I have a confession: I make butter. Every other odd thing I do apparently pales in comparison. (And I do odd things, like wash dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.) It’s astonishing: people think it’s bizarre that I make butter, and that I must be weird. I have my brother to thank for this. He always introduces me to his friends or acquaintances as, “This is my sister. She makes her own butter.” He says it with such “ah-ha!” in his voice, as if challenging these individuals to, Trump this! You’d think that people would say Good for you, or ask if it’s hard to do but no; most respond by raising their eyebrows and wondering, Why?
Oh, for heaven’s sake. Making butter does not make me a freak. Really. I make butter because homemade butter tastes cleaner and fresher than processed butter; no color is added, no natural flavoring, no preservatives. I make butter because I make bread, and one of the more sublime experiences in life is spreading fresh-churned, sea-salted butter over a warm slice of fresh-baked crusty bread. I make butter because it’s easy, and it’s one more item I can remove from my family’s list of processed foods we consume. And I make butter because it makes me feel good to make good things from scratch. (Despite the fat, butter is definitely on the list of good things in life.)
If this makes me a freak, then so be it; for all those who would like to freak on with me, here’s the recipe:
Buy some heavy (whipping) cream. Half a liter or a pint’ll do. Fresh from the farm is best, but if you live in a city like me then buy cream where that’s the only ingredient (avoid additives like sodium citrate and carrageenan). You want the cream close to room temperature (it’ll make the process go faster); leave it out on a countertop for one to two hours.
Take out an electric stand mixer and attach the wire whisk. (You could do it the old-fashioned way and shake-shake-shake the cream in a jar, but I’m just not that virtuous.) Pour the cream into the bowl. Drape a dishcloth over the mixer, then whisk at high speed (you’ll get lots of splatters if you don’t use the dishcloth).
The cream will whip and then separate into butter and buttermilk (this process has taken anywhere from three to six minutes for me). Stop whisking. Remove the butter from the whisk attachment and the bowl; place in strainer. Wash thoroughly to remove buttermilk film.
Pour the buttermilk into another bowl and not down the drain; it’s delicious, particularly when used in pancakes or Caesar salad dressing.
Wash out and dry your mixer and attach the beater paddle. Place the butter in the bowl and beat again, this time to remove any excess water. Pour off the water and wash the bowl and butter again. Put the butter back in the bowl and this time whip it. Add sea salt or herbs to taste.