Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Butter. Lovely, easy, cultured butter.

The lovely & gracious Kim introduced me, on Twitter, to the equally lovely and similarly gracious Ruth. Twitter, alas is the social media equivalent to HFCS. If you really want to know what happened to my blog, just visualize it being hacked into neat-ish 140-character chunks and fed to the Blue Bird.

But I digress.


Ruth is an evangelist for good-and-good-for-you foods. Her merely saying "Quinoa tabbouleh" (granting the lovely and gracious Badger may have previously come up with such a concept even if she didn't get a chance to brand it as snappily) altered my worldview. Among the gospels of her evangelism is no-knead bread. This is what prompted Kim to introduce us, as æons ago, Kim was asking (again on Twitter) for thoughts on same, and I leapt insomniacally up and sent her my version, which involves a TINY bit of kneading (a riff on CI's, itself a riff on Leahy's original) and she loved it so much she wept profanely in joy for hours.


Not a few minutes ago, I again insomniacally found my way on Twitter (sensing a pattern here), and I see that Ruth has posted on the matter of no-knead bread and cultured butter. She has a lovely photo of a lovely hunk of bread with a semi wrapped chunk of Europeanish cultured butter. Which made me realize, "Wait a minute! I make cultured butter and it's unspeakably easy."

So here it is.

(This is for ¾ lb. butter and 1½ cups buttermilk.)

Some important things to keep in mind:

a) As you've heard me yell lo these many years, the flavor of pasteurized cream is infinitely preferable to ultra-pasteurized, and raw cream (if you can get it) is even better than THAT.
b) The yogurt and sour cream/crème fraîche MUST contain live cultures -- the longer the list of live cultures, the better -- no gums, gelatin, etc. Do not use "Greek" yogurt in this, do not use nonfat/lowfat yogurt.

1 qt heavy cream, the least processed/freshest you can find
¼ c plain yogurt & ¼ c sour cream/crème fraîche (½ c total)
¼ t coarse sea or kosher salt (OPT)

1. Culture the cream: Combine creams and yogurt in large fanatically cleaned and sterilized jar with an airtight lid. Cover, and shake well to combine. Replace the lid with a FRESHLY LAUNDERED kitchen towel, securing it with a thick rubber band (I repurpose the ones that come with asparagus), and place in warmish area (the magic temperature is +/- 75F/24C) undisturbed for 24 hours. It should have a texture like "drinkable yogurt" when properly thickened. If you like a more cultured-y taste, let it go a total of 36 hours.

2. Once your cream has your ideal thickness, doff kitchen towel, re-lid, and refrigerate until the cream is +/- 60F/16C, figure 2 hours. You can store the thickened, cultured cream up to 5 days in the refrigerator until you are ready to make the butter; let it sit at room temperature until it reaches about 60 degrees before proceeding with step 3.

3. Here we go: Have 1qt/1L of ice water on standby in the refrigerator. Pour your cooled cultured cream (say THAT 3x, fast) into the work bowl of your standing mixer with the whisk attachment, er, attached. (You can do all of this in a food processor, but that may require 2-3 batches.)

If you have a splatter guard, now is the time to deploy, or just use cling wrap as best you can, unless mopping dairy off the walls is a long-held ambition of yours.


Whip the cream at maximum speed until the yellow (the better your cream, the yellower this will be)clumps separate out, call it 5 minutes.

Strain this through a fine mesh strainer double-lined with cheesecloth set over bowl. Let it drain quietly, on its own, for 1 minute.

4. Grap the corners of your cheesecloth and spin/twist to wring out the buttermilk, pushing and squeezing until not one drop more of buttermilk is issued. Put your butter in another bowl; refrigerate your buttermilk. You're halfway home.

5. Here it comes. Splash about ⅓ cup of the ice water (you were wondering, weren't you?) over your butter and, with butter "floating like an island" in the ice water, fold and knead it, letting the water wash the butter to rinse it of any remaining buttermilk. Discard buttermilky water, and repeat until the water runs clear. This will take you about 5 or 6 washes. This has to be done because remaining buttermilk will VERY quickly accelerate the spoilage of your butter.

After the final wash, drain the water. Then smash, knead and fold butter to squeeze out as much remaining liquid as your patience will allow. (Keep in mind that even the most posh butter is MAXIMUM 85% solids, so don't be too fanatical here.)

Sprinkle butter with salt, if you are using for spreading on bread, and fold into butter until thoroughly incorporated. The butter will keep for at least 1 month assuming you use reasonably fresh cream and you wash the butter well. You can also freeze them. (Don't panic if the buttermilk separates on thawing, just shake.)

6. Divide butter between two 12" x 15" (30cm x 40cm) rectangles of parchment paper (waxed paper if you must). Shape each half of the butter into an approximate log shape. Fold the paper over the butter, then roll butter log up tightly, twisting the ends, to get a nice cylinder of buttery goodness.

Or do what I do, put it in clean glass jars and refrigerate/freeze.



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