A couple of summers ago, I called to check in on a friend of mine in New Jersey, who was taking a more-or-less enforced summer off of work. He’d spent his time traveling to Greece with his family, organizing his life, playing with his kids, but the novelty of so much free time was wearing thin. His boredom was as clear as he sighed over the phone when I asked him what he’d been up to.
“Oh…nothing. Just making butter today…”
Making butter? I pictured him sitting on an Amish stool churning away in the shade of his porch. And since I’ve always thought of butter-making as the sole province of women, I pictured him in a dairy maid’s bonnet that matched both his eyes and his rugby shirt. I was a bit jealous of both his crushing amount of free time and the fact that he had thought of making butter before I did. I asked him where he picked up the churn.
“I don’t have a churn, Michael. I’m doing it in my Kitchen Aid.”
There went my fantasy. Use of a stand mixer was cheating in my book. Especially on the East Coast, where my urban, California sensibilities allowed me to imagine butter churns by the truckload were to be had yard-saling on any given weekend.
My fantasy deflated, I cast the thought of butter-making out of my head. Until last week, when I picked up my dog-eared copy of Much Depends on Dinner by Margaret Visser. Her chapter “Butter– and Something ‘Just as Good'” made me think entirely too much about the stuff. I wanted to know how to make it on my own, so I did a little research. And I do mean little.
It’s alarmingly easy to do, as you’ll soon see. For an excellent and very informative post on butter and butter-making, visit Cooking for Engineers— a site filled with all the cooking Geekdom to which I aspire.
2 cups heavy whipping cream (at a temperature between 60 and 68°F)
A pinch of salt (optional)
Finely diced herbs (also optional)
1. Place cream in the clean, cool bowl of your stand mixer, assuming you have one. Mix on medium speed.
2. Basically, you begin by making whipped cream. Once the cream has reached stiff-peak stage, slow the mixing down a little. The cream will now start to clump in the bowl.
3. What you have in the bowl will quickly turn from creamy white to, not surprisingly given the subject matter of this post, buttery yellow.
4. After a short while, the buttermilk will begin to separate from the butter solids.
5. Pour off the buttermilk. You may save it as the appropriate beverage for a late night, heart-to-heart conversation about women with your teen-aged son around your antique farm house table, cook with it, or throw it away. The choice is yours.
6. At this point, it’s a good idea to rinse the remaining buttermilk from the solid bits, since the buttermilk will cause your butter to turn rancid much sooner than one would like. Pour cold water over the butter, then squeeze and knead. Repeat until water runs clear.
7. Congratulations, you now have your butter.
8. You may now add a little salt, if that is your preference. Or fold in some fresh herbs. Whatever the hell you want, really– it’s your butter.
Makes approximately one cup of useable butter excellent for lashing on one’s toast or experimenting à la Maria Schneider. Have a jolly time with it.