Starting from scratch
There’s nothing like fresh butter
I have been up late the last two nights making wonderful, glorious, delicious butter.
Butter has been on my food bucket list for a while and finally, finally, finally I have done it – and I am so happy!
I have always wanted to make butter because I have a goal — a big goal — to remove as many items as I can from my “have to buy at the grocery store” list and put it on my “I know how to make that, so I don’t have to buy it” list.
Picture, if you will, how they made butter in the olden days. Some poor girl had to stand for hours with a stick in a bucket churning the butter; mixing it over and over again until it became a solid.
We have come a long way since then with the invention of the electric mixer with an accompanying whisk attachment. I got a new mixer this year for Christmas, thanks to Farmer Jim, and I love it. (My old one stayed in the back of my car for way too long after one day cooking at the local farmer’s market, and thus proceeded to drop sand into whatever concoction I happened to be making. Crunchy meringue is not very good, let me tell you.)
In just seven minutes — timed with my phone’s timer — I was able to take ½ cup of cream and mix it into about ¼ cup of butter.
At about the three-minute mark, the cream started to resemble whipping cream. As I continued to mix, the cream became separated into a size smaller than peas. Continuing on into the six- and seven-minute time frame, the buttermilk separated from the butter and it started to become harder and actually resembled butter.
I then took a clean cloth and placed it over a dish. I strained the butter in the cloth, squeezing gently to remove any excess liquid.
To the first batch, I just added some coarse ground salt. For the second batch, I added the same salt, then a dash of real lemon juice, some garlic powder and dried parsley. Talk about super-tasty. I did eat a lot of it then, but it was much better the second day.
I had already known that you could make butter in the mixer, because my sister, Mary, had showed me how to do it. She is a chef and knows of these things. The difference with the butter we made was that we used, regular old commercial heavy cream that you can buy anywhere, even at a gas station.
Last week, I ventured to the food co-op in Keene and purchased real cream from a real farm. I wanted to make it with authentic ingredients this time. I can’t say that it tasted any different, but I knew that it was as close to “God-made” and less man-made as I could get, the standards that we try to live with here on the farm when choosing our food.
I can’t say it was easier or more difficult to use one cream over the other since I was using different equipment and it was a different time of year and a different elevation, which can change things when you are baking or cooking. I can tell you, though, that it tasted better. It had a kick that said, “Yes, I’m fresh.”
I got motivated to try this recipe after reading how easy and simple it is in “First Person Rural: Essays of a Sometime Farmer” by Noel Perrin — February’s Oxbow Farm Book Club book. This is an old book, written in the late 70s when I was just a babe. The prices for items are completely out of date, but the information is not. I actually have been craving information like this — easy to read and relative to my life at the moment.
I think I will actually whip up a batch of fresh butter when the book club meets, just to show everyone how easy it really is to make it. And it is so tasty. Sometimes, it is the simple things that satisfy me the most.
Kim Graham lives in Dublin with her husband, Jim, and their two children. The couple hails from New Brunswick, Canada. This column chronicles their first-ever adventures in farming. For more about the farm, see www.oxbowfarmnh.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.