Thursday, October 3, 2013
There are some food trends I may never fully understand. Take Cronuts for example or molecular gastronomy. Layers of deep-fried croissant pastry or liquid nitrogen in my food, nope not for me, thanks.
But there is a trend that's gaining more and more momentum as the years go by that's totally in line with me and my beliefs and that's the art of making real food from scratch. Nothing makes me happier than seeing people get excited about something that is essentially how things were just done back in the day before we stuffed things up and started mass producing everything in a bid to make our lives easier. Homemade bread, pasta, yoghurt and cheese are now things that people are trying their hands at once again. While kombucha, kefir and kimchi are all words many wouldn't have even heard of 10 years ago but are now talked about with great passion and excitement by those who make their own. But you know the simplest and possibly the most beautiful thing to make from scratch? You guessed it, butter.
Butter in its simplest form is just the pure delicious creamy fat from cow's milk, although there's nothing stopping you from making it from cream from another animal if it's available to you too! I know yak butter is the butter of choice in Tibet, although I'm not sure I could keep down a steaming hot mug of their famous yak butter tea... just quietly.
Now that we tolerate dairy in small amounts I've got into the habit of buying a little jar of non-homogenised cream on our weekend trip to the markets, and bringing it home to make my own butter. It couldn't be any easier, so easy in fact that my daughter and her kindergarten class made some the old fashion way in a glass jar back when she was only 3. But why, you ask, would one go to the trouble of making something at home when it's just so easy to just pop down to the shops and buy some. Fair call. Especially given that unlike many things we make from scratch in a bid to save us money, making butter at home doesn't work out any cheaper than buying... but it's all in the taste. Nothing compares to the creamy, pure unadulterated taste of freshly made butter. It's that simple, and it's beyond worth every moment it takes to make it from scratch.
If you've never made butter before, I'm sure you've at least come close. We've all been there, whipping the cream supposedly to soft peaks, we turn away for a second only to come back to over-whipped and separated cream. Rather than getting upset, I say just keep going and make butter instead. All you need is cream, any will do. But like with most things, the nicer the starting product the better the end product will be. You can go the traditional route by pouring the cream into a large glass jar, adding a little marble to help things along and be prepared to shake things all around for a good 15-20 minutes or so until the cream separates into fat (butter) and buttermilk. Or you can take the easy and much faster way and use a blender, which is what I do. From start to finish it only takes a matter of minutes. As you beat the cream it starts to thicken as we all know, it then gets grainy as the fat starts to separate out. Before you know it the mixture has separated into little yellow blobs of butter and a cloudy watery liquid (buttermilk) is left behind. You then need to strain the buttermilk off (this can be used in baking or drink it straight up), and rinse the butter until the water runs clear. This ensures you get rid of any traces of buttermilk which would quickly turn your butter rancid. You can then mix in a little sea salt or if you're feeling a little bit fancy you can take things one step further and add flavourings to your butter, such as orange zest and cinnamon or rosemary and lemon zest. I only make small batches and keep it in the fridge, but if you don't go through as much butter in your house as we do, you can always portion it into little pieces and freeze for later use.
I don't tend to bake with this beautiful homemade butter, and instead reserve it for things like smearing onto freshly made pikelets straight from the pan, or mixed with a little finely chopped garlic, flat leaf parsley and lemon zest to spread thickly over hot toast.
I use beautiful local un-homoganised Sunnydale Dairy whipping cream, which I pick up from the farmers markets. It's rich in A2 beta-casein protein which is gentler on your stomach. But any whipping cream can be used.
Makes 250g + 150ml buttermilk
500ml fresh whipping cream
pinch fine sea salt, if desired
Place cream into a small blender (I use the little blender attachment from my stick blender). Blend for approximately 1-1 1/2 minutes or until the fat has separated and you'll see a cloudy liquid in the bottom of the bowl. You may need to stop once or twice to scrape down the sides and help move things around a little to make sure it's blending evenly. Pour the contents of the blender into a sieve-lined bowl. Using your hands, gently squeeze and knead the butter to extract as much buttermilk as you can (reserve this for another use, it will keep in a glass jar in the fridge for up to 3 days or frozen for longer). Fill a bowl with fresh cold water and place the blob of butter into it. Knead and squeeze the butter some more in the water to remove all traces of buttermilk from it. Drain and repeat again, until the water stays clear. Drain well.
You can place the blob of butter into a cloth and squeeze it to remove any traces of water, or just do as I do and knead it in your hands a little more until you no longer see or feel little pockets of water. If you'd like to add a little salt, you can do so now, to taste. Or flavour with whatever else you like if you're feeling fancy. Store in an airtight container in the fridge or portion into small blocks and freeze in zip-lock bags for later use.
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