Sunday, February 15, 2015

Weekend Project: Making Butter, No Butter Churn Required

With windchills in the below zero range, this weekend has been perfect for staying inside and keeping warm, which also gave me the opportunity to tackle something new. I saw a recipe/method for making homemade butter, so I thought, "What the heck?" and set out to give it a try.

Now, because you have to buy cream and buttermilk to start out (sadly, our HOA would not allow the keeping of a cow in our yard), I had my doubts about just how cost-effective this might be. With that in mind, I decided to cut the recipe in half, in case it didn't turn out, so I would at least  still have useable cream and buttermilk. With those caveats, I threw caution and concern for botulism to the wind and started out on this kitchen experiment. Better living through chemistry and all that.

The recipe I used was from Southern Living. I couldn't find the recipe online, but it might not be posted yet, since it's still the current issue. Here's a picture of what you'll need:

First, you have to warm the whipping cream to 70 degrees (F), but the directions didn't say if your buttermilk also had to be room temperature or not, so I warmed the cream a little extra (it was warm to the touch) to maybe offset the fact that my buttermilk was still cold. Maybe you could just leave both the whipping cream and buttermilk out overnight before starting the recipe (since "room temperature" is generally accepted to be 68 degrees). But that would make it nearly a 36 hour recipe, and mama ain't got time for that.

So, here's where my concern for food poisoning comes in:

See the condensation on the plastic wrap? The warm mixture sits out on the counter for 24 hours. Plus, the instructions said that I would get better results if I did not use ultra-pasteurized cream, so I'm am still leery. I decide to forge ahead.

After the 24 hour waiting period, it actually looks like what the recipe said it should, thick like pancake batter. Mine was a little thicker, so I don't know if that is good or bad, but I'm just happy things are proceeding pretty much as they should!

Next, you put the mixture in the food processor and process for 5-8 minutes, until bits of solids form. It doesn't say what blade to use, so I just used the plastic mixing blade, figuring I don't want to cut up the small bits. So, after about 7 minutes, here's what I got:

I'm starting to get pretty excited now, so I move on to the next step, which is to strain out the solids from the liquid (which is lovely buttermilk! Two products in one recipe!).

The butter is pretty soft, so I don't want to press it too much, but I gingerly press down to get more of the liquid out.  Then comes the not-so-fun part: the ice bath.

You are supposed to knead it in ice water and keep changing the water until it stays clean. I am telling you that the ice water was the worst part. My hand got painfully cold, so I don't know if I got it perfectly "clean," but I wasn't doing more than three rounds of that stuff.

Here's the first round:

Here's the third:

Relatively clear water, I would say. Finally, you are supposed to knead a little salt into it, which I did, but next time I might just leave it out, because I thought it was too salty, even though it was just 1/4 teaspoon.  For 2 cups of whipping cream and 1/2 cup of butter milk, you get just over 1/4 pound of butter and about 1 1/2 cups of buttermilk.

 Here's the final product, wrapped for chilling:

So, here's the big question: Was it worth it?

In terms of the ease of the recipe, sure. It wasn't hard, really, and it went pretty fast after you let it sit for 24 hours, and it's not like you had to babysit it throughout the 24 hours (I'm lookin' at you, croissant dough). In terms of taste, yes, I found it to taste better (tangy, creamy and less waxy, texture-wise) than regular store brand butter, but about on par with French butter (like Plugra).

Cost-wise, let's do the math: The 2 cups of cream was $2.29 and the 1/2 cup of buttermilk was $.22, so for about $2.50, you got 5.5 oz of butter and 1 1/2 cups of buttermilk. When I can get a pound of butter for $2.50, I'm not sure, but if you think of spending $2.79 for spreadable butter (I buy the kind with real butter and canola or olive oil mixed in), it might be worth it. The homemade butter was creamier, plus I knew exactly the ingredients that went into it and the process. I'm not sure I would put the effort in to just use for baking, because I know that Plugra has little water, but I'm not sure I got as much water out of mine, so it I'd worry about my product not being as consistent as commercially-made butter.

Bottom line, I'll let you make those decisions for yourself, but I would probably make this again, especially if I'm making biscuits or bread (there it NOTHING better than butter on freshly made bread). I'm just excited that it actually worked...and I didn't get food poisoning.