Thursday, June 23, 2011

Butter and Buttermilk

Butter is so wonderfully delicious, creamy, smooth, buttery, and the good news is most people think that it is indeed good for you in moderation. When we found ourselves living in a small town in China, well we really missed our butter. I then learned how to make it and we would carefully scrape the fat off of the three cups of milk we got every day and saved them up to make amazing butter, and buttercream frosting for birthday cakes. It still amazes me sometimes that now that we are in a bigger city we can actually buy butter in a store, in China.

Butter can be made from store bought heavy cream or from the cream in non homogenized whole milk. If using whole milk chill for several hours or overnight to allow cream to rise to the top. Scrape cream from the top of whole milk using a large spoon or shallow ladle. Thick cream can be used immediately to make sweet cream butter or saved for days and allowed to sour. Sour cream butter has a more intense taste, but can still be used in bakery items and confections without making them taste at all sour.

The cream can be chilled or as warm as a moderate room temperature (around 70°F), if it is too warm however the nuggets of butter will not clot out properly, producing buttermilk with soft/melted butter in it that cannot be easily extracted without changing the temperature of the mixture.This is quite a frustrating problem as it seems like your cream will never turn into butter.

The next step is to agitate the cream. This can be done in a variety of ways requiring a range of time, effort and electricity. The fastest and easiest is to use a blender or stand mixer on a fairly low setting so as not to heat up the cream too much while agitating it (if the mixture does heat up too much during this process, it can be chilled and then agitated again).

I discovered this problem when I tried making butter with an American blender for the first time and the butter would never clot out. I was rather stumped at first because I knew that this blender was better than the very cheap Chinese blender I had been using. Then one day when I was too frustrated with the mess to clean it up right away, I just put the blender in the fridge for later. Much to my surprise I found butter floating on the top when I returned later to start lunch and on low agitation the rest easily clotted out. The higher powered blender was actually performing "too well" ironically enough.

This great blender method requires electricity but virtually no manpower. However if electricity is not available the are plenty of other ways to agitate cream. There is a variety of churns that are specifically designed to churn butter manually, but perhaps the simplest of set ups is filling a jar half full with cream and shaking it until the creams seizes and the butter clots out. Time required for agitation will vary by method and amount of cream from as little as 5 minutes to over a half hour.

The cream will go through a variety of stages during this process. It will slowly thicken and expand, like when making whipped cream, and then suddenly the mixture will seem thinner again as the butter separates out. When the mixture has turned to buttermilk with grains of butter floating in it you then carefully scrape as much butter as possible into a bowl and with a spoon or spatula press the grains together into a ball against the side of the bowl, squeezing out as much buttermilk as possible. This can be poured back into the other buttermilk and saved for use in cooking or baking.

Once you have squeezed as much buttermilk out as possible it is time to wash the ball of butter in very cold water to prevent the butter from quickly turning rancid. If the water is too warm it will cause the butter to melt and be washed away. Simply pour cold water into the bowl and knead the ball of butter in the water with a spoon or spatula and then discard the water. Repeat until the water is almost clear, usually about three times is sufficient. Press against the side of the bowl removing excess water, add salt to taste if desired, store in sealed container. The butter will obviously keep longer the colder the temperature it is stored at and freezes well for months. Although if you are freezing the butter you may wish to avoid adding salt until you want to use it because freezing it may intensify the saltiness.

Another interesting thing that I have learned along the way is that the yield of butter is proportional to the amount of cream used is related to how high the fat content of the cream is. This makes sense, but I didn't realize that different breads of cows yield different amounts of cream per gallon of milk. Also the cream itself may also have differing fat content. The higher the fat content the more butter produced. Very rich cream may yield butter up to half the volume of cream used, whereas lighter cream may yield less than one quarter of the volume.

No comments:

Post a Comment

If you are having difficulties posting a comment, try selecting Name/URL in the drop down box below (the URL is optional).


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...