Sunday, December 09, 2012

spinning into butter

Hello? Is this thing on?

Well! I have a blog! It's been increasingly difficult to find any good time to update, but in the meantime, I present to you a home food project that is so unbelievably easy and satisfying to accomplish it's going to make you feel like a magician. If you follow my Twitter or Facebook you've probably heard me yammering about the weekend after Thanksgiving, but for those of you blog purists out there, I'm talking about making your own butter.

Did you know you can make your own butter? You can! And you don't even need any special tools! Seriously, this is probably just Food Science 101, but butter is just one of those things I have only considered buying from the store in stick form--I'd heard of churning your own butter, of course, but why bother, it seemed (most likely) cumbersome and thankless.  And anyway, who the hell am I, Laura Ingalls Wilder?

Apparently, yes. I tried this two weekends ago, and it was such a fantastic trick, I did it again yesterday. And this time I took pictures!

What you will need:

- One quart of heavy cream (just the supermarket brand is fine)
- One large jar with a screw-top lid
- Some salt

So. Get the heavy cream out of the fridge and let it sit until it comes to room temperature. (This makes the process go faster, I think.) Pour it into your jar. Screw the lid on.

Shake that mother.

See, this is the part where I thought, "What a fun project for the kids! I should get them involved and they too will share in the wonders of food science and creation and it will be so wholesome we'll just be high-fiving and group hugging forever!"

(The reality of it is that Cal shook the jar for, like, five seconds, and when the cream didn't instantly transform into a blob of butter he handed it back to me, told me encouragingly to keep up the good work and let me know when it was ready, before scurrying down to get in his weekend allowance time of frying his eyeballs playing Super Mario Brothers on the Wii. CHILDLIKE WONDER, AM I RIGHT?)

Making butter doesn't take a long long time, but it takes at least 10 or 15 minutes of shaking that jar. And at first, you're going to feel like nothing is happening, because the cream is just going to get thick and a little frothy, at which point it's not going to feel like you're agitating much in the jar at all. (Truth be told--my arms got tired and I took a little break midway through. Probably it would have gone faster with a blender or food processor, but what's the fun in that? In the low-tech lies the fun. WE'RE SHAKING JARS ALL UP IN THIS PIECE.)

Just when you're about to give up and call the supermarket about the DEFECTIVE CREAM that they sold you, the contents of the jar start to...loosen up.  Suddenly your silent thick jar contents will start to sound like sploosh sploosh SPLOOSH and you will look inside your jar to see that lo, butter is separating from the buttermilk.  SCIENCE IS HAPPENING.  Keep shaking for another few minutes, until you get a nice big butter core all teased out.

Pour the jar contents through a strainer, and save the buttermilk if you want (you'll end up with about a cup) to make other things.  What other things?  I don't know.  Things.  Or save it to bathe your prize-winning pig with, like in Charlotte's Web.

Rinse the butter with cold water (cold so you don't melt it) and squoosh it around to get the excess buttermilk and water out.

Mix in some salt if you like.  Or other flavors!  I thought a salt-rosemary butter would be super fancy, but I wanted the kids to eat it and was worried they'd protest against butter with "things" in it.

You'll end up with a tennis ball sized glob of soft, fluffy butter.  Put a lid on it, stick it in the fridge, smear it on everything, unless you're one of those health food nuts that thinks a little butter is going to kill you--in that case, give the container to someone that you hate.

You made butter!

(Yes, that smug feeling afterwards is normal.)