Monday, April 21, 2014

From Farm to Table Part 2: Butter Making

 The coolest thing about having access to a dairy, is that we can utilize so many things besides the milk. When we pasteurize milk, about once a week to once every week and a half, I know I'll be doing a little more than plugging in the pasteurizer and waiting for the bugs to be killed.

 The day following an evening of pasteurization, I skim the cream off the top of the milk. (Sometimes I have to do this first thing in the morning if I want a bowl of cereal for breakfast!) Because cows milk is not naturally homogenized and the home pasteurizer does not do this for us, any milk taken from the dairy will have the cream separate to the top. I'm not sure how long this process takes...I know it isn't very long, but I usually wait until the next morning to skim the cream.

Here is a jar of pasteurized milk with the cream on top. My camera isn't the greatest, but where my finger is marks the point where milk and cream separate. Everything above my finger is cream.

Due to the amount of cream, we do lose some of "amount" of milk we pasteurize. Like if Dan brings home one gallon of milk and we pasteurize it, after the cream separates and I skim it off, we now have less than one gallon of milk.

 To skim the cream, I take my super fancy 1/4 cup measuring cup skimming tool and skim my cream off the milk.

 I put the cream into pint jars and leave the cream to set out until the afternoon, since cream needs to be at room temperature to make butter. (I'm not sure why... the book I have on butter making and the instructions that came with the butter churn said so.)

 I skim the cream off until it looks like I have gotten it all. In the end, I never get ALL the cream. There is always a thin layer of it in the jars of milk, so every time we pour milk to use, we have to shake the jar first to distribute it back out.

 There is more than one way to make butter. The two ways I have done it are by putting the cream into a larger jar with a secure lid and shaking it until the butter appears, or when I get the right amount of cream, using the electric butter churn. This way is so much easier with a 10 month old! I can just plug in the churn and go about my business. When you make butter in a jar, you have to constantly shake the jar. Butter can't be made with a little bit of shaking and a little bit of resting. There are good video tutorials on Youtube on how to make butter in a jar.

  When I make butter in the electric butter churn, I need at LEAST 3 pints of cream. This is because the arm on the churn won't reach the cream if there is any less inside. I think the butter churn I have can hold 2 gallons of cream! One day, I would LOVE to try and churn that amount.

  For the electric butter churn, all I do is pour in the cream, secure the lid with the arm and motor on top, then plug it in! After about 20 minutes or so, I can see butter forming!

From here on out, no matter how the butter is made, I believe the steps are about the same.

 I have read that after the butter forms, it's good to let it sit for 5 or 10 minutes to let the butter keep forming. After that, it's time to separate the butter from what I THINK, is the buttermilk.

 I do this step in the kitchen sink. I place a large bowl under a strainer so the strainer catches the butter and bowl underneath catches the "buttermilk".

After that, it's important to remove the bowl of "buttermilk" from under the strainer. I pretty much always forget this part. I say that because next, the butter needs to be rinsed with cold water. I was nervous doing this step the first time because when the butter come out of the churn it is very smooth and creamy. You'd think that if you ran water over it the butter would wash away. Now it's my favorite step because it helps the butter become more solid! (FYI - it takes a lot of cream for a little butter!)

Once the butter has been rinsed you have to press the remaining water out and get out as much water as you can.

 Now I was always under the impression that what you squeezed out of the butter during this step is the buttermilk, but you need a lot of butter to get any amount of buttermilk if this is true. I don't know for sure, so again, please don't use what I say as fact!

 This is when you can add salt to the butter, or honey, garlic, cinnamon, whatever you want! I sometimes add a little bit of salt because I read it helps it keep a longer shelf life.

  The only thing left to do is put the butter into a storage container! Fresh butter is good for a week or a little longer in the fridge! It's not recommended to let it sit on the kitchen table or something. I usually take whatever is left and freeze it to save for baking.

   There you have it! All that work for fresh butter! See how weird I am...I often wonder why I do things this way when the grocery store is easier! But I can't help but marvel how milk being brought home from the farm has turned into fresh drinking milk and now butter...and lets not forget that bowl of buttermilk!

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