the bakery and we’re stretched as it is. Without a current better butter option, I decided to try a small batch to determine whether we could take on the challenge of making 12-14 lbs every week. My first experiment resulted in a happy accident (ultra-tangy Crème Fraiche), but my second yielded…real butter! I was so excited I ran around yelling to everybody who would listen “I made my own butter! It was so easy! I can do it! I CAN make butter!” So can you!
Follow these few easy steps and you’ll be annoying all of your friends too with your giddiness.BUTTER RECIPE
2 c Heavy Cream (better if it’s not ultra-pasteurized and from grass-fed cows)
2 T Cultured Buttermilk (as pure as you can find, free from additives)
2-3c Ice Water
Pinch Kosher Salt
Tip #1: If you’d like to increase the amount you’re making, use a 1 to 4 ratio of cultured buttermilk to heavy cream. You can also use a quality, pure sour cream or powdered cultures to culture your cream.
Pour your heavy cream into a canning jar or other container with a lid. Add the buttermilk, stir and cover.
TIP #2: Sterilizing ALL of your tools by scalding or rinsing in bleach water will prevent outside bacteria from growing in & spoiling your cultured cream.
Let it sit out overnight (12-24 hours), unrefrigerated, optimum room temp is about 75 degrees. Your resulting cultured cream should be thick and sour-smelling; if it’s grainy, it has set out too long and you’ll need to start over, so keep an eye on it!
You can make butter now by cooling your cream in the fridge for about 30 minutes and then vigorously shaking the canning jar for 20-30 more minutes (just until the buttermilk begins to splash), but I’m going to give you a much faster, less labor intensive method.
If you need something to occupy your kids, give them the jar! If you’re in a hurry, try this:
Refrigerate your cultured cream for about 30 minutes. Then place your sterilized mixing bowl and (also sterilized!) whisk attachment in the fridge as well for 10-15 minutes. These cooling preparations will allow your butter to form faster (thanks to friends on Facebook, I received these tips immediately after reaching out for help). I neglected to do both with my cultured cream and accidentally made delicious, tangy crème fraiche that we used on chocolate tarts at the bakery last weekend. I thought for sure there must be more to butter-making than I expected and got worried again.
I quickly acquired more Meadowbrook heavy cream from the Honest Weight Food Co-op and due to time constraints, tried my experiment without culturing it first. I set up my chilled mixing bowl & whisk, poured in my cold cream and got out some oranges that needed zesting. I thought the process would take a while since I had just stood over my Crème Fraiche for about 45 minutes anxiously (and needlessly) waiting for it to separate.
TIP #4: Let your cold cream sit in a warmish spot for about 10 minutes before churning; ideal temperature is between 60 and 70 degrees. Achieving optimum temperature will prevent your butter from being too cold or warm to separate properly.
I marked the time that I started the mixer, 11:45 am, and started my zesting project. WAY sooner than I expected, I heard sloshing! I looked into my bowl and sure enough, this is what I found: The time was 11:46. I made butter in LITERALLY ONE MINUTE! I didn’t even get a whole orange zested. In retrospect, I think my cream was perhaps too cold, but that didn’t affect the overall outcome in this instance.
TIP: AS SOON as you hear/see the sloshing of buttermilk, that’s your cue to stop the mixer and pour it into a very clean container (again, sterilized is good). Don’t overmix at this point or the buttermilk will foam and be way more difficult (if not impossible) to pour off. You can hold back the butter with a spatula or pour it through a fine sieve. I used a chinoise.
If your cream is at the correct temperature, normal churning time should be about 10 minutes, give or take. First the cream will thicken into whipped cream, then it will begin to really chunk up and rest assured, it will start separating very shortly after. Keep an eagle eye on your progress at this stage! It only takes seconds for the dreaded buttermilk foam to form.
TIP #5: Before the next step of washing your butter, remove the whisk and change to the (chilled, sterilized) regular mixing paddle attachment of your mixer. Continuing the process with the paddle will allow your butter to form from a grainy to smooth texture more quickly and helps push out the remaining buttermilk. Running the mixer on low for just a few seconds and pouring off the resulting milk 2-4 times will yield you more fresh buttermilk! When you can’t squeeze anymore out, it’s time to give your butter a cold shower.
Pour ½ cup of icy water to your mixing bowl. Adding ice water “washes” out the remaining buttermilk to allow for longer shelf-life. Turn the mixer on low for just about 10-15 seconds – your ice water will look cloudy. Pour off the wash water into a separate container from the first buttermilk. Repeat this step 3-6 times, or until the water runs clear.
After you pour off all of the wash water, run your mixer again for 10-15 more seconds to squeeze out the last droplets of water in the butter (or you can strain with a cheesecloth or sieve). I was surprised by the firmness of the butter, it wasn’t melty or sticky.
Adding just a ¼ t of salt will help your butter preserve longer. Mix it in thoroughly with your spatula/wooden spoon or in your mixer for just a few seconds.
Guess what? YOU JUST MADE BUTTER! Do a little happy dance, I did.
This recipe yielded 8 oz. I’m excited to try the process again with cultured cream, which produces a richer buttery flavor, deeper yellow color and real cultured buttermilk. I wrapped ours in parchment, or it can be stored in a clean glass or plastic container in the fridge for 1-3 weeks.
Strain the butter bits out of your buttermilk (or not, if you want real old-fashioned buttermilk) and add to your cheesecloth or bowl.
You can use your just-made buttermilk to soak grains, in baked goods or any number of other creative ways, but be aware, the consistency will be thinner than store-bought buttermilk and baked goods will generally need to be cooked for a bit longer than if you were using the stuff from the store.
If you want to make thicker, real buttermilk:
1c Your just-made cultured buttermilk
4c Whole, 1% or skim milk
Combine the two ingredients in a sterilized container and let sit in a warm spot (again about 75 degrees) in your kitchen for 12-24 hours or until the consistency looks/smells/feels right. Refrigerate. Your buttermilk will keep for at least 3-4 weeks.
It’s that easy folks. If you can get heavy cream in bulk instead of those tiny pints that I experimented with, you can freeze a whole lot of butter for up to a year. Imagine all the tasty goodies you can prepare with your leftover buttermilk, plus it’s great to drink (our daughter had some right out of the mixer). I’m sure going through these preparations for the 18 lbs we need will take a lot longer, but you can make your weekly butter for home use in a matter of minutes, try it!