Sunday, September 16, 2007


I've been experimenting with butter-making for a few weeks now. Earlier attempts were limited to producing simple butter by churning cream in the stand mixer, extracting the buttermilk and salting. This time I added a fermentation or culturing step. The results are pretty good, but not on par with professionally made butter from quality artisan butter makers. The flavor is great but not as nuanced as I would like it to be.

Here's what I did:

  1. To 1 pint of organic heavy cream I whisked in 1 tablespoon of plain organic yogurt, then let it sit at room temperature (68 degrees F) for 12 hours to ferment.
  2. Churned the cream in the food processor (the stand mixer was busy kneading bread) until it broke.
  3. Poured the mess into a strainer lined with fine cheesecloth and squeezed it gently to remove the buttermilk. (The hanging step shown below was ineffective and not necessary.)
  4. Added approx. 2 teaspoons of coarse sea salt and kneaded it in with a plastic bowl scraper
  5. Rolled in up in plastic and chilled it down.
I'm pretty sure that to take it to the next step I'm going to have move beyond playing around with store-bought pasteurized cream and spend some time reading up on the science of butter culturing. The stuff I'm making beats the deerskin off the Lando-Lakes squaw's best, but it would not hold it's own in battle of hand crafted butters.


The Foodist said...

"..until it broke"

I was [this] close to asking you why the heck you are so intent on breaking your kitchen equipment as of late, before I realized you were talking about the cream!

As far the next step, maybe look into cream directly from local farms? I assume your in relative closeness to farm country in PA so finding a small dairy farmer to supply you shouldnt be a problem, but maybe unpasturized cream right from the source might be a good way to go, at least experiment wise.

Just a thought, but good luck!

btw how did it taste? it have a slight tang to the butter with the culture?

ruhlman said...

yes, did you notice the flavor of fermentation?

also: you mention artisan butter makers more than once. i only know of one in the country. do you know others? if so, would love to know.

Bob del Grosso said...

Ruhlman (& Foodist)
yes the flavor was changed by the fermentation step. The butter has a slight acidic edge and the nose it a bit more fruity and cheese-like than plain cream.

The only artisan butter folks I know of in the US are Vermont Butter and Cheese. I'm sure there are others, but I've had several imported brands that are pretty damned good e.g. Beurre de Barate from Normandy.

Scotty said...


I too did the homemade butter on a couple of occasions, part of the culinary section of this summer's science projects with the girls (they thought it was "really cool" when the buttermilk started splattering the plastic wrap). I used the stand mixer on all occasions (you used the metal blade in the food processor?). I chose not to salt the butter.

I fully agree about the improvement over the commercial stuff. My big personal discovery was that I couldn't discern any difference (flavor or otherwise) between the batch I made with organic milk and the two I made with plain old store bought heavy cream. The next phase is raw cream, which I hope I can get from Teacup Farm, a nearby certified seller of raw milk.

The revelation for me was real buttermilk!

(Foodist, I thought the same the same thing, especially after Bob's Thermomocide.)

redman said...

it sounds killer, going to have to give it a try

GG Mora said...

I suspect the butter artisan Ruhlman was referring to is Diane St. Clair of Animal Farm up in Orwell, VT. Keller uses her butter at Per Se and the Laundry.

FWIW, Consider Bardwell Farm in West Pawlet, VT, has recently got into making farmstead butter. Not as good as Diane's, but nothing to sneeze at either. And still (relatively) affordable.

Bob, you don't mention important step if you're keeping the butter beyond a few days. Any whey left in the butter will go off quickly.

Bob del Grosso said...

gg mora

The reason I failed to mention rinsing is that I forgot to do it.

eat4fun said...

I'm been meaning to try my hand at butter making, but have been really socked at work.

also, I've noticed that all the creams contain carrageanan, even the organic brands. So I've kind of put it off until I find time to search for some unadulterated cream.

In regards to the fermentation process, you used yogurt which is a thermophilic culture. Would it be better to use cultured buttermilk since it contains mesophilic culture?

When I have time I will try both, but I guess I'm just thinking out loud and hoping you'll try it with buttermilk to see if you notice a difference. :-)

Bob del Grosso said...

I fermented the cream in the kitchen, and it worked just fine. So either my kitchen is pretty thermal or yougurt culture is more meso than we might imagine.

Seriously, I know that common wisdom says to ferment yogurt at close to 100 degrees F. But it'll ferment at room temperature just fine. Thanks for the Q!