Feb 17, 2011

Creamy butter

After 5 years of proudly making my own butter, I discover I've been doing it wrong. And yogurt too. How amusedly humbling.

It's so easy, I've been preaching. Just skim the cream off the top of your raw milk jar - or buy those lovely jars of organic Avalon whipping cream for you lucky Vancouverites - put it in the big mixer you got for your wedding and whirl away. Or have the kids shake it in jars. It slowly thickens, becomes whipped cream, then in 5-20 minutes it will suddenly, miraculously separates into thick clumps of butter and thin white splashes of buttermilk (usually all over the wall if you didn't turn down the mixer speed in time).

That's right, buttermilk is just the leftover white milk left over from making butter. Great in pancakes, muffins, all those recipes that call for that mysterious substance. Little things we've lost our traditional knowledge of.

Now suddenly I've learned from my multi-wonderful friend Justin that it's best to first turn the cream into yogurt. Fortunately that's a skill I think I've mastered over the past few years. So I heat the cream up to just below boiling, let it cool until a finger can be put in without scalding, then pour it back into a jar with a bit of old yogurt (starter) and put it in a huge canning pot filled 1/4 with hot water and a lid - that keeps it warm enough over night for the yogurt bacteria to do its work. In the morning it's yogurt, and into the mixer it goes.

But then super-Justin gently informs me that I've also been doing my yogurt wrong for the past two years also. Bringing it to an almost-boil is pasteurizing it, taking away many of the benefits that I've been buying raw milk for. Turns out it works just fine to just bring it to finger-hot temperature, skipping another whole step, reducing the frequency of milk boiling over onto the stove top and scalding the pot bottom, and increasing the health benefits.

Three years into our maple syrup making and we finally got one small batch that's the thick consistency of Aunt Jemima. Year three of raising organic free range chickens and we've now discovered soy-free feed that's even better for us and them.

Every time I think I've mastered something, I need to just look around to find out how it could be done better, or easier, or with less impact, or with more grace. Life is a fantastic learning curve leading to ever new and fresh vistas; death is (hopefully) when we no longer want to climb it.

1 comment:

  1. If you managed to get butter and yogurt, you weren't doing it wrong. Just differently.

    I have spent my whole life rebelling against my mother's axiom of "there is a right way, and a wrong way!"

    You will never convince me you were "doing it" wrong.