My Norwegian grandfather had something of a love affair with butter; he loved a pool in which to cook an egg or some hash, or a thick smear on toast. But mostly, it was his tableside companion at every home-cooked dinner I can remember eating with him, and he was not shy with it. A dinnertime ritual, stick of soft butter at his side, he would take a swipe of butter for his roll, cloverleaf or farmhouse, a drag through the gravy, pheasant or duck, and pop the mouthful into his gob, happy as a lad. He ate the better part of the stick. I always had the chair next to him, and I can remember being acutely aware of the butter, the generous sweep, his mouth full of butter, and another dip, and another, the roll disappearing, and the butter stick a little smaller with every bite. He would have loved this recipe.
I haven’t made butter since I was a schoolgirl, and I can remember the first time I did quite vividly. We shook little jars filled with cream until it separated into butter and buttermilk, and I was spellbound. It’s funny, really, the small moments that we remember. I can tell you the rules around the graham crackers and milk we ate at nursery school, about the details of the first fig cookie I ever ate, too.
I was ordering some cookie molds last month, to use next Christmas, when I saw this butter mold. It was so charming, and brought back memories of the excitement of making that butter. Gene Wilson hand-carves each of his beautiful wooden molds, and they are quite simple to use. I highly recommend them. Their details are lovely.
You could make butter by simply separating cream in a food processor, or even in a jar shaken vigorously. But I decided to try cultured butter after seeing it on the Playing With Fire and Water blog. There are excellent step-by-step photos of the process on Chef Linda’s blog. Cultured butter is made by introducing a culture, here the live culture in buttermilk, and by ripening the cream. Culturing creates a subtle flavor profile which intensifies the taste of the butter and creates a lovely, creamy mouthfeel. As it has a higher percentage of butterfat and no added water, it ideal for pastry such as laminated doughs. Of course, I think it’s ideal on a piece of toast or a stack of hot pancakes, too. I think I’ll make some tomorrow! Mmmm.
Note: These photographs are unaltered. I used Cedar Summit Farms’ incredible cream, and the resulting butter really is this lovely soft yellow.
Adapted from the Playing With Fire and Water blog
Yield: about one cup of butter and two cups of buttermilk
3 c. heavy cream (not ultrapasteurized) (I love Cedar Summit Farms.)
1 c. buttermilk with live cultures
- Pour the cream and buttermilk into a medium bowl and cover loosely with a draped piece of aluminum foil.
- Let the cream sit at room temperature until thickened, about 12 to 24 hours
- Cover the bowl tightly with cellophane and refrigerate for 8-12 hours.
- Chill the bowl and blade of a food processor in the refrigerator for an hour.
- In the bowl of a food processor, process the cream until the butter separates from the buttermilk. Pay close attention to the process, and stop as soon as you see the buttermilk separate.
- Separate the butter from the buttermilk by pouring it through a fine-mesh strainer placed over a medium bowl.
- Fill a large bowl with ice and water.
- In a medium bowl, place one cup of ice-cold water and the butter. Press the butter to remove as much buttermilk as possible.
- Pour off the milky water and replace it with another cup of ice-cold water.
- Continue this process until the butter is creamy and the water is increasingly clear.
- Pour off the last of the water.
- With a wooden spoon or paddle, work the butter in a folding motion until it is smooth and creamy.
- Place the butter on several layers of cheesecloth or an immaculately clean and tightly woven kitchen towel. Press the butter once or twice.
Your butter is ready to be used or molded. It will keep in the refrigerator for about five days.
Butter Mold Tips
- To mold the butter in a hand-carved wooden mold, place the mold into the freezer for 30 minutes.
- Line a shallow container or a very small bowl with cellophane. I used a glass dessert cup.
- Press the butter into the container and press the mold into the butter.
- Refrigerate or freeze the butter and mold for about 30 minutes.
- Using the point of a sharp knife, pry the mold from the butter.
- Remove the butter from the container and pull away the cellophane. You may smooth any rough edges with a knife warmed under hot water.