Editor’s Note: June is National Dairy Month, so in celebration, we’ve asked local homesteader and butter expert Karen Geiser to give us tips for making better butter. So, get ready to churn – it’s going to be delicious!
If you come by the Lehman’s store on a Thursday, you likely have seen my son and me churning butter. It is amazing how many butter stories I hear each week, from reminiscing about churning with grandma to folks who do it on an industrial scale. The grandpas often comment to my 10-year-old son, “When I was your age, that was my job” while others jokingly remind me, “Honey, you know they sell butter in the store these days.” Besides being a great conversation starter during my demos and giving our arms a nice workout, making fresh butter for my family is definitely an act of love and we savor the taste and nutrition from our fresh butter.
The quick basics of making butter include using heavy whipping cream, either purchased or fresh from a family cow like we have, bringing it to room temperature and then using something to agitate it. Options for churning range from shaking it in a mason jar to using a stand mixer to cranking the Lehman’s Dazey Butter Churn that I have used weekly for hundreds of times. For the one gallon churn, it generally takes 20-30 minutes to achieve butter and buttermilk. I then drain off the buttermilk and save it for baking recipes and wash the butter with cold water to remove as much buttermilk as possible. If desired, salt is added at the end.
1. Make Sweet Cream or Cultured Butter
Beyond the basics, there are numerous little details that can take your butter up a notch. One option you have is to make sweet cream butter or cultured butter. Sweet cream butter uses fresh cream and for cultured butter, you want to let raw cream age up to a week in the fridge so the bacteria naturally sours it slightly or with pasteurized cream you can add a bit of starter culture such as yogurt or sour cream and let it set at room temperature several hours before churning. My family definitely prefers the cultured butter as it has a better flavor complex, is easier to digest and also tends to churn a bit faster than sweet cream. A caution though, it is easy to let the cream sour too far and then no one is fond of the flavor and it gets used for baking.
2. Get More Nutritious Butter
Another “better butter” factor is the time of year you make butter. The most nutritious butter comes from cows grazing on fresh green grass in new growth. In Ohio, that means May and June and sometimes again in October after a rainy stretch gives the grass a boost. This is the deepest yellow orange butter and is filled with many nutrients. During the winter, the butter I make is much more pale since the cows are eating dry hay. So when we have extra cream during May and June, I make extra butter to freeze so we can eat a bit of sunshine in the depths of winter.
3. Add Fresh Herbs for Herb Butter
Another way you can give your butter a flavor boost is to add herbs. To a half cup of soft butter, you can add about 1 tsp of fresh chopped herbs and mix thoroughly. Some of our favorite combinations are rosemary with shallots and dill. To create a butter log, put it in wax paper in the refrigerator to shape it. Herb butter makes an excellent appetizer served on crackers or small baguette slices.
4. Use Butter Molds
Sometimes for special occasions, we make molded butter. Butter molds can be a bit tricky to use but a few hints are to soak them in cold water and then put it in the freezer for a while before adding the butter. Once the butter is in, I put it in the freezer again before trying to take out the butter. The easiest to use style is the plunger mold that makes elegant pats for single servings. These are especially nice for a Thanksgiving table or other occasion.
Hopefully, this gives you some ideas of how to take your butter making to a new level and dabble with some butter experiments. The next butter experiment on my list is to try making ghee, which is clarified butter. If you have never churned butter before, June is a great time to give it a try and don’t forget to include children in the process.
Karen Geiser is a regular demonstrator and homesteading class teacher at Lehman’s. Photos by her daughter, Elizabeth Geiser ©2019.