Introduction: Hand Made Butter (Italian Herb)

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When I was a child the word, "BORED" in our house was like a swear word. If my mother overheard you ever utter this word, the rest of your day would be filled with chores! One of her favorite "boredom cures" was to put us to work making butter. At that time my father owned a small dairy (50 cows) so raw milk was readily available to us. In fact, a little TOO readily available. (I can recall having warm milk on our cereal. YUCK!) This chore was actually one that I secretly enjoyed. It is quite remarkable to watch the milk go through a metamorphosis  into butter right in front of your eyes. Making our own butter is an experience I'll never forget, & I think it's one everyone needs to try it at least ONCE; so I've decided to do this instructable on the making of a delicious homemade butter!

Step 1: Raw Milk

What is raw milk exactly? It's not like we cook it, right? Raw milk is unprocessed or unrefined milk. In other words straight from the animal. (as I mentioned before WARM milk on my cereal) It is also known as cream-line milk because of the destinct separation of the cream that creates a discernible "line" or cream cap. The milk that we buy in the stores has been pasteurized, and homogenized, in order to extend the shelf life of the milk & prevent separation. 

Pasteurizing= We DO cook milk! In simplest terms the milk collected from dairies is super-heated then rapidly cooled. This process kills most bacteria & microbes. It also destroys some of the nutritional value & flavor of the milk, but it does however make it safer to drink & reduces spoilage.

Homogenizing= This process essentially prevents the cream from separating by pushing the milk through a series of screens or tubes at high pressures. This causes the large  fat globules in the milk to be broken into much smaller globules creating more consistent emulsion, therefore no/ little separation. 

 As far as butter making goes, you will get a more flavorful product using the cream from raw milk, however it will spoil faster & has more potential pathogens in it. It is also faster to make the butter because the fat globules are still relatively large so half the work is done for you. We always used the cream from raw milk because it was available to us. My mother would literally walk into the barn & scoop some cream from the bulk. Since raw milk isn't easily accessed now a days, I've done this instructable using store bought heavy whipping cream.

Step 2: Getting Started

Gather up the supplies to make the butter. You will need:

1 quart jar with lid
1/2 quart of whipping cream (this will make about 1 cup of butter)
Volunteer/ Slave for shaking
OPTIONAL: 3 marbles or a small spoon to aid in mixing in the jar

ITALIAN HERBS: (If you would like to do the flavored butter)
1 Tbs finely chopped sun dried tomatoes
1 tsp italian herbs
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp minced onions
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar 

To begin. Fill your quart jar about 1/2 way full or less. (you want plenty of room for the cream to "swish" around) & screw on the lid.
Now let the FUN begin! Start shaking it vigorously....

Step 3: The Metamorphosis

What is occuring? The fat globules in the cream have a membrane around them that prevents them from sticking together. As you shake the milk the bombarding particles damage this membrane which allows them to adhere to each other, creating a "snowball effect" with the fat. Soon you have butterfat & the remaining fluid from the emulsion which is known as buttermilk. Pretty cool huh! Watch this!

When I was a child the butter transformation happened a lot faster. I think this is due to using the raw milk. The processed cream is a little more difficult to work with. With raw milk the transformation takes about 15-20 minutes. With the purchased cream it took me about 35 minutes by hand. With several breaks to rest my arms. Forget buying one of those shaker weights on T.V.! Just make some butter by hand! My conclusion was...If you are using store bought cream use a mixer instead of the jar method! 

10 minutes = The cream is thicker with bubbles from the vigorous agitation. 
15 minutes = The cream is thick & fluffy whipped cream ( the jar will become silent when shaking it now)
TIP: You need to continue to have some sort of movement occurring when it is thick & fluffy so you can add a few marbles in the jar or a small spoon. The marbles or spoon will continue to churn the cream when you shake the jar. 
30 minutes = The cream becomes chunky & curdled looking.
35 minutes = The butterfat & buttermilk have now seperated.


Step 4: Finishing Touches

Once you have your butter you need to strain away as much buttermilk as possible. I used a mesh screen for this & reserved my buttermilk to use for biscuits later. Then I gathered my butter & gently squeezed it into a ball over the sink. This will sort of wring out any extra buttermilk. Rinse the butter under cold water as well to rinse it. Then gently pat the butter in a clean dish towel to absorb any remaining fluids. Now you can add your herbs a little at a time kneading it in with a spoon. Roll the butter in some plastic wrap & refrigerate up to a week. 

This Italian herb butter goes nicely with warm french bread (perhaps you could try this recipe) or just smeared on some butter crackers.

Enjoy the butter, but more importantly enjoy the process!

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