Monday, January 25, 2010

Butter - Tradition with Cooking

Mmmmm, butter! That's the first thing I must say. Honestly who doesn't love it?

If you follow what many "health experts" are saying today, then you most likely avoid this delicious item, but if you dig a little deeper you can find a wealth of information on how healthy it can truly be and the necessity of it and similar items in our diet.

Butter made from organic, grass fed, and if possible, raw milk can be extremely nutritional. Check out these great articles from the Weston A. Price Foundation on this very subject, Why Butter is Better and The Skinny of Fats. It's only been in the latter part of the 20th century that we began the cursed low-fat diets. Interestingly enough, some of these diets began with the aim for a healthier nation, but instead we have become sicker as high cholesterol, heart disease, cancer and so forth have become rampant. Butter is of course not the cure all, but it's the first tiny, tiny step into reclaiming a healthy body.

Since butter is used in so many recipes and the majority of us love it, I saw this as a great place to start when talking about how to get back to traditional cooking. It's not so long ago that butter would have always been made in the home, however, with the convenience of super markets, we've all but lost how to make the most basic items in our kitchens. One of the great things about making butter at home is you get the awesome byproduct buttermilk. Another wonderful addition to many recipes and an essential item when cooking with traditional methods.

I must confess that I don't make butter on a regular basis, but as I've been exploring ways to cut my costs at the local co-op and keep the healthiest food around for my family, I realized cutting out the middle man and making my butter at home is just one small step I can take. Through the spring, summer and fall I'm blessed with a farmer who provides me with the most delicious, organic milk and cream that comes from cows that are exclusively grass fed, but winter brings a stop to that little blessing and instead I'm off to the co-op for my cream and milk.

When buying cream, always start with the best and just because it's organic doesn't mean that's the case. Much of the mega-organic milk farms ultra-pasteurize their cream, killing all the wonderful health benefits of the cream. Try to look for cream that has been vat-pasteurized instead (this means the cream has been heated to a lower temperature then when it's
ultra-pasteurized). Also, try to get cream from 100% grass-fed cows. I won't go into all the reasons now, but cows' bodies don't digest well the soy and corn the typical farms feed their cattle and this creates its own set of health issues. Finally, cream is always better in glass. Cream in any other container can run the risk of having extremely unhealthy chemicals leaching into it, plus you often get a much better flavor. If you live in the Twin Cities area then you are lucky to have some choices in the type of milk/cream you purchase. There are a number of farmers you can purchase milk directly from or visit one of the many local co-ops to see the variety of creams and milks they sell.

Now, back to butter, oh and how to make it! First, it's easy!!!! Second, if you have kids, even young ones (my two year old helped me make my latest batch), call them into the kitchen and have some fun teaching them something new.

Step 1: Get your ingredients together and grab a couple basic items.
Little is needed to make butter. A large and a small mixing bowl, a hand mixer, a wooden spoon, a wire mesh strainer or even cheese cloth and containers to store the butter and buttermilk in. Oh and don't forget some delicious cream and a bit of salt, preferably sea or Himalayan salt for the extra minerals.

Step 2: Add a pint of cream and approximately a 1/2 teaspoon of salt, more or less depending on your taste buds, to the large mixing bowl and start whipping it on high! Told you it was easy. Have you ever made whip cream at home and accidentally over beat it until you had something kind of between whip cream and butter, well this time you are on track if that's what your cream is starting to look like. Depending on the strength of your hand mixer this may take a while, 5-10 minutes. If you have a food processor, it's even easier. Fit it with the metal blade and start whipping until the butter has formed.

Below is a picture of what you should be looking for when you are getting close to being done. Note that the buttermilk naturally begins to separate itself.

Step 3: Pour the buttermilk that is already in the bowl through a metal strainer or cheese cloth into the small mixing bowl. Then using your wooden spoon, start to press out any additional buttermilk that may still be lingering. Empty your bowl of the buttermilk and then press again. You'll likely have to do this several times to remove all of the buttermilk.

Step 4: Pat your butter into a ball and rinse in some cold water. Finally dry it off with a little paper towel and just like that, you're finished! You can store your butter in the fridge or for long term in the freezer. ENJOY!


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