When the Damsel thought about old skills that no one seems to use anymore, one of the first things she thought about was making butter.
Since it’s so easy, today’s Old School class will teach that skill. Because today, well, we need Easy. It’s one of those days.
Why would you want to make butter? It is a little cheaper than buying it, but not that much. Storebought butter doesn’t taste nasty. So why, Damsel? Why?
The Damsel thinks this is one of those things that is good to know. Maybe someday you’ll need this skill. Maybe you’ll have no butter and there will be this lonely piece of bread…and well, it’s too awful to even think about.
But honestly, it’s so easy with an electric mixer, and it’s actually pretty fun. Kids love it.
You need only one ingredient. Heavy cream. Or whipping cream. For these purposes, it’s pretty much the same thing.
Pour the cream into your mixer bowl that’s been armed with whisks. Someone told the Damsel it’s best if the cream is 60-65 degrees, but she didn’t get that fancy. She took it out of the refrigerator and called it good. She used a quart but you can use whatever amount you want.
Turn it on, nice and whisky. The Damsel cranked it as high as her mixer would go because she hates waiting.
The cream will start thickening, as in turning into “whipped cream” but you can’t stop now and start spooning it on strawberries. Not if you want butter.
After several minutes, depending on the phase of the moon and whether you have a lucky four-leaf clover, the whipped cream will get really stiff. Then it will change consistency, sort of mealy looking…and then watch out because suddenly…
…the whipped cream turns into butter globs, with a bunch of liquidy stuff in the bottom. Why the “watch out?” Because you were hovering over the mixer, watching the magic, and when it turned to butter you got splattered in the face by the liquidy stuff. Now, class. Guess what the liquidy stuff is? Yesssss! Buttermilk! That’s really what buttermilk is. Cool, eh?
You could stop right now and eat it as is. But, to make it last longer without going rancid, it’s best to wash as much of the buttermilk out of the butter as possible.
The Damsel switched to her bread hooks for the washing process, because the butter is hard to get out of the whisks.
Now squish the butter to one side, trying to get it into one piece as much as possible.
Pour the buttermilk off into a container to save it. It’s great for any recipe calling for buttermilk. The Damsel has heard there are people who like to drink it but she is working on not being judgemental and won’t say more about that.
Pour in some ice water..maybe a half cup or so, and turn the mixer back on for a few seconds. The water will become milky as it washes additional buttermilk out of the butter. Pour that off (you could save this or throw it out since it’s mostly water now). Repeat a time or two until the water is mostly clear.
Some folks rinse the butter under running water, squeeze it in a clean cloth, or other ways of getting more of the buttermilk out. But the Damsel just does it this way because the butter’s already in the mixer and it’s easy.
Dry it with paper towels and ta da, you have butter. Unsalted butter. If you’d like salted butter you can add salt, roughly 1/4 tsp per cup of cream, at pretty much any point in the process, even after it’s done. Just work it in.
You’ll get roughly half the volume in butter that you had in cream.
Here’s an idea for a kids’ activity. Pour cream into a pint jar with a very tight lid. You could even use a ziplock bag. Have the kids take turns shaking the jar as vigorously as they can. One scenario would be to do this while the kids are sitting listening to a story (a pioneer story, perhaps?) or some such, because it will take A. While. But they love it when butter magically appears. Fun!