Thursday, May 15, 2008

Our Shortlived (But Delicious) Dairy Adventure

On our trips to Daniel's mother's house, I often have to drag him away from her refrigerator as he likes to scavenge for foods she hasn't eaten or doesn't want. In his last raid, he found a whole quart of heavy whipping cream that was going to expire in two days!
Now, while heavy cream probably falls into the definitely not allowed category of our diet, there was something we could make from it that is allowed in very small amounts... butter!
We use olive oil to cook basically everything, from chicken to noodles and sauces, as a non-stick agent for our pans and grill. But any good cook/chef knows you just need butter sometimes. Margarine - yuck! It's all about the butter. We use butter when making roux and adding to sauces... not too much, just a little!

So... in trying to figure out what to do with this quart of whipping cream, I had a vague memory of making butter when I was little, probably in second or third grade. I remembered the teacher putting the whipping cream into a jar and letting each of her thirty students shake it for a minute each. It took a while and we all sang and chatted while each of us took turns shaking the jar, and eventually, we had a clump of fresh butter bouncing around in the jar that our teacher took out and spread on crackers for us to try.
Another butter memory: My grandmother, who was born at the turn of the century (in the 1900's) used to tell me about making butter from cream. Churning butter was hard work, especially when you were working with much larger amounts. She talked about it transforming from warm cream to fresh yellow butter and buttermilk, (which I had a huge aversion to when I was younger.)
Which reminds me. Something I hadn't remembered until I began researching butter-making was the buttermilk my Grandmother relentlessly tried to get me to like. I didn't remember the buttermilk from the school experiment memory, and I had long forgotten that it was a by-product of the butter making process.
I had already began whipping the butter with my immersion blender, I had already salted it, and I had even spread some of the whipped cream on a piece of fresh and delicious rye bread that Daniel's grandmother had given us. Daniel was curious so we flipped on the computer to research butter-making.
We read through a few sites to learn we had only made salty whipped cream! Be it only salty whipped cream, it was still good... But, I wanted butter that I could save and cook with, so I stuck the blender in again and began whipping the mixture some more. To my amazement I wasn't far from the stage of separation where the clumps of yellowish milk fat begin to float to the top of the buttermilk.
At my scream of "It's butter!" Daniel came to the kitchen and I poured the buttermilk into a separate glass. I tasted it. It was amazing! I read that buttermilk is often slightly fermented when sold commercially and I have always hated it - every time I'd agree to try some I'd taste a bit then spit it out. But this buttermilk was good, it was like drinking sweet coffee creamer that isn't as thick (I know, that may sound gross to some of you but it's really delicious!)
It was creamy and sweet. It tasted ten times better than I ever imagined or remembered. If you make butter you have to try it. I consequently made some good cream sauce for some pasta with it... It has all the buttery flavor and goodness of whole cream without all the calories... only 100 cals per cup - comparable to 1% milk - but thicker and it is non fat!
I took the butter and washed it, put it into some plastic wrap and formed it into a squarish clump to harden in the fridge. It was amazing when I took it out to try it in some recipes the rest of the week.
I whipped up a little something with the butter and it's buttermilk that I hope you will try. After messing around with the recipe a bit, and using up the buttermilk, I tried using sour cream, which is just as good. I rummaged around and found some Fordhook lima beans (butter beans)... I remember eating them simply with melted butter when I was little (I know... I was a weird kid, okay?) Frequently underrated by the likes of people who had horrible childhood nightmares about them, lima beans are soft, buttery, and go really well with dairy-based sauces.
My thought process went through cream to butter and lemon and dill, tarragon, and sweet basil. All good with each other in their own different ways, and they made a wonderful herb combination for my limas and cream sauce. I had fun playing with the recipe and I think I am going to enter in Ruth's Presto Pasta Nights again.

Butter Beans and Noodles in Tarragon-Lemon Cream
Print Recipe Only
  • 2-4 oz fettuccine pasta, cooked

  • 1 cup IQF Fordhook lima beans (IQF are the next best frozen thing to fresh)
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

  • 2 heaping Tablespoons sour cream (or 1/4 cup buttermilk)
  • 1 lemon, plus 1 teaspoon zest.
  • 1 teaspoon tarragon
  • 1/2 teaspoon dill

  • cracked black pepper
Begin by sauteing your garlic in some olive oil. Add beans and butter after a minute or so. Stir until butter is melted. Squeeze juice from lemon over the beans. Grate zest into pan, and add tarragon, dill, and a few pinches of black pepper. Toss to coat beans and cook for another minute. Spoon in sour cream (or pour in buttermilk) and pour drained noodles on top. Toss to coat, stir to ensure evenness if needed. Sprinkle with pepper and serve.

How many recipes might you use where you need a bit of heavy cream and now you have a whole quart you don't know what to do with? Make butter. It's satisfying being able to make your own ingredients from scratch (and I mean from scratch). Ciao!
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Ruth Daniels said...

Great post! Not that I'll be making my own butter anytime soon, but lovely to read about it. And thanks for sharing the results with Presto Pasta Night.

mimi said...

I'll have to try making butter now just so that I can sample the buttermilk!

Marc @ NoRecipes said...

I've been wanting to try to make my own butter. I have some leftover cream in the fridge, I think I'll go do that now!

Dibs said...

Good to read this. Just heat that butter you've made on a low flame, until it melts and boils, and you will soon have ghee. Ghee tastes awsome with hot and spicy food.