For the past few weeks, the hubs and I have been getting our milk from a friend's coworker who raises grass-fed cows. Yep, this guy does it the right way: no weird hormones, no additives- just a bunch of smiling cows happily munching on good old-fashioned grass. Forget the fact that this produces healthier milk for us humans to drink and that it's a very PETA-friendly way to treat your pet bovines- the only thing I care about is how much better it tastes than the store-bought kind. I didn't even realize that store-bought, pasteurized milk had a funky aftertaste until I tried the real stuff (take that, Louis!). There's no going back, now! This, my friends, is milk done right!
As much as I looooove me some fresh mama cow juice, it gets better. The crown jewel of this un-homogenized goodness is the cream that rises ever-so-slowly to the top. After skimming the cream and imagining the dozens, nay, SCORES of ways I could transform it into something delectable, I decided to go all-out Little House on the Prairie and make butter... and boy, was it worth it!
Here comes my little confessional: I am embarrassed by how long it took me to actually make this butter. I am in no ways limited in my culinary skills, but for some reason, small things escape me from time to time when I'm making something incredibly simple and it ends up taking entirely too much time and effort. This was one of those times. All you have to do is agitate the cream for a bit until you see some cute little curdles start to form, and then just keep agitatin'! The little bit of useful information that I missed was that the cream needs to be cold. VERY cold. Colder than I anticipated, apparently.
I started with the shake-it-in-a-jar-until-your-arms-fall-off method, which didn't result in much more than frothy cream (perfect for hot chocolate or coffee, but not what I was going for). Then, I poured the cream into my kitchenaide and whipped it until I thouroughly exhausted the poor motor, but ended up with nothing more than whipped cream with an AMAZING consistency (again, very nice, but not butter!). At this point, about an hour into the process, I had pretty much given up on the butter and decided to experiment with the paddle attachment, which pretty much turned my lovely mound of whipped cream back into liquid, leaving me right where I started. Ugh.
I poured the cream back into the shaking jar and put it in the freezer to re-chill it while I tended to dinner. Thanks to my ever-present ADD and a really cool food blog I recently discovered, I ended up leaving the cream in the deep freeze about 20 minutes longer than I had planned, which turned out to be exactly what it needed. I started shaking the jar, and within just a few minutes, I had curdles; after another minute or two, I had a solid ball of butter sitting in buttermilk! And no, it didn't occur to me until this point that I would have fresh buttermilk as a byproduct! After a quick rinse in cold water and a pat-down with a clean paper towel, I finally had pure, unadulterated butter with which I plan to slather something warm and yeasty... or something with a more appealing description.
To make butter: Pour cold cream (use cream that is a few days old) into a large widemouth jar that leaves enough room for ample agitation and shake what your mama gave ya! After several minutes, you will start to see curdling- keep shakin'! A few more minutes will give you a solid ball of butter. Remove butter and rinse in a shallow bowl of very cold water by gently pressing the ball of butter while in the water. Drain water and repeat with fresh water until no more buttermilk is expelled (this prevents spoilage). Pat dry. Strain leftover buttermilk from jar through cheesecloth or very fine strainer and save for later baking use!
At this point, you can add salt or herbs to flavor the butter. I find that a tiny bit of salt enhances the flavor, but it's delicious as is. You can shape it into sticks or bars (or wild boars and unicorns, if you really want to), but whatever you do, make sure you keep it wrapped in wax paper or parchment paper to avoid absorption of any funky flavors or odors that happen to be lurking around your fridge.
So there you have it, dear reader- butter the way it should be. I leave you with an old Dutch proverb: Eat butter first, and eat it last, and live 'til a hundred years be past.