Butter & Buttermilk

Making butter is one of those things that makes me happy to live in a modern age. As I quickly whip up a batch, I imagine my great-grandmother laboriously churning butter. In about 15 minutes, you can turn cream into fresh homemade butter. Plus you get buttermilk, which of course makes most baked things better. Who can resist that?

Here’s what you need.
Heavy cream (a pint will yield 1 cup of butter)
Salt (optional)

You can use a hand mixer or a stand mixer. I use a great stand mixer that my friend Karen gave us.

Dump the cream in the bowl.
Start whipping.

First the cream will turn into whipped cream. Then it starts to get stiff and looks like whipped butter. Keep whipping. The butter will turn a pale yellow, and liquid will separate from it. That’s the buttermilk. Once the butter starts to separate, watch out, it’s likely to splash out of the bowl. I use a large bowl and keep a towel close by.

Drain the buttermilk and store it for tomorrow’s pancakes (or maybe cornbread right now, yummm). Then, gently squeeze any excess buttermilk out of the butter. You can do this with a strainer lined with a cheese cloth or two wooden spoons. When using two spoons, press the butter between the spoons and squeeze out the buttermilk. You can also use your hands. Just be sure you don’t heat-up the butter too much. On a warm day, you may have to chill the butter between steps. You don’t want the butter to become too soft. The consistency should be somewhat firm.

If you plan to use the butter the same day you can stop here. If you like, add salt at this point gently mixing it into the butter.

If you want to store the butter (even for a couple of days), you’ll need to “wash” it.

To wash the butter, add about a cup of ice water to the butter. I add a tablespoon of sea salt to the ice water. This gives the butter a nice subtle salt taste. If you want it saltier, once the wash is finished, add salt directly to the butter.

Beat the butter with the ice water for a minute. Strain the butter from the liquid. Repeat adding and straining the ice water until the liquid rinsed from the butter is clear. Two times usually does the trick.

I find that homemade butter spoils quickly. When I make a batch, I only keep out what I plan to use in a day or two. I store the rest in the freezer. In both the fridge and the freezer, I make sure it is wrapped up tight.

Now slather some on the hot buttermilk cornbread you just made…