About this blog...

Food has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. Food and the festivities surrounding its arrival to the table has always been a focal point in our family. For many years I have been amassing the cookbooks, recipe cards, cooking journals, diaries, manuscripts and clipping files of our once extensive family.

Personally, I’ve been professionally involved with food for over 40 years in numerous and varied culinary capacities across the country so I also have the collected stories, as well as current and on-going food-related experiences from my own life I’d like to share.

My idea has long been that someday I would bring all of this marvelous raw material together into a culinary journey through our family’s heritage. This journal is the beginnings of that journey.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Making Butter

Yesterday I mechanically separated cream from 10 gallons of our goats' milk and got 6 quarts of heavy cream.  Today I'll be churning that cream into butter.
I have a butter churning attachment for my cream separator but have found that it takes a very long time to get it to churn.  It is also very tiring as my machine is hand-cranked and the turning becomes quite difficult as the cream "gathers" into butter.
There are any number of methods for churning butter.  You can make whipped cream in a mixer and over-whip it until it turns.  The same thing can be done in a blender.  Small batches can be done with a quart jar and a few small marbles, hand-shaken to churn.  With so much cream to churn I turned this time to my  14-cp Cuisinart.
The process was fast and simple.  Again, as for separating the cream, temperature is the key.  I brought my cream to cool room temperature (about 55 degrees F) and processed it in batches until it separated nicely.  You don't want to over-process it or you risk heating the fat too much, making the cleaning process more difficult.
 As the batches got churned I moved the gathered butter into a colander to drain.  The liquid that comes out of the butter is buttermilk and is excellent for use in many cooking and baking applications.
One thing about making butter from goats milk you will notice right away is the color.  It is pure white.  The reason for this is the same as the reason that natural goats milk cheeses are also very white.  The creamy or light yellow color you see in natural cow's milk cheeses and butter come from carotene (a group of several related hydrocarbon substances).  Goats almost fully metabolize nearly all the carotene they ingest while cows pass some of it through into their milk, causing a slight coloration.  Today most commercial butter and many cheeses are additionally colored with annatto, a yellow/orange plant-based food color.
Once all the batches are churned, The butter needs to be worked and washed.  Most instructions for making butter call for it to be worked with a set of paddles.  I find that working with my hands is just as effective.  The only down-side is that you will be working the butter in ice water so it's mighty cold!
The purpose of washing and working it to completely remove any residual buttermilk from the butter.  The buttermilk will go sour and even small pockets of it remaining in the butter will contribute quickly to "off" flavors and eventual premature rancidity.
Once well-washed I lightly salt my butter with fine sea salt.  I used about 3/4% salt by weight in this optional step.   Salting brings out the full flavor of the butter for when it is used on toast, etc. and also acts as a minor preservative.  Unsalted butter is also known as "sweet butter".  Many baking and pastry recipes will call for unsalted butter.
My final yield today from the 6 quarts of cream was 5 1/2 lbs of butter. 
We packed the butter into 8-oz containers, labeled and froze them.  They will be as good as fresh for several months but should be used within a year.

Another type of butter, "cultured butter" is made the same way but the cream will have had a lactic bacteria added to ripen it prior to churning.  This results in a more complex flavor to the butter.

People often  ask us why we don't make goats milk butter commercially.  Our off-the-cuff answer is  "You couldn't afford it".  Flippant perhaps, but true.  We value our milk at $20 per gallon. We reach this figure by calculating the average cheese yield  we get out of a gallon of milk and multiply that by our average sales price for that amount of cheese.  Using today's butter yield (5 1/2 lbs from 10 gallons of milk), if we made the butter to sell we'd have to get $36 a pound for the butter or we'd lose money having not made it into cheese.  Also, as I mentioned in the previous post, the cream  yield I got yesterday from this rich  winter milk was exceptional, more than twice my normal summer yield.  Using the much more abundant summer milk as a basis we'd have to charge nearly $80 a pound to justify not making cheese with that milk!

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