Are all butters created equal? Most definitely not. If you’ve never had European-style cultured butter, you should absolutely try it.
The problem is, it’s ridiculously expensive. Half a pound of butter can run you up to 6 dollars, and even when I try to ration out “Mama’s fancy butter”, it goes too fast.
But, really, what is better on homemade sourdough bread, or homemade pumpernickel bread, that you’ve labored hours, and sometimes days on? Nothing beats the smooth, slightly tangy flavor or cultured butter, and the fact that it’s higher in fat than commercial butter makes it much tastier.
You will see many recipes and tutorials online that tell you that you cannot use pasteurized or ultra-pasteurized cream when making butter or cheese. That is patently false, as you can see. It is possible that the butter has a better flavor if it is unpasteurized, but I’m frankly not convinced of that. It might have more of a wild flavor (because you’re not entirely sure what microorganisms are present) but you will definitely get a clean inoculation if you use store-bought flora (or is it fauna?)
Aside from that, it is illegal in Wisconsin to sell unpasteurized milk to consumers. I don’t necessarily agree with that, but it is the fact (and I’m guessing it’s not just here, although Wisconsin takes its dairy seriously).
It may take longer for the cultures to do their thing, but the environment we’re working in is highly controlled, and results happen.
Speaking of cultures where can you get them? On Amazon, of course, and you can get them straight from the source, New England Cheesemaking Supply. There are multiple strains that I suppose you can use, but this one gave me great results, so I’m sticking with it.
It’s pretty easy. Really, what you need to do is mix in your starter (I use one packet to one quart of heavy whipping cream). The easiest way to do this is in an Instant Pot. You can use the yogurt setting I believe (without doing the sterilization cycle) but I have mine programmed to run a butter program. The program is “Heat to a temperature of 86 degrees, hold the temperature at 86 for 1 minute, pause to 73 degrees, hold for 24 hours”. You can check it after about 17, but if it’s not firm enough (think thick yogurt) continue to heat. However, if you don’t have an Instant Pot, you can probably heat it to 86 on the stove and add it to a thermos until it’s set. I can’t be sure of the time but I have seen this method online. I killed the above Instant Pot and had to buy a new one (totally my fault). I am currently using the Instant Pot Max and I LOVE IT.
It should look something like this, and have a nice clean tangy aroma. If not just let it keep going (the time is going to depend on how active your culture is. When it gets older, it’s going to decline in activity). Cool it overnight or for 24 hours. Just make sure it’s cold.
After it’s chilled, you see the solids break nicely from the liquid.
Then whip that like a mother in a food processor, until it look like, well…butter. With some liquid. You can hear the sound the food processor is making kind of change when the butter is ready (you start to hear it sloshing). You can do this in a stand mixer but it makes an *awful* mess (buttermilk sloshing everywhere), and the food processor works quite well. I currently use the Breville Sous Chef and I *love* it. I have owned 3 food processors, and this is the only one versatile enough that it gets left out on the counter.
Press out the buttermilk. I have a fine strainer, but cheesecloth would have worked better (I didn’t have any at the time). Save the buttermilk, it’s delicious!
Press as much liquid as you can out of the butter.
And turn it into a bowl.
Add very cool water or ice water. I used distilled because we have well water. Mush it around in the water. You’ll want to do this about 3 times until the water is much less cloudy. You can use a large wooden spoon, or your hands (provided they’re not too warm). The key here is not letting the fat melt in the water.
And press as much liquid out of it as you can.
Add a teaspoon of salt (or less, we like ours salty. Salt also greatly helps to preserve the butter)
And add to a container. Store in the refrigerator. I’ve had good luck with it keeping well, if you get most of the liquid out of it. Mold and bacteria need water to grow, so if you’re pretty diligent about getting that out of it, it stays mold-free and fresh tasting for several weeks.
This yields about a half-pound of butter and about 6-8 ounces of fresh buttermilk (it is SO GOOD).
So is it worth it? In my opinion, YES. I can get a quart of heavy whipping cream at Sam’s club for under 4 dollars, and, in my opinion it tastes far better making it this way than even the most expensive butter you can buy in the store.