Grain-fed animal products are not as good for you as grass-fed. Some grocery stores contain some very “bad” choices, and then there are some "not so bad" choices, but they are all not "good" choices. These products are no longer in their natural state, which undoubtedly contributes to their unhealthiness. Here for this post I’m talking about dairy, meat, and egg products.
Don’t worry, I’m not trying to make a case any dietary plan. Honestly, I have not found a perfect healthy solution. But really the focus here at Self Reliant School is to give you all the information we possibly can and then encourage you to make the best decisions for you and your family. Although the two are sometimes intertwined, overlap and cannot be separated, our primary focus (especially with controversial subjects) is to give you the how and then start a conversation about the why. Then you can take the information we provide and start to do your own research and make the best decision for you and your family.
So that brings me to the subject of butter. Here’s what I know (some of the why). Butter has gotten a bad rap over the last 20 or 30 years. In the ‘80s there was a huge push for low fat food and butter along with bacon and lard got the brunt of the attack, as far as whole foods go. It is true that butter has a lot of saturated fat and cholesterol and even today if you have heart problems doctors will tell you to avoid it. Butter is a natural product of animal milk (here I’m primarily speaking of cow’s milk) and that is another strike against it. It’s a dairy product that many people cannot digest easily. There has been a shift in thinking in recent years, and we now recognize that some fat (good fat) is needed, sugar needs to be further reduced and that not all saturated fat is bad.
Butter has vitamins, minerals and omega-3 and omega-6 fats. So it’s not all bad if you can tolerate it, you don’t have heart or weight problems, and here’s the biggie--you eat it it moderation (meaning it should not be over 10% of your total daily calories). Studies have shown that eating more than this does cause health problems. Of course studies aren’t perfect - you might question what else the people in the studies were eating, and the argument can go on and on.
Butter is undoubtedly better than margarine and in a lot of cases better than oils that are not cold pressed but heated in their processing. It’s also a sustainable fat. Although most of us don’t have a dairy cow, we can usually find a local source. Dairy cows can be kept in almost any climate and although they require work and feed they can produce some nutritious food when other fats (such as coconut oil) might not be available. So there is a case for butter if it’s consumed in the right amounts and from a good source.
The best butter is made from raw (unpasteurized) cream. If you don’t have a local source of raw milk there is no time like the present to find one. I hope you might pay them a visit, but if all you do is locate the farm or location for now that’s a step in the right direction. At least you know the possibilities. (Check back soon for posts on raw milk, I’m excited to have found a source near me.) It’s still fine to buy your cream for butter making at the grocery store. The best cream found in a grocery store would be cream that is organic and batch-pasteurized, not HHST (High Heat, Short Time) or Ultra pasteurized.
So now that we’ve established some compelling reasons that you might want to make your own butter let’s go over the process. First, let me backtrack for a moment and explain the milking process. Some of you might be saying I know butter is dairy but how is it made from milk? Well, let’s say you have a cow and you’ve taken a bucket out to milk your cow and you come back in with a bucket full of milk. You’ve got a bucket full of raw non-homogenized milk. So if you put it in a glass jar and wait for a bit you'll see the milk and cream (or fat) begin to separate. The cream will float to the top. (The reason cream doesn’t rise to the top with store bought milk is because it has been homogenized, which is a pressure process that distributes fat evenly in milk preventing cream from forming on the top.) You can then take that cream and make a ton of things with it, like cheeses and butter. The raw milk that remains is still good to drink.
How To Make Butter
In order to make butter I set my store-bought pasteurized cream on the counter until it was room temperature. I’m going to use the shake method and the butter will form faster if it’s not chilled. If you are using raw cream that you’ve been storing in your fridge watch this process very carefully - you don’t want the cream to sour. If you’re worried about it can you skip this step. It will just take longer for your butter to break (see below) but you can make butter with cold cream.
After your cream is room temperature you have a few options. You can add herbs at this point if you’d like flavored butter. Honey is also a great option. You can use a food processor (obviously you don't need to wait until your cream is room temperature using a food processor), a butter churn if you’re lucky enough to have one or...
like me, find a boy happy to be your jar shaker.
My son shook the cream for about about 3 minutes. If you’re using cold cream this process will take longer but keep going, you’ll get butter eventually.
After a few minutes the cream will turn into whipped cream, then it will start to break apart or “break” as the fat separates from the buttermilk. There are actually two kinds of buttermilk. This liquid you see here and cultured milk are both called buttermilk. You can also start with a cultured cream to make cultured butter. Cultured foods have probiotics in them similar to yogurt and help with digestion. Cultured butter might have a bit of a sour twang to it as it is not as sweet as non cultured butter, so if you’ve never had it you might want to start with just a little bit. Also if you wanted to take this a step further you could heat this butter and separate all the milk proteins out to make a product called gee, or clarified butter (sometimes called Indian butter). Gee stores at room temperature and often can be digested by people who are lactose intolerant.
When your butter has broken you wash all the buttermilk off of your butter. You can save the buttermilk and use it in other things or you can discard it.
Here I’m using a sprouting top to wash the buttermilk off the butter. Wash until the water runs clear. The buttermilk is the part that is most susceptible to spoilage so the more you get off your butter the longer it will last.
You might take a spoon and make sure all the water is out of your butter if you choose to leave it in your Mason jar.
As I mentioned above you can also use a food processor to make butter. Now is the time to add salt if you’d like salted butter. I put about half of a teaspoon of salt in this butter.
Here is the collected buttermilk.
You can place all you butter in a bowl and stir it for a bit to get even more buttermilk out and rinse it even more with cool filter water. Do this until the water is clear for longer lasting butter. Which process you use depends on how much butter you're making and how fast you intend to use it. The shake method is great for kids to help in the kitchen but if you're making extra for freezing you might want to use a food processor.
If you have a butter mold you can place your butter in the mold at this point. I just used some parchment paper to make rolled butter.
As you roll the butter shape it into a roll or log.
Place these butter rolls in the fridge or the freezer. You can also store your butter in a glass container or leave it in the Mason jar you shook it in.
As you continue to make your own butter and become addicted to the taste and process, you might want to consider a butter keeper. This little gadget keeps butter at room temperature. You place the butter in the top.
Fill the other half with water and then stick the top down into the water. Now, the butter won’t go bad because air can’t get to it due to the water seal. Be sure to keep adding more butter and replace your water every 2 to 3 days.
Do you believe butter is good for you? Do you have a favorite butter recipe? Share it below in the comments!