I must confess I haven’t read the book Make the Bread, Buy the Butter that inspired the title of today’s post. But it sprung to mind when I was walking home from the bakery with a still-warm bread in a paper bag warming me in the crisp November air, on my way home to make butter. I thought, when you live five minutes’ walk from a fabulous artisanal bakery, and have access to local cream — well, in my book, it’s just fine to buy the bread and make the butter.
One of the unexpected delights of teaching homesteading classes is seeing what it is that gets the class participants really excited. At my Home Dairy class, in spite of major contenders such as yogurt and lemon ricotta cheese, the big hit was making butter. I suppose it’s the fact that I had the class try the human-powered mason jar shaking method. The collective process of taking turns shaking a sloshing mason jar full of cream, stopping to see how solid it was getting, shaking it some more, passing it on to the next person until all of a sudden it turned into butter, brought childlike giddiness and excitement out in us. Several of the participants contacted me afterwards telling me they’d already tried making butter on their own several times. One of them invited me to teach spinning to kids at a local community center, and since only one person could try the spinning wheel at a time, to keep small hands busy he had them make butter.
And no wonder. For me, freshly whipped, just slightly salted homemade butter is like the proverbial heirloom tomato — once you’ve tasted it, the store-bought kind will never be good enough for you again. Even though I don’t make butter as regularly as, say, yogurt, the days when I do, a toasted slice of bread feels like the food of kings in our house.
If you’ve never made butter before, here’s how.
Let 1 pint of heavy cream come to room temperature. Pour into a food processor and begin to whip the cream until it separates into butter and buttermilk (this should take a few minutes). If you want to try the human-powered alternative method, pour the cream into a quart-size mason jar with a marble inside the jar, and shake vigorously until butter and buttermilk separate.
Once you’ve reached this stage following either method, drain off the buttermilk with the help of a strainer. Put the butter in a small bowl and start to run cold water over it until the water in the bowl is clear. At this point, you can add salt if you wish — about 1/4 teaspoon.
Now put the butter on a cutting board and begin pressing with either a spatula or your own clean hands. Press the remaining liquid out of it, turning it over and kneading it like a dough. When there’s no more liquid coming out, your butter is ready. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator, or in a butter crock in room temperature. Enjoy!