Have you ever tried culturing your butter?
Making butter at home is pretty darn easy, it’s delicious, and you have the option of culturing it for a European twist.
Cultured butter is favoured in many European countries, but here in Australia it’s not very common. The basic jist is you add some mesophilic starter culture (the usual bacterial suspects you would use in cheesemaking) to your cream the day or night before butter making.
In the morning, the cream will have thickened to almost the consistency of mascarpone, and tastes similar as well.
This is the stuff that will be transformed into your lovely, light, long-preserving butter.
- Cultured butter keeps longer. In fact, I’d say over twice as long. Usually when we make regular, “sweet” butter, it develops a slight rancid taste after only 1 week in the fridge. Cultured butter still tastes fresh and light, like the day you made it, TWO WEEKS LATER. It’s amazing. I think it would be perfect to store in a butter crock for a few days to a week, if you like to have room temperature butter on hand.
- It tastes better. By this I mean, for me anyway, it tastes fuller, more complex, just as creamy, and there is a big difference in the lightness of this butter compared to non-cultured. It seems to dissolve in your mouth, melt away into thin air, leaving no heavy mouthfeel or after-taste. It’s just so light. I don’t know how else to explain it. You will have to try it.
- The actual making of this butter is quicker. The culturing process weakens the structure that keeps the fat globules apart, which helps to precipitate the butter a few minutes quicker than when using uncultured cream. (Want a bit of science behind butter making? Cream is composed of fat, water and a bit of protein. By agitating the cream, you’re sort of shaking the fat globules free of the structure that keeps them floating around in the liquid, and then they clump together to form the fatty, delicious spread that we love.)
So, that’s 3 pros in favour of cultured butter. Willing to try it?
The day before butter making, warm the cream to 20°C and add 1/4 teaspoon of mesophilic starter culture to 1 litre of cream.**(See note.)
Scale this ratio up or down for the amount you are making.
You can use any type of mesophilic culture. Each different strain will impart a different flavour, so make butter a few times and find out which one you like best.
Let the cream sit at room temperature for 12 to 16 hours. This, again, is dependent on how strong you like the flavour. Want more bite? Leave it longer.
After this time, grab a spoon and do some scientific investigation and assess the consistency (should be similar to sour cream) and taste it to compare the before/after culture difference.
Then chill it in the fridge for a few hours, or overnight. Chilling it will help during the butter making process, as once the butter forms it will be firmer and easier to work with. It’s true that slightly warmer cream will form butter faster (because room temp. cream allows the fat globules to move around faster) but once formed, the butter will be very soft and may be difficult to work with. Try it out!
So. Your cream is ready and you’re ready to whip it.
Here we go . . .
1. The whipped cream stage. Yummm
2. Keep whipping until the solids (butter) separate from the buttermilk.
3. Work the solids with a spoon or paddle and drain off the liquid.
The liquid is yummy, cultured buttermilk. You can use it for baking (scones are brilliant, and you can enjoy them with your fresh butter!), or pancakes, or whatever you fancy. Tip: If you make pancakes, prepare the batter and let it rest for a few hours, or overnight. The culture in the buttermilk will work on the flour and turn them into the lightest pancakes ever.
Keep workin’ it and draining . . .
Squeeze and press the butter until you work out as much buttermilk as you can. If you want commercial grade butter, one way to remove all the buttermilk is to place the butter in some icy water and then knead it with your hands. The water will become cloudy as the buttermilk is released. Drain this off, pour fresh icy water over the butter and continue to repeat until the water is clear.
By removing all the buttermilk, you’re extending the life of the butter. However, as butter doesn’t last particularly long in my household, and because I’ve cultured it, which is a preservative measure anyway, I don’t bother being picky about the buttermilk.
So that’s it. Enjoy your fatty, living treasure.
Oh and one more interesting point. If, by some chance, you are extremely lucky and have acquired some fresh, unadulterated, unpasteurised, living cream, you can try making cultured butter the old school way and leave the cream on the counter for a couple of days to sour (i.e. culture itself). Fresh cream has living cultures in it. You don’t need to add any other. After a couple days, whip it up and you will have some of the best butter any cow could offer. Please send me some.
By the way, I made bread too on butter making day:
**Note: Compared to some cheese recipes, this seems like heaps of culture. I’ve tried it with this much and about half this amount, and then left it to incubate longer. In both cases the butter turned out great, but with more culture = stronger flavour.