Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. Thomas Merton
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Making Butter--Chapter 2: Heavy Whipping Cream and Mason Jars
Here we have a quart of heavy whipping cream and a Mason jar with the finished butter and buttermilk in it. It was not my intention to advertise for any particular brand of cream, but I wasn't making the photos. For the past few years, our cream has been donated by various companies. This year we did not have a donor, so the curator purchased the cream at the best current price at one of the local retail clubs. Any brand you choose to buy will do fine. The fat content should be between 5-8%.
We begin by letting the cream set unrefrigerated for a bit to warm up. If you are concerned about not keeping it chilled, then you can go on and make butter with it cold, but it will take a lot longer and you'll do a lot more shaking. When I've used chilled cream, I've had to shake the jar of cream for about 20-30 minutes or longer. When I use cream that has been allowed to come to room temperature, it only takes about 5-7 minutes of vigorous shaking. You can also make butter by using a blender, hand mixer (use one blade), or a food processor, but shaking it up by hand is more fun. If you are shaking it in a container and are in a big hurry, you can also put the container in the microwave for 15 seconds or so to take the chill off.
You will need room in your shaker to allow the cream to slosh around so that the fat molecules get agitated and begin to coalesce and stick together. I have shaken up butter in the carton that the cream was in, shaking without opening the carton, but it is kind of hard on the carton once you get to the whipped state and have to bang the carton against the heel of your hand or the kitchen counter. I recommend using a jar or other container that is sturdy and can withstand some bumping and banging.
How much cream you use depends on how much butter you want. You will have about half the amount of butter as cream you start with. Try a half a cup for starters. Now, this is very important: make sure the top of your shaker is on securely!! Once you are all set, begin to shake the jar (or other container). Shake, shake, shake. Shake, shake, shake. Keep on shakin'. Then shake some more. When I have done this with cream that is at room temperature or just slightly warmed cream, I can shake up butter in about 5-7 minutes. Honest! Here are two helpers who are just getting to the whipped cream stage.
As you shake the jar of cream, listen to how it sounds. At first it will be very sloshy sounding. The liquid cream is sloshing around inside the jar and covering the sides of the jar as you might expect. If you set the jar upright, the cream will run back down the sides of the jar. Eventually, the sloshing will decrease and stop as you shake the cream into whipped cream. You will not be able to see through the jar because of the whipped cream coating the sides. You will not hear any sloshing or anything else at the whipped cream stage. Carefully remove the jar lid at this point and take a little taste--yum. All you need is some strawberry shortcake. Important: securely replace the jar lid. Continue to shake. Do not stop shaking. Keep on shaking even though you think nothing is happening. After a bit, you will begin to hear a sort of plopping sound and you will see that the sides of the jar are no longer covered with whipped cream, but with a thin, runny liquid with little globs in it. You will also see a consolidated mass of something in the bottom of the jar. Hey! That's your butter you have just shaken up. Open the jar and take a look inside. The thin, white liquid is buttermilk. The yellow mass of stuff is all the fat molecules that have stuck together and formed a blob of beautiful butter. Congratulations! You have just made unsalted sweet cream butter. But...you aren't done yet.
Well, since I began this draft back at the end of June, I should really go on and post this chapter in the continuing saga of butter making. Check back for the final chapter, which I hope will be posted soon.
I enjoy art and like to look for it in the natural world. My craft interests include handspinning and most of the fiber arts, especially knitting, weaving, and working with paper. Other important things are my family and friends, my pets, nature, literature, poetry, music, history, birding, star gazing, museums...and the list goes on. In other times and places, I've been an archaeologist, taught anthropology, and worked in a living history museum, so I find all sorts of things to hold my interest and keep me entertained. I hope to share some of these things with you.