It’s not a hard thing to do. It’s not a souffle, a foam, or a gastrique. Pilgrims, Julia Child and Norma Lyon (I’m assuming) have done it. 3rd graders churn it on their annual field trip to the “farm”. Or at least, I did. It was part of an introduce the “Anglenos to bovine creatures” experiment. They attempt to repeat this every year at the L.A. County Fair.
Recently, my mom made butter from scratch. She went to a cooking class with her friend and brought back two logs of sweet butter. I started drooling. Then she went and got bread. Glorious bread from Il Fornaio. Perfect bread, crusty on the outside, chewy on the inside. Absolutely delicious plain, just as a slice of bread. But then we added the sweet butter.
I have been fortunate enough to eat great food. Food that makes you shut up and savor. Food that transports you somewhere awesome. I definitely haven’t eaten it all yet. I have a list of great restaurants to try and wonderful countries to visit that is a mile long. That said, I have yet to find a taste experience that beats wonderful bread with fresh butter.
It’s both simple and revolutionary, comforting and magical. It’s perfection in a bite. It’s breakfast, lunch, a snack, dinner. It’s dessert.
(adapted from Chef Martin Gilligan)
Yield: 6 ounces butter, 1 cup buttermilk
1 pint heavy cream
1/2 cup ice cold water with crushed ice cubes
optional flavorings (ie. salt, herbs, spices, preserves, etc)
-Put the cream in the bowl of a food processor. Process the cream until the butter begins to separate from the buttermilk and the butterfat granules are about half the size of a pea. This will take a couple minutes, it has to get past the “whipped cream” stage.
-With the machine running, pour in the iced water; the butter will immediately form a large mass. Quickly turn off the machine. Pour the entire contents into a cheesecloth-lined strainer set over a bowl and let drain for several minutes. (Buttermilk’s ready!)
-Grab the ends of the cheesecloth together and squeeze, pushing downward to extract as much additional buttermilk as possible; then unwrap the butter solids from the cheesecloth.
-Rinse the butter under cool running water, carefully kneading and folding the mass onto itself until the water runs clear. This is super important so your butter won’t have buttermilk run-off.
-Place the butter in a dry bowl and sprinkle with salt (see #5) (optional, I understand if you’re trying to watch the sodium intake). Using a firm spatula, repeatedly smear the butter against the side of the bowl to incorporate the salt and air. Pour off any additional liquid.
-Transfer the butter onto a piece of wax paper or plastic wrap and form it into a smooth-sided block or log. Refridge overnight before you use it.
Your (homemade!!) butter will keep for three weeks in the fridge or three months in the freezer.