Nov 28 2012

Making Cultured Butter and Quark

I’ve had multiple requests to teach people how to make butter. I’ve promised to hold a class and record it as a you-tube video at some point. But in the mean time . . . my sister just sent me this link to a pretty darn good description. http://www.americastestkitchenfeed.com/do-it-yourself/2011/06/how-to-make-cultured-butter/

http://www.cheesemaking.com/Butter.html is probably an even better set of instructions and has a lot more history on butter making.

But there are 3 major notes I need to make regarding the first instructions.

#1 Yogurt culture and buttermilk culture will give you 2 very different tastes.  Yogurt is a thermophilic culture. That means it is “heat loving.” Generally thermophilic cultures grow best in temperature ranges about 110-120 degrees. That is probably why it took her 48 hours to get one of her batches to thicken at room temperature. Using yogurt as your culture will lead to a very tangy butter and “buttermilk.”  Traditionally, cultured butter and the resulting buttermilk are cultured with a mesothilic culture. These “medium heat loving” microbes culture best in the mid 60’s to low 70′–perfect for just leaving on the counter overnight to get a fairly decent thickening in a shorter period of time, or very thick when left out for longer. It has a more mellow, less tangy flavor to it–like buttermilk vs. yogurt 🙂  !

If you buy raw milk or raw cream from us, you could just set the cream on the counter for a day or two and it should culture all by itself due to the naturally occurring mesothilic cultures in the raw cream. I also sell a mesothilic mother culture for $7.50.   You make a batch of culture with 1 quart of sterilized milk (the jar of milk is boiled in a water bath for about 20 minutes to ensure that the culture is pure). After the milk is cooled to room temperature, you add the packet of culture and let it sit at room temp for about 24 hours or until thick like yogurt.  Then you can pour it into ice cube trays and freeze them. Once frozen, store the cubes in a sealed zip-lock bag. Most recipes call for 1 ice cube for each quart of milk or cream you want to culture. When you get down to a few ice cubes, you add one to another pint of sterilized milk and start it all over again–indefinitely.  Or for the same $7.50 you can buy 5 single use packets of “direct set” culture that each culture about 1 quart of milk or cream.  These are intended to be used for a single batch, and not as a mother culture, but I’ve heard of people using it as a mother culture too.  Mesothilic culture can be used for a huge variety of cultured dairy products, including buttermilk, cheddar, queso fresco, sour cream/creme fresh, spreadable soft cheese spreads, and quark, a product very similar to yogurt but less tangy and much easier to make since you don’t have to maintain a 120 degree environment for your jars.  Additionally, when making yogurt with raw milk, you have to first heat the milk to 180 degrees then cool it to 120. Otherwise the naturally occurring mesothilic cultures in the raw milk compete with the yogurt culture and you get a runny product rather than thick yogurt. I’d much rather leave all of the enzymes and natural cultures intact and just add some more specific strains of mesothilic microbes and get a more mellow flavored “yogurt” in my quark.  Until I have time to post quark instructions, you can find some here: http://www.cheesemaking.com/Quark.html

I like to strain my quark in some cheesecloth to make it thicker like a greek yogurt or soft cream cheese-ish texture. I usually skim the cream before I make quark, then I whip the cream into whipping cream in one bowl. Whip up the quark in another bowl and fold them together. We add a little bit of vanilla and a sweetener of our choice and use it as a fruit dip or in crepes. You can fold pureed fruits into it as well. Or let it strain in the cheesecloth even longer and make a soft spreadable cheese by adding some chopped herbs. (I also sell cheesecloth. 🙂

I order my products from cheesemaking.com. They are a great resource for all things dairy. Buying from me is about the same price you’ll pay from them, once you add on shipping costs, but I have it in stock locally so you won’t have to wait! You’ll notice that thermophilic cultures are used in a lot of the hard Italian cheeses.

#2 The second important note.  I made butter in my Kitchenaide for a year and a half  . . . until I discovered my stick blender.  If I put about 2 cups of cream in a 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup, I can get the cream to turn to butter in about 90 seconds with my stick blender (the kind that you submerge the end into your bowl).  In my Kitchenaide it made a huge mess with cream splattering everywhere and often took up to 15 -20 minutes to get the cream to turn.  I find it is easier to make several 2 cup batches and combine them in the cheese cloth and then squeeze and wash them all together than to try and do one large batch in my Kitchenaide (or 1 large batch with the stick blender either for that matter).   I’ve seen people use their Vitamixes for fairly fast results too, and that is the method they describe in the second butter link on cheesemaking.com.  Another woman swears by her food processor with the plastic dough blade, doing smaller batches at a time. I only have a metal cutting blade for my food processor and never got results as fast as she was claiming (also under 2 minutes.)

Just use what you have! If all you have is a jar, shake your cream for 20-30 minutes and you’ll get butter.  But it’s a lot more work!

#3. Cream from cows on green, fast growing grass (i.e. early spring and late fall) makes the best butter with the highest levels of beta carotene and richness of flavor. Winter cream when the cows are on hay will not turn as fast and will not be as bright yellow. Sometimes it won’t turn at all. Also, cream changes throughout the lactation cycle of a cow.  If your cream comes from a single cow, there are times in her milking cycle that the cream will be slower to turn or may not turn at all. Cultured cream tends to turn to butter faster than non-cultured sweet cream.  I suggest buying lots of cream in the spring when milk production is highest and make lots of butter to freeze.

We will be offering a “butter club” in the spring and you can come make butter to your hearts content with other like-minded individuals. But in the mean time, give it a try at home and let us know how it goes!

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