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The Green Dish: Make Butter

The Green Dish: Make Butter

I have to say, the comments left for the introduction of The Green Dish were very touching! I knew that I wasn’t the only city mouse playing country life, but it was so nice to hear from those of you paddling around in the same boat. Also lovely to hear from those of you in the country, and just nice to hear from all of you. Thank you! Your comments gave me inspiration. And what do I do when feeling inspired? Make butter, of course!

When I was a kid I loved butter so much that my older sisters could easily trick me into eating a handful of softened soap from the soggy soap dish by simply suggesting to me that it was butter. (And yes, I have forgiven them.) My love of butter surely persists, but I have managed to stop eating it by the scoop.

In my neighborhood there is a growing number of fancy food stores, but I haven’t found a knock-my-socks-off butter at any of them. I keep spending too much money on the butter that will sweep me off my feet, like I know butter has the potential to do, but butter after butter: Disappointment.

So where does the girl seeking butter bliss turn? Her trusty stand mixer, that’s where! Chances are that I am not going to make butter any better than a gourmet butter company can, right? Well, no and yes. It may not be that much better, if even at all, but it will be my butter, and pride can be a really remarkable flavor enhancer.

At my local greenmarket there is a dairy farm stand that provides us with lovely, non-homogenized, minimally pasteurized, chemical-free milk. I have been to the farm to visit the beguiling bevy of cows. They were rambling around and chomping grass. They seemed happy. (I am projecting here, of course, I can’t possibly know what makes a cow happy.) I get glass quarts of milk for my family from this farm stand weekly and last Saturday I grabbed a pint of heavy cream too.

Now you know, I always imagined making butter to be an incredibly labor-intensive process: Many steps, lots of work. And if I were wearing calico and churning on the porch while watching Laura and Mary frolicking in the wheat field, it would have clearly taken some elbow grease. But with my KitchenAid, no tired arms did I experience, and the simplicity of it all was very surprising. (You don’t need a stand mixer, you can also use a food processor or a hand mixer.) It was like, pour in the cream, whip, mush it around, presto-chango: Butter. It’s so insanely easy, so why don’t we all make our own butter?

As for the result, well, my youngest daughter was scooping, and beyond swooning (genetics). And I think I even spied a flinch of pleasure from my butter-sneaking husband. It was really good. Sweet with the subtlest tang; round and creamy. It brought a flash of pastures, the smell of grass, and fresh breezy air to me. I think I have finally found my butter.

Make Butter:

Bring heavy cream to around 50F degrees, this took about 30 minutes out at room temperature for me.

Pour cream into the bowl of a stand mixer, cover top with shield, plastic or a dish towel. Really, do this or you will be wiping buttermilk spray from your kitchen ceiling. Whip with whisk attachment on medium-high for about five minutes, beyond the stiff peaks of whipped cream, until you can see that the fat has separated from the liquid. Alternatively, you can use a food processor or hand mixer.

Pour over a strainer into a bowl, and knead the butter to release more liquid. (This will make your hands very soft and give them a deep buttery flavor until you shower, which is kind of lovely, but can get a little gross after a while.)

When butter stops releasing liquid and feels so creamy—voila!

Save the liquid “buttermilk!” and drink or use for cooking.

Salt if you like (guilty non-local eco-sin confession: I added Himalayan pink salt).

Scoop with your fingers, experience weak knees.

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.


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3:23PM PDT on Jul 9, 2013


11:37AM PDT on Jul 9, 2013

Interesting. Thank you.

9:27AM PDT on Jul 9, 2013


1:06AM PDT on Sep 8, 2011

Great idea. Thanks for sharing.

2:11PM PDT on Apr 25, 2010

Wow, how neat! I am definitely going to try this.

7:10PM PDT on Apr 18, 2010

Like others, I used a clean mayonaise jar. Just shake until the cream separates and becomes butter. Add salt. Pass around and let the kids help. Great activity for holidays with kids, or summer picnics.

2:46PM PDT on Apr 18, 2010

Sounds like a project for my daughter next weekend.

9:28PM PDT on Jun 8, 2009

Aww, I do this all the time! I don't even bother eating up the cream. The easiest thing in the world!

4:36PM PDT on Apr 25, 2008

This is WONDERFUL!!!! I had my Grandson put some heavy cream in an empty baby food jar about 4 years ago. He was 9 and he loved watching the cream turn into butter as he shook it. We had it with rolls with our Easter dinner! What a memory, thank-you!

7:51AM PDT on Apr 24, 2008

Do you know, in India, butter is home made in most of the houses. People here still are able to get fresh milk, milked the very same morning and delivered right then to the homes.
Of course, it's not pasteurized, so what do we do? We boil it of course! And when it cools, there is a thick (and mostly thin, as the milkman adds some water to his milk to get some good profit! LOL) layer of cream, that we call malai. This is separated once the milk is cooled and day by day it is collected. (thanks to the refrigerator) At the end of the week, we take it out, plonk it into a mixer, add warm water and churn. And there is our supply of butter! I'm glad the American women are now learning to enjoy the goodness of home made butter. Sadly, urban Indian women are getting too caught up with the hectic city life and have to let go of the practice. Cartons of milk and slabs of yellow, salted butter are slowly but gradually replacing the fresh and home made version. Sad, but that's the way it is.

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Wheel pose and bad back. I don't think they go together.

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