Buttah wid Cultcha (Cultured Butter)

Before refrigeration was common, virtually all butter used in this country was what's called "cultured butter..."  That is, the cream from two or three days' milking was combined and made into butter...

BUT there was a major difference from the sweet cream butter that we know today. During the day or three that the cream sat, it began to ferment a bit... Not really enough to sour, but enough to thicken and get a little tangy. Once churned, this yielded a much fuller-flavored, more "buttery tasting" butter!

And truly delicious buttermilk.

As I was working with my friends Justin and Daniel at the magazine's test kitchen a while ago, they were experimenting with ways to make cultured butter using the ultra-pasteurized cream available to most of us.  And this one, I have to say, rocked my world.

To a quart of heavy cream, we added 1/4 cup grocery-store buttermilk and let it sit - covered - on the counter - for 24-28 hours, depending on the temperature in the kitchen.

It thickens miraculously. Then we put it in a standing mixer with the whisk attachment.

Cover the bowl as best you can with plastic wrap.

Wrap the back half first...

Then wrap the front...

Turn it on high, and let 'er rip!

First, of course, you'll get whipped cream.  But then, be prepared:  it splashes when the buttermilk separates from the butter! It happens after about 4 minutes... the solids separate from the buttermilk.


Drain the buttermilk.  (AND. SAVE. IT.)

Knead the butter, continuing to drain off the buttermilk.

Then knead the butter with 1/4 cup of ice water.  This is called "washing the butter."  It helps firm it up and remove any remaining milk from the butter solids.

Repeat.  And repeat.  Until the water runs clear, using a total of one cup of ice water.

Form the butter into a block, wrap it well in parchment or plastic wrap, refrigerate it and be prepared to be amazed at what you're spreading on your morning toast!!!

You can either drink the buttermilk - oh, try it, you'll finally understand why your grandmother drank it - or use it for your next batch of butter... or bake some stunning biscuits with it.  Nothing goes to waste.

I have become, not surprisingly, totally obsessed with this butter!  It's so delicious. And, while not quite as cheap as supermarket butter, it is wildly cheap compared to the high-fat cultured European-style butters... which, in fact, is what this is.

And believe me...  It's a hoot to make!  I promise you'll laugh out loud as the process unfolds. And this morning, I made our weekly biscuits with some of this amazing buttermilk... WOW.

And another thought:  we have all these gadgets... like a stand mixer.  Why not use them to make something that allows us to understand where the foods we take for granted come from?

I'm just sayin'...


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