Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Better Butter

Never mind that I spent my post-Thanksgiving downtime catching up on a few accumulated Netflix, two of which just so happened to be about the business of food, Food Inc and King Corn, and nevermind that I am finding myself more and more tempted to get a backyard chicken coop for humanely-raised fresh eggs, especially after my sister sent me a link to this cute little number, the Eglu...

(Insert image of husband rolling eyes to the heavens. Chickens. In the backyard. Peckin' in the dirt with the cats. But hey, you really owe it to yourselves to try a non-commercially raised egg sometime in your life. There's just no comparison in yolk color, texture, and taste.)

...AND nevermind how shocking it was to find out about the way chickens, pork, beef and dairy cows are mass-raised, what they're fed and how they're treated, that I have the sudden urge to rethink some things around here. Not necessarily to go vegan, but at the very least to get more conscious about what we're buying, and eating.

It's no secret and I readily admit, I'm a sucker for good food, good cocktails. A good slather of butter on a thick slice of crusty paisano bread with coffee in the morning, (or with wine later in the day), is just about heaven to me. But after learning more about commercial dairy, I want to look for other options there too. It's not the fat that scares me. At this point it's the silent accumulation of hormones, antibiotics and pesticides that are fed to mass lots of cattle, and that somehow get more concentrated in high-fat products such as commercial butter, ice cream, half and half, cheese...

Hmmm...but what's a dairy-lover to do?

I've already been buying hormone-free milk products for a quite a while now. Rolling up my sleeves and bringing to life that inner "pioneer-homesteader woman" my husband labels me with so often, I get it in my brain that I'm going to try to make my own butter using a more sustainable cream. (Wow. Now that my book's done, I must have waaay too much time on my hands.)

And, what I found out is... couldn't be easier...

...and most importantly, it is most, but most, delicious.

Way delicious.

So check this out:

I started with 2 pints of organic hormone, antibiotic, pesticide-free heavy whipping cream, $1.69 ea (Love Trader Joes! I buy all my hormone-free milk products there.)

Whip it in your stand mixer just like you would for whip cream. Plain. No additives.

Whip it a little further and it starts to thicken.

Whip it further still and you start to see a graininess.

Keep going. It's getting thicker.

Notice the color deepens and you almost start to see little "curds" now. (This is just a few minutes past whipped cream.)

Thicker. More curds.

Curds begin to solidify and they're definitely separating from the whey now.

We got butter, baby.

Strain the butter, save the whey (aka "buttermilk") which can be used for baking, pancakes, oatmeal, mashed potatoes, what-have-you.

Look at all that buttery goodness.

Press down solids to remove all the liquid.

Now we "wash the butter" by returning butter to the mixer, adding clean filtered water and letting it slosh around.

Drain, scrape down, and repeat for several "washings" until the water pours off clear.

Butter baby! Clean, unadulterated butter.

I turned some with a bit of moist and crunchy Celtic Sea Salt. OMG. Take that on a slice of good bread! You won't be sorry.

A near pound of fresh chemical-free sweet organic butter, wrapped up in wax paper, for a mere $3.38 and a few laps around a stand mixer. This should last me a month. Should.

So. Worth. It!

Oh but the time, you say, I just don't have the time.

The whole thing took maybe 20 minutes start to finish and that was with stopping every few minutes to turn off the beater, clean my hands, and snap pix. (Next time, it won't take nearly as long, maybe 10 minutes. And I plan to experiment with other local organic creams.)

Then you need one of these: a beurrier. The Butter Bell. To keep it soft and spreadable. Stays fresh without refrigeration.

Isn't it funny to go so far forward, only to come back to basics. Progress.

So good. A butter you can feel good about. Better Butter.

* * *

For more on the "business" of food:

Watch Food, Inc instantly here.

Watch King Corn instantly here.

Time Mag: Getting Real About the High Cost Of Cheap Food,8599,1917458,00.html

Sustainable Dairy