Did you ever read the Little House series? I loved Laura’s pioneer adventures, following her family from the big woods of Wisconsin to the prairies of North Dakota. I read them all, repeatedly, and enough that...
Sorry, I have to digress into a side bar here, because I remember that when I failed an eye test in 4th grade and learned that I needed glasses, the woman administering the test pointed to my Little House book and suggested condescendingly that maybe I needed glasses because I read “such big, thick books.” Um, what? Pretty sure that’s not how eyesight works, lady, and my Accelerated Reader points were off the charts, ok? I kind of want to go back in time and scream at her about the importance of children’s literacy, but like, I’m so over it, I swear.
Of all the books, my favorite was always the first one, Little House in the Big Woods, for its descriptions of how the family put up food for the winter (the food scenes from Almanzo’s book were always a close second). Pa slaughters pigs and taps trees for syrup, and then Ma makes sausages, head cheese, and maple candy, and Laura gets to eat the crispy tail from the pig and I think they play soccer with the bladder or something.
My very favorite though, was the description of how Ma turns fresh cream into butter, by churning it until the solids form a dripping ball of fresh butter, then mixing in fresh carrot juice for color and salting it for flavor, and then pressing it into a mold to form sticks. As a kid who grew up eating margarine, this sounded like heaven.
When my obsession with The Great British Bake-Off led to me watching the Master Class series and the part where Mary Berry showed me how to “churn” my own butter, well, 22 years of repressed Little House memories came flooding back to me, and I was ready to go all Frontier House on my heavy cream. Unfortunately, while fresh butter may sound like heaven, as someone whose arms get tired whisking eggs, the churning part sounds like hell.
Luckily, I have a modern helper in the form of my stand mixer! So I bought some heavy cream and put it to work, then added some mix-ins for a modern flair. My toast and my popcorn are thrilled, and I think Ma Ingalls would have been proud.
Makes 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter. I could not find the original Mary Berry video I watched, so I followed the tutorial from The Kitchn.
- 1 qt heavy cream
- sea salt (optional)
- mix-ins, for compound butters like (truffle oil, black pepper or blueberries and lemon zest)
- Beat heavy cream in the bowl of a stand mixer (or hand-held electric mixer) at high speed to whipped cream and then keep on going until the cream separates into solid curds and water (about 2-10 minutes depending on how much cream you are mixing).
- Gather together the solids into a strainer or cloth and squeeze and rinse with cold water until water runs clear. You want to be sure to get all the butter liquid out; this will turn the butter rancid within a few days if not.
- Gather rinsed butter into a ball and squeeze it together as much as you can and rinse again. If you want salted butter you can mix in 1/2-1 tsp of sea salt at this point. Dry with a cloth or paper towel, wrap tightly in plastic, and store either in the fridge or freezer.
- To make compound butter: for truffle black pepper butter, mix in 1-2 tbs truffle flavored olive oil, black pepper and sea salt to taste, then stir well to combine. Wrap tightly in plastic and store as in step 3. For lemon blueberry butter, mix the zest of 1 lemon, sea salt to taste, and about 1/4 cup defrosted frozen wild blueberries (if you want the blueberries more liquidy, cook a bit to break them down, then cool completely before adding) and mix in well to combine. Wrap and store as in step 3.
- Just a note here, you can have fun with your butter mix-ins and flavors, but I’m not advocating replacing store-bought butter. This is not a cost-effective way to get your butter fix, but if you find you have run out of butter but have some heavy cream on hand, or if you just want to use up extra cream, this is an excellent solution.