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Butter

Butter was a delicious addition to any settler's table. When milk was flowing plentifully, every possible use for milk was utilized and well-made butter was packed down cellar to store for a long time.

With hormones (YUCK!!!!) today's cows can produce up to 25 GALLONS of milk each day! But in the Ingall's time, a good milk cow could product between 2-8 gallons at the height of their cycles each day. Even at the low end of that, that's a lot of milk for one family, even a large one, to utilize!

Each gallon of milk can produce approximately one quart of cream. Each quart of cream can produce about a pound of butter. So, even if your cow was on the lower end of production, you'd get a few gallons of milk, a few quarts of cream, and have the ability to make a few pounds of butter. EVERY DAY! No wonder the cow-owning settler's diet was heavy on cheese, cream, butter and milk gravies!

Making your own butter at home is simple, and can produce a delicious result, but isn't terrifically cost effective unless you can lay your hands on some fresh, inexpensive cream. But it's fun for a rare treat or experiment. Here's how:

Ingredients

  • One quart heavy cream (at least 30% butterfat and preferably no-hormones/organic)
  • Salt to taste (it will probably need a little less than a tablespoon for the whole pound of butter, but start with a half and taste as you go!)

Method

Set the cream, in its original container, on the counter at room temperature for about 4-5 hours, which will help it to thicken and slightly sour the cream (giving it a great taste once churned into butter!)

Put the cream back in the fridge for about an hour to re-chill.

For churning, there are two methods to try. One requires time and muscle, the other a mixer.

If you go with the time and muscle option:

Pour your cream into a large mason jar with a tight lid. Make sure that you fill it no more than ½ to ⅔ of the way, so you have some expansion room.

Start shaking the jar vigorously (holding carefully so it doesn't go flying!)

Eventually, the cream will start to thicken into whipped cream. Keep going.

Just before the cream breaks into butter and buttermilk (which is NOT like the store bought, cultured kind!), it will be so thick in the jar that it doesn't feel like anything is moving or happening. Get your second wind and keep at it.

You will know that the butter has been made when you see the cream divided into floating little globules of butter and a watery liquid. Keep shaking for a minute or two more to ensure that all the cream is separated.

Strain buttermilk away from the butter, making sure to save it for pancakes or biscuits or other baking.

Rinse butter under very cold water until the water runs clear.

Place in a cold bowl and cover with ice cold water.

Using either butter paddles or wooden spoons, or even your own hands if you are quick enough and don't mind the icy water, knead the butter, pushing it up against the sides of the bowl, to release any buttermilk still trapped inside the butter. If you leave it, the butter solids will soon go sour and your butter will have an 'off' taste!

When the water gets cloudy, pour it off and cover again with icy water.

Repeat the kneading/rinsing until absolutely no cloudiness appears in the water no matter how hard you knead the butter.

When the butter is completely free of milk solids, drain well and press out as much water as you can with wooden spoons or butter paddles. (your hands will melt the butter at this stage!)

Add salt, starting at ½ tablespoon and mix well. Taste and add more salt if you like. Salt adds flavor and is also a preservative.

Pack into a lidded container and enjoy!

If you are going with the easier, quicker method:

Pour your cream into your standing mixer.

Beat on medium high.

After your cream gets very stiff, it will break into butter and buttermilk just like in the jar method.

Keep beating for a minute or two until you are sure that all the cream is separated.

Strain buttermilk away from the butter, making sure to save it for pancakes or biscuits or other baking.

Rinse your butter under very cold water until the water runs clear.

Return to your mixing bowl and cover with ice cold water.

With your beaters on low, mix the butter and water until it gets cloudy with the remaining buttermilk. Any left trapped in the butter will make it go off, so you want to be thorough.

When the water gets cloudy, pour it off and cover again with icy water.

Repeat the mixing/rinsing until absolutely no cloudiness appears in the water no matter how much you mix the butter.

When the butter is completely free of milk solids, drain well and press out as much water as you can with wooden spoons or butter paddles. (your hands will melt the butter at this stage!)

Add salt, starting at ½ tablespoon and beat on low until well mixed. Taste and add more salt if you like. Salt adds flavor and is also a preservative.

Pack into a lidded container and enjoy!

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