Growing up, one of the earliest things The Mammy would let us do in the kitchen was whip a bit of cream, most likely to top the trifle at Christmas time. It’s not a difficult job but it’s easy enough to screw up if you’re not paying attention. I can remember still using the non-electrical hand-crank whisk. Wow. I was at Hill’s Kitchen in Eastern Market not too long ago, drooling over all the pretty and colorful things I can’t afford when I saw, on the wall that held all the kitchen hand tools, a quaint little hand-crank whisk. It looked so antique next to all the shiny silver gadgets.
Like I said, whipping cream is hard to screw up but I definitely did it once. And there’s nothing you can do once you’ve gone too far and over-whipped your cream. Big Sister told me a little anecdote about a student at The Ballymaloe Cookery School. She was whipping cream and she went to far. She was about to toss it in the bin when the instructor rushed over. “No wait!” the instructor and proceeded to show the class how to make butter. She whipped it some more until she was able to actually roll it out on the counter. Needless to say all of the students were fascinated. I’ll put my hand up right now and say I never put the two things together, that butter is made from churned cream (even though I’ve read Little House on the Prairie and other such books and I’m pretty sure they churned their own butter with one of those wooden churners). There is that disconnect in our minds whereby we forget – or never learn – how food ends up in the containers that we find in our grocery stores and bring home to our refrigerators. Cows. Milk. Cream. Butter.
I decided to give the butter thing a go with the cream in my fridge and I was tickled pink at what I made.
Making butter doesn’t take long. This method is a good way to work your upper arms too!
Bring your cream to room temperature first. Take a screw-top jar, or any container that has a tight lid, and fill half way. Start shaking vigorously. Listen to it. It’ll start out sloshing, then you’ll hear it becoming thicker and glopping around and then it’ll stop sloshing and feel like a brick. Keep going. Within a few shakes, the cream will separate into the buttermilk and the fat, and you’ll hear liquid again. Open up your jar and you’ll see this!
Take some cheesecloth or a teacloth and place over the jar. Pour off the buttermilk and keep for some delicious project later. You’ll now need to rinse the butter with ice cold water. Put the butter through several rinses, using the cloth, until the water runs clear, 7-10 times.
You just need to squeeze out any excess water which is messy as your hands are warm. Pop the butter ball in the freezer for a few minutes. You can used the cloth again to wring out the butter, or use a chopping board, propped up so it’s at an angle, and flatten the liquid out of the butter ball.
At this point, you can choose to salt your butter. You’ll need about 1 tsp of salt per pound of butter. I made such a teeny amount that I added a pinch here and there until I had the desired saltiness.
Eh voila, butter for your toast made by your own fair hands.