As many youngsters are wont to do, when I was a kid I attended various pioneer days and historical reenactment scenarios where we used an old-fashioned churn to make butter. This happened in tandem with milking goats, pressing apple cider and making ugly corn husk dolls. But while the latter three things are better left to the professionals (except the dolls — no one wants those creepy things lying around), butter is something you can and definitely should make on your own. And don’t worry, that ancient wooden churn isn’t necessary at all. Here are eight solid reasons to back it up.
It’s Damn Easy
I recently attended a cheese-making class Denver, where I learned the craft of making mozzarella and butter. Oh, if only I had known how easy it was to make this creamy, fattening substance before I’d bought so much of it! All you need is a one-quart jar with a screw-top lid and a cup of heavy cream. Simply pour the cream into the jar, seal and let sit overnight (up to 24 hours). All that’s left to do after waiting is to shake that jar. Depending on how long you agitate the liquid, it should be done in about 10 minutes. You can also use a food processor to “churn” the butter instead. You’ll know it’s ready when the solids completely separate from the water, leaving you with a lump of ready-to-use golden butter and buttermilk. Strain the butter through a cheesecloth to drain off the last of the liquid, and enjoy the fruits of your minimal labor.
That watery stuff left in the jar after you have removed the glistening glob of butter is pure buttermilk. It’s not processed the way the goods at the supermarket are, so you can expect some slivers of shiny fat mixed in with the tangy, pale yellow liquid. This liquid gold is ideal for any recipe that calls for buttermilk. Use it in pancakes, make fried green tomatoes, spruce up your biscuits or simply drink as is for a healthy, refreshing treat. Whatever you do, don’t pour it down the drain.
It’s a Mini Workout
You have seen the commercial for Shake Weight, that wobbly dumbbell-looking item that somehow looks less than innocent on television. Fear not: No one will get the wrong idea as you shake your jar of cultured cream. And just think, with 10-plus minutes of vigorous shaking, your biceps, triceps and shoulders are sure to get a little toned.
Fun With Butter Molds
You don’t need an excuse to mold your butter into animal or other decorative shapes. A few manufacturers still make new butter molds, but some of the best can be found at antique stores, on eBay or by sifting though flea markets. And since your homemade butter is at perfect room temperature, all you have to do is scoop the stuff into the casing, press, refrigerate and serve!
You Get to Eat Fresh Butter!
People have been making butter for a documented 4,500-plus years, and there’s a reason for that. Have you ever tried fresh butter? It’s pretty life-changing. Smear the stuff on crackers, dip radishes in it, melt it on pancakes and use it to highlight the glory of fresh bread. There is just something about the flavor, salted to your exact preference, and the ease of using the butter at room temperature that proves oh so pleasing. It never has that sour, metallic freezer-burned flavor, and since it picks up cultures from the air, the butter always tastes a little bit like home.
Fun for the Whole Family
If you have a big family, get a bigger jar and make even more butter! Then when you sit down for a movie or game night, pass the jar around. That way everyone has a hand in making the butter, and no one gets too tired from all that shaking. After the shaking is done, use the finished product to butter a big bowl of popcorn.
Butter isn’t that expensive — it’s about $3 per pound at the wholesale level. Cream costs roughly $3.50 for 16 ounces, or less if you buy a larger carton. That means the price of making your own butter isn’t much more than buying it in the store, and often you can get organic cream cheaper than organic butter.
Let’s face it, if you serve freshly made butter at your next brunch or dinner gathering, your guests will be impressed. After all, they don’t necessarily know how easy it is to make. Top your butter with a little crunchy Maldon salt and really show off your culinary prowess, or bring a tub of the stuff to a potluck or holiday dinner with a great loaf of crusty bread. The hostess may have spent hours on the roast and pies, but everyone will be talking about that amazing homemade butter.