Preserving Know-how

Butter Me Up!

You may be wondering what butter making has to do with preserving? Well, I’m hoping to inspire you to try making it at home using the secret method of great butter. Fermentation!

For years, I have been on a mission to make good butter; something you might get in a small French café in Normandy. Maybe the dream was grandiose but still, I wanted to try. I read recipes, searched out non-homogenized herds, and bought expensive high butter fat cream. I made several batches. The results? Expensive and just okay.

Not long ago, I was reading “Cooks Illustrated” and saw a recipe for butter. I was shocked it called for pasteurized store-bought heavy cream (35%) (not ultra-filtered)! But I was intrigued by the recommended method. This recipe called for an initial period for fermentation (live culturing) before making the butter. Giving this process time to do its wonderful thing turned ho-hum butter into something really delicious.

In this recipe, stir 2 TBSP of buttermilk into 2 litres of heavy cream. Cover and rest on the counter for several days until the cream takes on a consistency of sour cream. This took 3 days, but ambient temperature will affect the timing. Using a stand mixer, food processor or even a hand mixer, whip the cream starting slowly and increasing speed. Warning: Cover the mixer or processor with plastic wrap because once the cream separates it sprays up like a volcano! Whip the cream for several minutes until the butter looks like butter surrounded by a milky liquid or “buttermilk”. Strain this off and use it for baking. It can be frozen. Fill a big bowl with ice and water and wash the butter to remove rancid causing milk solids. Dry off the butter and knead in ¼ tsp salt (optional). Voila! You have butter. I divided it into approximately ½ cup sticks, wrapped each in wax paper, put it in a freezer bag and popped it in the freezer.

Fermenting the cream for several days resulted in the best butter I’ve made. Okay, it’s not Normandy butter where the cows graze on grass kissed by the salt of the Atlantic, but this is darn good butter!

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