Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Very Local Butter

You can't get much more local than your own kitchen. Until discovering Pure Eire Dairy, and learning that saturated fats have been much maligned and in fact are quite vital to our health, I hadn't thought too much about making my own butter, although I've been purchasing organic butter for some time, and ghee occasionally.

Because the healthiest butter is made from grass-fed cows' milk, and Pure Eire's bossies are grass fed, it seemed right and proper to produce butter with their cream.

It is tricky to describe the vast difference in taste of this butter from commercial butter. Have you ever been in a cow barn at milking time? Have you been near a cream separator either during operation or when it's being cleaned? I have. But if you have not, butter made with this cream will taste unusual to you. Its flavor is the essence of pure dairy cream.

I learned a few things for next time, and because of this butter's ethereal taste and health appeal, there will be a next time.
Adapted from Fat byJennifer McLagan and also from this site.

1 pint (2 cups) local heavy cream from grass-fed cows
1/2 teaspoon salt (if desired)
1 quart ice water, with ice in it to keep it cold

Let the cream warm to room temperature. Pour into food processor and turn on. The cream will whip, then separate, and then the butter will seize and become a ball, leaving a milky liquid in the food processor bowl. Immediately stop the processor when the butter becomes a ball. Pour off the buttermilk through a fine sieve, and save for other uses (pancakes, cornbread, etc.). Return any pieces of butter that collect in the sieve to the food processor.

Now you are going to "wash" the butter to remove the remaining buttermilk from it. Pour about a cup of ice water onto the butter and process so that the butter mixes with the water and then separates into a ball again. Drain off the water through your sieve, discarding the water each time, and repeat this process until the water is fairly clear. It took four washings for me. Gather the butter up into a ball.

Now you want to remove any remaining water from your ball of butter. I must take issue with the directions that called for squeezing the water out by hand OR kneading the butter on a clean towel. I used both these processes, and they are incredibly messy, the butter sticks to your hands and to the towel, plus your hands will quickly melt the butter, making it stick even worse.

In the end, I used a dough scraper to keep scraping the butter up off the towel as I kneaded it. During the kneading, sprinkle the salt, if you are using it, over the butter and knead it in.

I persevered, but for next time I am going to be on the lookout for butter paddles, which our ancestors used and which I suspect have not been improved upon for generations. You simply circle the ball of butter around between the paddles, and the water runs out in the grooves.

The yield is about one cup of the best-tasting butter you've ever had.
Update: We don't use a lot of butter, so I was especially pleased that this homemade butter kept sweet and delicious for three weeks. That's because I "washed" it, to remove the buttermilk. You can use the butter just as it comes out of the food processor without removing the buttermilk with the water washes, but it will go sour quite fast. This butter is best on breads, toast, popcorn, and used for sauteeing fresh vegetables ... the taste of the butter is so good that you'll want to use it in ways that let you appreciate the flavor.


  1. Hi Becky! I will be trying this the first chance I get. Sounds fun!

  2. I highly recommend it, but the cream has to be amazingly fresh, from grass-fed cows preferably. I am about to update the post, as the butter kept beautifully sweet and delicious for three weeks. Amazing.