Introduction: Easiest, Fastest Butter From Scratch (with Optional Herb & Lemon)
There is nothing more unfairly impressive than serving home-made butter. I say "unfairly" because it's actually a very, very simple and (largely labour-free) endeavour, but telling people you made the butter will elicit more "Oooh!"'s and "AaAaaAh!"s than a plate full of tricksy macarons. As much as I can appreciate the rewarding feeling of manual labour, I can also appreciate the wonders of modern technology. So, I like to stick it to the pioneers and make the whole thing in a food processor. You'll have to get your bicep work-out somewhere else.
Some things aren't worth the effort to make from scratch. Butter is definitely not one of them. There's a huge difference between this delightful, fresh and light creation and it's store-bought counterpart, which seems solid and stodgy in comparison. (Not that I'm ever anti-butter, really.)
As with any recipe with few ingredients, every ingredient is in the spotlight so now's the time to spend a little more on your raw materials. Don't cut corners with bottled lemon juice and table salt, and you'll be well rewarded. Get an awesome, crusty bread (or go ultra-domestic and make your own!) and enjoy.
Step 1: Gather Your Ingredients
This is what you need:
1. A food processor.
2. Heavy cream. 500mL will make roughly one-and-a-half cups of butter.
3. Salt*. You know those little packets of pink and grey and blue salt in the grocery store? This is the time to use them. I used a grey French salt. At the very least, use flaked sea salt.
*Note: You can leave out the salt if you want, but for eating purposes, salted butter is generally tastier. If you're leaving it out because you want to use it for baking, be warned: this is non-standardized butter, and it's impossible to know the water content in it. There's a good chance it won't react the way you're used to.
Step 2: Start Whipping
Pour the cream into the food processor. Put on the lid and make sure everything is clicked in nice and tight. Turn it on.
Step 3: Wait.
The cream will thicken, and then thicken some more, and eventually break. This happens when you break the bonds between the fat and the liquid and they separate from one another. You'll hear a sharp difference in the sound of the whipping once it does, and there will suddenly be a bunch of liquid sloshing around in there. As soon as you hear/see it break, turn off the machine--mixing this liquid back into the butter will shorten its shelf-life. The whole process should take approximately 4-7 minutes, depending on the beefiness of your food processor.
Step 4: Rinse It Out.
Pour out the liquid and reserve it, if you like. This liquid is the fresh version of what's known as buttermilk, and can be used in any recipe calling for it.
Scrape the butter out of the food processor and rinse it off in cold water. (Hot water will melt the fat and you'll watch all your precious butter run down the drain.) Squeeze the butter over the sink to get out as much liquid as possible. Once it seems like you've gotten most of it out, put it back in the food processor.
Step 5: Salt It (and Add Any Other Flavourings)
Add in your salt. Take it easy at first, at add more pinch-by-pinch until you're satisfied. If you're adding lemon, use a microplane to zest the lemon, and then cut it open and add in the juice of half (or the whole thing, it's not a science.) I also used fresh oregano, but other delicious options are:
1. Garlic and lemon.
2. Roasted garlic.
3. Cinnamon, vanilla and a dash of brown sugar.
4. Any jam, or fruit puree and a dash of white sugar.
5. Maple syrup.
6. Red pepper flakes.
7. Strong olive oil, salt and cracked pepper.
8. Lime & coriander
9. Any flavour combinations you're game to try will have a high probability of success.
Turn the processor back on. You probably don't have to chop most things before putting them in because they'll get chopped up during this stage.
Step 6: Preserve (or Eat!)
If you're eating it straightaway, it can be left out at room temperature for a couple of days or refrigerated for a week to 10 days. If you have the willpower of a god and aren't going to slather the whole thing on a baguette over the course of an evening, you can pile it onto some plastic wrap, form it into a log, wrap it again, and freeze it for 2-3 months. (Make sure to wrap it in several layers to keep it from taking on a weird freezer-y taste.)