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Cultured Butter

6 Apr

For ages, my boyfriend has been suggesting that we should try making our own butter.  I think he was imagining us in a pastoral setting, me with braids in my hair  and petticoats around my waist, and us taking turns at an old fashioned butter churn.  I finally took Mike up on his invitation last month, following the directions in Sandor Katz’s book, The Art of Fermentation.  The process was exceedingly simple.  I’m sure it would be much more romantic with an old fashioned butter churn, but I used my modern Kitchen Aid mixer to the job for me instead.  It took just a few minutes to churn the butter this way.  The following recipe is for cultured butter.

 

Butter churn Français : Baratte

An old fashioned French butter churn. Photo credit to wikipedia.

Cultured Butter

(makes one cup of butter, and one cup of buttermilk)

Step One:  Culture your cream, making crème fraîche.  

Take a pint of raw heavy cream, and leave it at room temperature for a day or two. My kitchen is still pretty chilly, so I put mine in my oven with a pilot light, which kept it a little warmer than if it was on the counter. The cream will start to ferment itself, and will thicken.  Raw cream sours in the presence of it’s own enzymes.

Pasteurized cream will not sour on its own, as the pasteurization process denatures some of the necessary enzymes for that process: it will go rancid instead.  If you do not have raw cream: heat your cream to 185 degrees to kill bacteria in the milk. Once the milk has cooled down to 110 degrees, aka “blood warm,” add a couple tablespoons of buttermilk to your cream.  This will inoculate the cream with the organisms you need to ferment it properly.  Now leave this cream at room temperature for a couple days until it thickens.

You now have crème fraîche

Step Two: agitate the crème fraîche

20140321-225607.jpg

The whipped cream is solidifying and the butter solids are separating from the buttermilk.

Put your cultured cream into a mixing bowl with a whisk attachment and put it on a relatively high setting, keeping an eye on it.  It will turn into sort of a whipped cream first, and then it will solidify into butter.  The liquid left over is buttermilk.  If you don’t have a mixer, you could do this by hand.  One way is to put it in a jar, and shake the jar until the cream solidifies.  You can then feel less guilty about eating butter if you are one to worry about calories, because you just did a big arm workout!

Now you have butter and buttermilk.  Separate your two new elements, squeezing as much of the buttermilk as possible out of your butter.

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The butter and buttermilk, side-by-each, as the French might say.

 

Step Three:  Make pancakes! 

Or, whatever else your heart desires.  

 

 

 

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Kefir

24 Oct

Brooklyn Alewife has numerous recipes for tibicos, aka water kefir, but as of now I haven’t written about the better known kefir, made with milk.  It has fallen under my radar until now since it’s so straightforward.  Some sources suggest that you can try to convert milk kefir into water kefir granules.  Just looking at the two cultures, they seem so vastly different to me that I think it’s a bad idea to consider them interchangeable or convertable.  Here’s a picture comparison:

water and milk kefir

Milk kefir granules on top, tibicos on bottom.

The hardest part of making milk kefir is obtaining the SCOBY.  A company called Yogourmet sells freeze-dried culture that you can use for one batch, but once you use the freeze dried stuff, it’s gone.  Kefir is not like yogurt, where you can take some of your last batch to inoculate the new one.  If you obtain live milk kefir granules, you can use them over and over.  I got mine from my milk club.  You can also get them through certain CSAs or potentially at a vendor at the farmer’s market who sells kefir.  They probably won’t sell the grains regularly, but you can get all buddy-buddy and ask for them.  Yemoos.com sells them also.  If you continuously make milk kefir, your grains will reproduce readily.  If you are like me and make a batch every two weeks to a month, then your culture will be lying dormant most of the time, and your grains will grow much more slowly.  That being said:  no, I don’t have enough kefir to share, sorry.

Like kombucha or tibicos, kefir granules can corrode metal.  My display above is on stainless steel spoons– I’ve heard people say that any contact with metal is deleterious to the culture, but I haven’t noticed a marked effect over my last three years or so of making the kefir:  mainly, you want to wash metal utensils immediately after they handle the kefir so that they don’t get destroyed, and certainly don’t store your kefir in metal containers.  Brief contact is okay.

The recipe for milk kefir is:

Put milk in a glass jar— I usually do a pint at a time and add about a Tbsp of kefir grains.   Mix it up.  Cover the jar loosely with the jar lid.  Let it sit for 24-48 hours, stirring 2-3 times if you remember.   The consistency will change when the kefir is ready.  If you leave it a little too long, the curds will separate from the whey.  It’s still drinkable.  Strain  the kefir through a sieve to make it homogenous again– which you will want to do anyway to extract your grains from the drink.  Once you’ve filtered out your grains, start again, or store the grains in a little bit of milk or water in the fridge.  They keep well for at least a month.  Change the liquid they are resting in periodically.

Notice the new consistency of the milk-turned- kefir.  You can see here by the stuff sticking to the top of the jar.

Once the kefir is fermented, you can  drink it plain or on cereal.   My favorite method of consumption is to make a simple smoothie out of it.  Dump some frozen berries and honey or maple syrup to taste into your kefir and blend it.  The last batch I made was strawberries with honey.  Mmm, pink drink!

Easy Cheesy: making chèvre.

3 Jul

Cheese making seems like it should be some kind of fancy, convoluted process.  Chèvre is amazingly simple to make.  The most difficult part of the proces is probably finding a supplier to get the culture from.  I get cheese cultures at Brooklyn Kitchen in Williamsburg.  The packets come with the directions right on them:

The day I made my cheese, it was about 86 degrees in my kitchen, so I let the gallon of goat milk warm to room temperature, added my packet of C2OG, let it sit for a couple minutes, stirred it in, and left the covered pot in a cooler room all day while I went to a picnic.  I don’t have butter muslin, but later I put the curds into a kitchen towel lined colander, tied the corners of the towel to a wooden spoon which I placed over the top of my big stock pot.  The towel of curd hung in the stockpot over night and then I scooped up the dried curds into a container.

If you want to be fancy, you can shape your chèvre into crottins and then flavor them.  “Crottin” literally means poop.  This time around, I made a little poop of chèvre and rolled it in some fresh tarragon, and dill from my fire-escape garden, and black pepper.

I would guess that the wonderfulness of goat cheese has mostly to do with the quality of your goat milk.  Get the best quality milk that you can find.  Mine is made with a raw milk, so you can’t get this stuff in the stores– they can only legally sell raw cheeses that have been aged at least 60 days.  Here’s an interesting article about cheese protocall:  http://hartkeisonline.com/raw-milk-cheese-2/raw-milk-cheese-vs-heat-treated-cheese/.

Here’s a finished crottin of chèvre, rolled in fresh herbs from my fire-escape garden.

Curds and Whey

25 May

Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey;
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away.

Many fermentation recipes involve the use of whey.  This is not the powder supplement you get in the stores.  Don’t try the recipes with that stuff:  the powder is not a living food with active enzymes and cultures, and it won’t make things ferment.  For another matter, I don’t advise eating whey powder at all.  It’s a processed food that’s been killed of any of its nutritive value besides being protein.

Whey is the liquid byproduct that comes from making cheese or many other cultured dairy products.  One of the easiest ways to get whey (no pun intended) is by straining yogurt.  This is very easy:  Take a container of plain yogurt, one with live-active cultures, and place it in a kitchen towel-lined strainer.  Fold the towel over the yogurt to protect it from dust and bugs, and put the strainer over a bowl.  Let the yogurt sit for a few hours or overnight, if you wish.  Yes, at room temperature.  It’s fine, really, I swear.  Yellow liquid will pass through the towel into the bowl.  That’s whey!  The stuff left in your towel is the curds.

Whey dripping from the towel-lined strainer to the bowl.

Straining turns your regular yogurt to the consistency of fancy Greek yogurt.  If you strain it long enough, it will become more like creme fraiche.  To make your curd the most dry, you can tie the ends of the towel around a wooden spoon or some other long skinny thing, and then hang that over a bigger pot.  Without the strainer to support the getup, gravity helps release even more of the liquid.   Keep the straining yogurt away from potential predators, for instance, one Very Interested Cat.

Very Interested Cat promises to disrupt my whey-making process.

Whey can last about 6 months in the fridge.  The curds may last a month.  Smell the whey, and if it smells “off” that’s a good measure of when to throw it out.  The curds are visually obvious:  they will get mold if you let them go.   Stay tuned for whey recipes on my blog in the future.  In the meantime, eat your curds on toast, with chives or jam.

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