Vermont | Homemade Cultured Butter

cultured butter

I just spent a week eating cheese, making butter, growing sprouts, baking bread, snuggling with Golden Retrievers, visiting farms, driving through covered bridges, admiring snow-capped mountains and frozen lakes, and sampling microbrews while eating wood-fired pizzas. Could I have been anywhere in the world but Vermont?

Perhaps, but short of meeting a few friends for a morning snowshoe, my week couldn’t have been filled with more quintessential Green Mountain State activities. My siblings and I grew up traveling to Charlotte many times a year to visit my mother’s sister Marcy, master of pies, soup, and delectably melty appetizers. The five-hour drive always felt interminable, knowing what we had awaiting us: our cousins, a zipline, Uncle Wade’s waffles, Lake Champlain, dogs and endless outdoor fun.

For my parents, the drive was a breeze, the nature scenes providing endless distraction. I never quite understood the enthusiasm for the birds perched on the highway light poles or the first glimpse of Mount Mansfield, but on my drive north this past Sunday, I realized I had officially become my parents. “Children!” I would shout at every turn. “Look at the cows! The silos! The mountains! The sugar houses!”

I didn’t want to leave Vermont, and I took a few things home with me to make the parting more bearable, namely a log of the homemade cultured butter Marcy had made during my stay. As with other homemade dairy experiments, the process is half the fun: watching the cream thicken on the countertop, seeing it separate into butter curds and real buttermilk in the food processor, unwrapping the cheesecloth to reveal a rich, tangy mass.

If you are into these sorts of homemade projects, cultured butter is a fun one to add to your repertoire. Having it on hand will, of course, require making homemade bread, of which you might eat more than you care to admit. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

ingredients

stirring

bowl covered with towels

food processor

butter solids

squeezing the cheese cloth

unwrapping the cheese cloth

Real buttermilk:
real buttermilk

Homemade butter wrapped in cheese paper:
logs of butter

A few snapshots from the trip:
ajax

Marcy made the most delectable wheat berry toasting bread, a recipe adapted from this Bakery Lane Soup Bowl’s honey-whole wheat toasting bread:
bakery lane soup bowl cookbook

dough

rolling the dough

pinching the dough

wheat berry bread rising

marcy's bread

argos

stool

waffle batter

Wade’s famous waffles:
wade's waffles

wren

Marcy has sprouts growing all over her house. The process is amazingly easy, and they look so pretty, too. I will report back on this when I get mine going:
starting the sprouts

sprouts

sprouts

sprouts in window

farm

kids, dogs

wren

The recipe included below first appeared with this New York Times article: Spreading Culture. This is another good/related read: Buttermilk, Often Maligned, Begins to Get its Due. And this one, too: Butter is Back

If you like homemade dairy projects, here are a few other ideas: crème fraîche, yogurt, ricotta.

Homemade Cultured Butter | Real Buttermilk

Ingredients

  • 4 cups good quality heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup plain whole milk yogurt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste

Instructions

  1. Combine cream and yogurt in a large jar or bowl. Seal jar well and shake aggressively until combined, or whisk well if using a bowl. Cover jar or bowl with a clean kitchen towel and let mixture sit in a warm area of your kitchen for 18 to 36 hours; it should thicken and taste rich and tangy.
  2. Seal the jar or cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until it reaches 60 degrees, 1 to 2 hours. If you refrigerate it longer, allow mixture to warm slightly at room temperature before proceeding.
  3. Line a fine-mesh sieve with a double layer of cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl. Make sure there is plenty of extra overhang of cheesecloth.
  4. In the bowl of a food processor, add the thickened butter mixture and process on high — warning this might make a mess even in a 14-cup food processor...you might want to do it in two batches — until the yellow curds begin to separate from the buttermilk, 2 to 3 minutes. It will have the appearance of liquidy cottage cheese.
  5. Slowly pour the buttermilk through the mesh sieve and then dump the butter curds in. Let sit for 1 to 2 minutes, allowing buttermilk to drip through. Gather the ends of the cheesecloth up and around the butter, pushing the curds down and into a ball. Twist the cheesecloth and squeeze the ball to extract as much buttermilk as possible. You will be left with a butterball.
  6. Pour the buttermilk into a separate container and reserve for another use. Place the butterball in the empty bowl. Be sure to squeeze out all excess butter from the cheesecloth. Pour 1/3 cup of ice water over the butter and, using a spatula, “wash” the butter, folding it over itself and pressing down to extract the extra buttermilk. Drain off the milky liquid and discard it; repeat this process until the liquid is clear, 4 to 6 times. The butter will start to harden; at that point your hands may work better than the spatula.
  7. Place the butter on a clean kitchen towel and pat lightly to remove excess moisture. Knead a few times with your hands and pat dry again; this will help extend its storage life. Sprinkle the finished butter with salt and knead a few more times to combine.
  8. Lay out a sheet of parchment paper, or two if you would like to divide the batch in half, and place the butter on the paper. Form the butter into a log and then roll it up in the paper and twist the ends to seal. Make sure the log has a uniform thickness throughout. Refrigerate until ready to use. The butter will last about a month in the refrigerator.
http://www.alexandracooks.com/2014/03/27/vermont-homemade-cultured-butter/

Lunch at South End Kitchen: a tartine of homemade herbed ricotta with pea shoots, endive, and herbs…delicious:
south end kitchen tartine

Lunch at Folino’s: wood-fired pizzas and the best IPA I have ever tasted from Fiddlehead Brewing Company. So fun to see you, Linds! (Pie bird from Chef Contos):
Fiddlehead Brewery, Folinos

31 Comments

  1. Where to start!!!? Homemade butter, homemade bread, adorable children, puppies and family pictures! I am so going to make the butter and some more bread, it’s windy as heck outside today but it feels like SPRING! I’m planting asparagus crowns this weekend for an asparagus bed, can’t pick from it for three years but I’m excited anyway! Hope everyone is doing well….XXOO!

    Reply
    • You’re amazing! I am dying to plant asparagus, but at the rate we move, I might never see them break ground :) I hear they are hardy though once they emerge, right? So fun. I am determined to grow some things this year. xoxo

      Reply
  2. Love the post and your trip sounds so fun! Any chance you can post that amazing looking bread recipe! Love the look of a grainy bread!

    Reply
    • Becky, I will work on getting the recipe from my aunt. She will totally be down with sharing it, it’s just a matter of getting it right — she’s totally changed the original recipe, and her notes are all over the book. I will get it on paper eventually!

      Reply
  3. I’ve always been disappointed with homemade butters I’ve made, but this process is interesting — I’ve never tried with yogurt! Will try this weekend.

    Reply
  4. What a wonderful post. Your aunt seems really neat! Looks like so much fun to visit your aunt and uncle. Dogs, little children, babies, sheep and a Bourbon Red tom and fresh fresh food. Lovely. Thank you for sharing. Hope all is well.

    Reply
    • Allison, I love that you knew what kind of turkey it was :) He was beautiful! And my aunt is an amazing person. It’s so much fun cooking with her. Hope you are well, too!

      Reply
  5. I am in love with this post- everything is right up my alley! Oh, that butter… How lucky to spend such quality time with your family and lovely homemade projects. And your little ones are adorable! Thanks for sharing :)

    Reply
  6. Oh lordy! This post is wonderful — your beautiful children, those gorgeous loaves of bread, the delicately-colored butter, those darling pups! Is this place for real? Your aunt Marcy is such a great cook and has a warm face and capable hands; her home sounds like a dream. Thank you for sharing some of her with us — totally made her pie for Thanksgiving — and I loved learning about making BUTTER! Glad you enjoyed some time off :)

    Reply
    • Sophie, I know, Charlotte, VT is a little utopia. I didn’t appreciate it growing up, but, apart from being COLD most of the year, it has everything. And Marcy truly is an amazing cook and baker. It’s so fun being around her. Hope you are well!

      Reply
  7. I am definitely going to tackle this and soon…would love to hear about the other beers you liked, VT is my favorite. The fiddlehead is pretty amazing – if you haven’t tried many of Hill Farmstead’s (love Abner!) I think you may like those as well.

    Reply
    • Thanks for these ideas, Erin! I will have to get down to Hill Farmstead next time or keep a look out for their beers in shops. Abner sounds delicious and kind of similar to the IPA that I loved at Fiddlehead, which had a really refreshing citrusy taste — they said this was due to the amarillo hops. I know nothing about these kinds of things, but the beer was so good. Love VT, too. I mean, it’s just kind of perfect.

      Reply
  8. oh my goodness…aunt Marcy’s house is surely heaven on earth! Can I go to VT next time with u;) can’t wait to try this Scrumptuous looking butter and the SPROUTS…yum…I never thought to make them inside like that. Thanks too for sharing the gorgeous pics of your precious babes! And those retrievers…uhhhh…just beautiful. Big Sami would be in love.

    Reply
    • YES! How much fun would that be. My aunt remembers you fondly. We were talking about you actually because I was trying to get my aunt to buy a 50 mm lens, and I told her you were the one who introduced me to it. That’s what I was using in VT.

      Sami the dog would have been in heaven. Wish we could get all the kiddos up there for a weekend. It’s like instant happiness for kids. xoxo!!

      Reply
  9. What a beautiful, beautiful post!! Made me miss Vermont tremendously, so I started your butter recipe right after reading it – not that I ever did that at Middlebury but this post makes it feel so
    Vermonty in retrospect. Also left me feeling deliciously justified about the liter or two of cream I always have on hand, because “you never know!” :) Just finished churning, it’s so good!! Took almost half an hour with a hand mixer, but worth every minute. Now, to find a covered bridge in Germany…

    Reply
    • You are so funny, Kathrin! I can’t believe you churned the butter with a hand mixer…amazing. Made me appreciate all of the gadgets I have on hand…we’re so spoiled :)

      And I know…Vermont! There is no place like it. I never appreciated it growing up, but oh my is it beautiful. Any luck finding that bridge? Hope you are well!

      Reply
  10. Oh my goodness am I have a walk down memory lane! I grew up on a small farm—-back when the world was flat. Homemade butter was the only kind
    we had. Mom baked of course. I could go on and on. Bottom line is that I really enjoyed your post.

    Reply
  11. What a lovely trip! I wouldn’t want to leave either. :)

    I’ve been wondering where I can get *real* buttermilk around here, and of course the answer is so obvious – make your own! This looks like a great cooking project. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  12. Oh Alexandra,
    How you do it! With such lovely babies and blogging.
    I am amazed. My baby just arrived 4 weeks ago and I am at my wits end because it totally turned around my life and schedule. Thinking I will never get time to cook and bake and organize my house makes me nervous and overwhelmed. Not to mention sleep deprivation. I will keep coming back to your blog now more for inspiration than the recipes.
    Thanks. :)

    Reply
    • Oh Sana, it’s so hard with a new baby. I swear I didn’t do anything productive for months after Ella arrived. And I mean it, taking care of three is easier than taking care of your first new born — so many changes, so many unknowns. Don’t worry! It will get easier. I promise. The sleep deprivation was the worst with Ella, too. Just try to nap when you can, and don’t worry about the houes or cooking…just enjoy that baby :)

      Reply
  13. In the first step you seal the jar to combine the milk and yogurt. Do you then take the lid off and cover with a towel or leave the lid on?

    Reply
    • Hi Gayle — hope I’m not too late here. We actually, didn’t use a jar — we just whisked everything together in the bowl, and then covered the bowl with a tea towel. But, if you are using the jar, I would remove the lid before covering with the tea towel. Hope that helps!

      Reply
  14. I recognize the dogs! I have two just like them. English Goldens, right? Best dogs ever. I love your blog. Thanks for the many great recipes you have contributed to my life!

    Reply
  15. I really enjoyed your site. The recipes intertwined with family, dogs, barnyard animals and a warm looking home…and butter making!!! Reminds me of my childhood on the family farm. Just love it!

    Reply

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