How to Make Grass Fed Homemade Butter
I must admit that this spring has been pretty good for the garden and pastures. Long, grey drizzling stretches, punctuated by spells bright, sunny and warm days. Okay, a few days were like “whoa, overkill” – triple digit heat on the first weekend of June in my corner of the world is not normal. Alas, the weather is to return to a more seasonally “normal” mid 60s and drizzle for next week or so. This weather pattern has provided our pastures with knee deep grass in places and the livestock are in hog heaven. Kate the milk cow has been delivering the goods by way of copious amounts of super creamy milk. Springs like this give the rare opportunity to make such an under appreciated treat: fresh, raw, organic, grass fed homemade butter.
I have a little theory about whole milk, low fat milk and butter… I wonder if the movement towards low fat milk was precipitated less about concern for the relative consumer waistline, but more for the production of high monetary value food stuffs like sour cream and butter. Consider this – the average Jersey cow produces milk that is about 4.6% fat. That translates to about 5.9 ounces of fat in a gallon (128 ounces) of whole milk. Seeing as butter is almost entirely a fat, it takes a LOT of milk to make one pound of butter. Consumer wants milk and butter, but big Ag doesn’t want to lose profits from the now de-fatted milk – ergo, the establishment of the low fat and skim milk market. Essentially, the butter is cheap and low fat/skim milk is expensive if you look at it this way.
I have a different relationship with my beloved butter, because I understand the I am sacrificing my precious whole milk to make it. With my imperfect (read messy and inefficient) skimming techniques, it takes me about 3.5-4 gallons of raw milk to produce about a pound and a little over of butter. In fact, a gallon of skimmed cream from four(ish) gallons of milk typically gives me one pound and five ounces of butter. Now I am sure there are some of you out there that have more skills than I do and could skim a little better – but this is where I land most of the time…
As we are a grass based farm, I am only able to reliably produce butter when the grass is green and growing quickly. This is the time of the highest nutritional and caloric content for the cow and she will produce in excess of five gallons a day. So I have to get while the “getting” is good. I try to make butter as often as possible when there is an excess of milk. I then freeze this golden bounty for dishes and desserts where the butter is a breakout star – think shortbread, Hollandaise sauce (on your free range eggs Benedict), and even just on toast. Why the fuss about humble butter? Because raw, grass fed homemade butter is a whole different experience that you are used to.
Raw, grass fed, home butter is just butterier. The aroma of butter is derived from a compound called diacetyl present in standard grocery store butters, but SUPER CHARGED in raw, grass fed homemade butters. It is also intensely yellow, owing to the beta carotene content in milk from grass fed cows. Additionally, milk, cream, butter and cheeses produced from grass fed cows are higher in vitamins E and K2, omega 3’s and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).
Here is where I offer a confession – lest you think that I am churning my butter by hand like my mother so fondly recalls doing as a child at great Granny’s house… I employ the horsepower of my stand mixer and blender for the task. I am sure that the good folks at Kitchenaid and Ninja (serious, a Vitamix or Blendtec sponsorship for this blog would be spectacular – just leaving that here) did not engineer their tools for such a job, but I am all about making the best of what I got. Please don’t blame me if you burn out a motor… Not that I have… I have… Actually.
On a side note, I am using RAW cream from my own cow. You may choose to use pasteurized cream (do avoid ultra pasteurized milk though). I do not intend this blog post to be a debate about the relative benefits and risks of raw milk. I encourage you to do your own research and decide what is best for your family. Raw is a choice that is right for MY family, and your choice is just that – yours. But, do look for cream from pasture based, grass fed dairies – your butter will be a thing of wonder…
Grass fed homemade butter is a true treat and worth the effort. Plus licking a little fresh butter from your fingers is just, just… yummy.
Grass Fed Homemade Butter Recipe
- One gallon cream from grass fed cows
- pinch of sea salt
- In one quart batches, whip (stand mixer) or blend (blender) cream at a high rate of speed (use a splash guard if available).
- After 10-15 minutes, the fat will separate from the whey into yellow globules. Turn off machine.
- Line a colander with muslin or a flour sack towel and place over a large bowel.
- Pour butter and whey through the cloth lined colander, and repeat steps 1-4 until all cream is processed. Drain until the butter looks relatively “dry”.
- Twist cloth up into a bundle, squeezing extra whey from the butter, and occasionally rinse the butter bundle under ice cold running water. Continue to squeeze and work the butter until no whey seeps through the cloth.
- Transfer worked and rinse butter into a bowl and add a inch of sea salt and combine thoroughly.
- Divide butter into four ounce “logs” and wrap in wax or parchment paper. Freeze until use.