Very Basic Buttermaking
A while back Lambert asked me to contribute a series on butter and cheese making. I got distracted with real life (PhD finshing) and so put it off for a bit, but decided this rainy morning was a good time to start. My favorite doe, Miss Mack, gave birth to 3 doelings late last night, and I'm still up from the excitement of that. For about the first 10 or 12 hours after they are born, I have to check on them every 90 minutes or so. Can't help myself. They are cuteness personified. Anyway...
First, some of my credentials for butter and cheesemaking. I run a very small goat dairy, populated by very small goats (Nigerian Dwarves), in WA state. I have been making cheese and butter for about 5 years now. I've taken several classes, some taught by world famous 'artisanal' cheesemakers. I do not, currently, sell my cheeses because that would be illegal. I do barter however.
The most minimal equipment needed to make butter:
very clean mason jar with lid
clean low-sided bowl and spoon
fresh cold water
Ingredients for Butter:
cream: You can buy heavy whipping cream (which will have been ultra-pasteurized) from the super market for this. If you can get cream straight from the cow/goat/sheep/buffalo/horse/camel more power to you. You can also get creamtop milk in some places. This is pasteurized but not homogenized. You can then skim off the cream to make butter and use the milk to make cheese.
buttermilk: This will provide more flavor, like European butter. It'll also allow the butter to age, and get more flavorful over time. Get the cultured kind, the kind with live culture.
salt: Use non-iodine salt. This is generally pickling or kosher salt. Iodine will kill all the little beasties that make the flavor.
Put the cream into your mason jar.
Let the cream sit out for at least several hours, or even a day, at room temperature, about 65-70 F. When you set it out to sit, add in a bit of buttermilk if you want to culture in some extra flavor. Ultra pasteurized cream will not have any flavor without the buttermilk. Generally I'd add about 1 Tbls of buttermilk to each cup or pint of cream. If you are using raw cream you don't need the buttermilk.
The sitting out is important, because this allows the beasties in the buttermilk (or raw milk) to grow and sour the cream some. This is what gives some flavor. If you are using straight pasteurized cream, sitting out will not be important since there's nothing to grow, but do let it get to room temp or a bit below, as temperature is important for the coagulating of the cream.
Once the sitting time is over (I tell by sniffing. It still smells like fresh cream but there's something else there too) start shaking the mason jar. Have the lid screwed down tight. I use plastic lids that you can buy to replace the two piece canning lids that usually go on the jar. Anyway, shake. Hand it to your partner and have them shake it. Kids can shake, everyone can shake. Shake.
If the cream was cultured really well the butter will come quite quickly, sometimes within minutes (with the raw milk cream from my goats). Sometimes it'll take longer. Your arms might hurt a bit :). Suddenly while shaking you'll notice the cream moves different in the jar. It seems like it's coating the sides, thickly. Then just as suddenly the cream will be gone, and there will be a big lump of butter, careening around in the jar in a small amount of buttermilk. It'll thump and stick to the sides. Shake it a few more times and then drain off the buttermilk (save it, use it in cooking bisquits, pancakes, making bread, soups, stews, or starting cheese!).
Put the lump of butter into your clean low-sided bowl. I use a blue enamelled bowl, so I can easily see colors and clarity. Using fresh very cold water (if your water is chlorinated I might think of using bottled water) wash the butter. Basically, pour some water into the bowl and using the spoon knead and mash the butter back and forth. The water will instantly become whitish. Pour it off, and add more water. Knead and mash some more. Keep repeating this process until the water is clear. This process gets out the buttermilk which'll cause the butter to sour and turn rancid over time.
Once the water runs clear pour it off and knead the butter a bit more. You'll notice it's getting stiffer as you do this. Try and get all the water out. Then add a pinch or two of salt (if you want your butter salted). You can taste it a bit to see how salty you want it, if at all. It'll last longer with the salt.
You can use it right away, or put it into a sealed container in the fridge, or freeze it. If you used raw milk cream or added buttermilk to get some culture the butter will continue to age in the fridge and eventually turn into a very very high fat cheese like product.
You can do away with the shaking by using a kitchenaid or other kind of mixer. However, I've found that this process is not as easy as the jar, and it's too easy to let it get past the butter stage and ruin it. On the other hand, you sure do save your arm muscles.