That Time I Made Butter
I love to learn new things and I especially love learning new foodie things.
When I found Simon Dawson’s book called Make Your Own Butter at McNally Robinson, I instantly wanted to know: a) If it would really tell me how to make the butter I’ve come to know and love; b) Why I should even care about making butter; and c) If it would provide me with some unique ways to use butter.
In the age of speed, where we live on such time-unforgiving schedules, using speed-enhancing interventions for time-saving purposes, isn’t it all a bit much at times?
I grapple with my fast-paced lifestyle constantly; especially after living in Italy. There, things took time, but no one seemed to worry. Things also always seemed to turn out better with that extra little bit of time and patience.
What does butter have to do with all of this? Well, I decided that making butter was going to be my foray into adopting the principles of slow.
Butter: the simplest, most common, easily most beloved ingredient. It was about to get a slow makeover. After all, you only need one ingredient (cream) to make butter. How hard could it be?
As I would soon learn, making butter can be quite easy when given the right tools. Unfortunately, I had to churn my butter by hand, shaking a third of a cup of local 20% cream in a tiny glass jar. After two days, I finally created butter—a laughable amount of butter, but butter no less. Think the butter packet served with your roll when you have dinner at Swiss Chalet. Two days of near-constant devotion (a passion project, if you will) to create a single teaspoon of butter.
In a way, it was comical. In another way, it was sort of beautiful. It had taken me so many painstaking hours to create the simple dairy byproduct. Yet, as I rattled the clot of butter out of the jar, she was magnificent. I had done it. I made my own butter. I single-handedly crafted the pantry staple. Hard work or not, I was proud of my achievement.
Though the next time I make butter, I’ll probably use a hand mixer to speed the process along, sometimes there's something beautiful about doing things the old-fashioned way. And despite the fact that I’d probably be fired at my butter churning post back in the day, churning butter present-day was quite fun.
I also learned a fair bit about the process and mechanics of butter-making. From which machine to use (hand or mixer, but never a food processor) to learning about how fat globules separate from cream, leaving butter and a remnant of buttermilk, there’s a fair amount of science involved in creating this dairy product.
Though my buttermilk didn’t come into play with this butter-making session, Dawson provided some interesting ways to use this byproduct. Beyond buttered bread, of course Dawson’s book also provided some pretty inventive ways to use butter… Hot buttered cocktails, anyone?
From taking a page from Cleopatra’s beauty routine and washing your face, to adding flavour and richness to your favourite pancake recipe, the options are endless!
Cliché as it is to say, homemade butter also actually does taste better. Anything made from scratch and worked by hand usually does. The passion transcends the medium, allowing you to taste the difference, to taste the integrity, and to taste the intended flavours of that thing.
I spread my butter on a beautiful bakery-made plain bagel and served it with a bowl of beef chili when all was said and done. It was bliss. It was love. It was art. It was homemade butter, churned by hand.
From a foodie standpoint, when I take the time to do something as simple as make salad dressing from scratch or jar garden pickles, I feel accountable and a new sort of understanding occurs from within. The process of creation is incredibly inspiring, often leading me towards another project.
At the end of the day, I think setting aside the time to create something from scratch and follow the principles of slow is poetic. Even if in our modern world time doesn’t always allow for slow everything, it’s important that we try to make an effort every now and again to steal back some time. It’s crucial to connect with the world around us in all aspects—even if it just means making our own butter.
Do you ever slow down and create from scratch? Does it fill your soul in ways you can’t describe? Share your experience below!