From udder to butter: how to make butter

Posted: January 31, 2013 in Urban farming

Recently, we thought about the extra milk we’ve been freezing and came to the conclusion that rather than freeze for a later day, maybe we should do something with our extra milk now.  It’s hard earned.  We don’t go off to the market to get our milk.  We, mostly Ken, squeeze it out of Buttercup, once, lately twice, a week.  The milk is superior but every bit as expensive as if we’d bought the good stuff at Mother’s.  Well, maybe not.  After all, our milk barely crosses city lines and is still warm once it arrives at the house.  And it is unprocessed in any way, until we run it through cheesecloth.  Buttercup’s milk smells and tastes unlike pasteurized milk bought at the store.  It’s not even quite like raw milk bought at the store.  The mostly lactose intolerant residents of the OC Metro Farm have no trouble at all with Buttercup milk.  But, maybe we could do more.

So, butter.  Until we decided to make butter, I did not even know from whence buttermilk came.  It was a drink my grandmother loved all her life.  When they were kids, my mom would swap out my Uncle Phil’s milk for my grandmother’s buttermilk before dinner.  He’d run to the table and in one swig down his entire glass of milk.  And sometimes it would be my grandmother’s thin, sour buttermilk instead of the full fat milk he’d been expecting.  And my mom would be treated to the grand prize-buttermilk would squirt out of my uncle’s nose as he sputtered and coughed.  And yes, this is what she was trying to accomplish.  Buttermilk is great in pancakes, in some breads, for cooking in general.  But, what is it?  As it turns out, buttermilk is what is left from the production of butter.  Hmm.  I can use butter and buttermilk!  Butter is produced from the cream of the milk, but I like lower fat milk, too.  A process with no waste, no product made that is not desired.  How can we not try it?

Step 1:  Separate the cream. (This could be done with raw milk bought at the store, as well as the fresh milk we get every Tuesday.)  We put the milk in a wide mouth Tupperware and let it sit for two days.  After two days, there will be a clear line between the cream and the milk.

Cream atop the milk

Step 2:  Spoon the cream carefully off and put into a food processor.  I’ve read you can shake a jar, but I adore my food processor and it works just fine for making butter.

The cream should stick to the ladle a bit.  This ladle had been sitting for almost 10 seconds before the photo was taken.

The cream should stick to the ladle a bit. This ladle had been sitting for almost 10 seconds before the photo was taken.

Step 3:  Blend the bejeezus out of it.  Some add a little salt at this point.  I like to cook with unsalted butter, so we never have tried adding salt.  Stop when it looks like the next photo.  It will take longer if the cream is cold, but who wants to leave raw milk sitting out?

Note the little clumps of butter?

Note the little clumps of butter?

Step 4:  Using a spoon, remove the butter clumps from the buttermilk and drop onto cheesecloth in a colander.  I like to have 4 layers of cheese cloth lining a small colander.

Draining the butter

Step 5:  Gently, squeeze out the excess buttermilk.   I set my buttermilk aside for use in pancakes and Irish soda bread.  Transfer the butter to a dish and refrigerate.  The now less fatty milk is excellent.

Lower fat milk, buttermilk, and unsalted butter.  No waste, all good.

Lower fat milk, buttermilk, and unsalted butter. No waste, all good.

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