The New Home Economics

Like BUTTAH

6 Comments

I keep reading about how much healthier butter is when it’s made from cream given by grass-fed cows.  Trouble is, it’s kind-of hard to find, even at the co-op.  They have a special pasture butter right now, but it’s insanely expensive and it’s only for a limited time.

Happily, we already get our milk from Cedar Summit Farm, where cows are kept on grass.  I’ve heard that butter’s not difficult to make; I finally got around to it this morning.  Verdict:  EASY (if you have an electric mixer).

Really, you don’t even need a recipe.  Just pour some cream into your mixer and turn it on to medium speed.

Go have a cup of coffee and come back a good 5 minutes later.  It should start looking like whipped cream.

The whipped cream will keep getting thicker and thicker, then suddenly you hear a sloshing noise and behold, you have butter (and buttermilk).

I wish we would have switched to the other mixer attachment while we were still in the whipped cream stage; it was kind of a pain to get the butter off this whisk.

Strain off the buttermilk, form the butter into a ball, and rinse it with ice cold water.  Our yield (from four cups cream): 2 half-pint jars of butter.  So I guess that’s about 2 c., or 1 lb.  Plus some awesome authentic buttermilk.

I can’t believe how easy it was.  The whole process was about 20 minutes.  Apparently it’s a bit more challenging if you don’t have a mixer — I read one how-to that involved shaking a jar vigorously for at least 15 minutes.

Look at my homemade butter compared to this store-bought that we also have on hand.  The yellower the butter, the more nutritious it is.  Excellent.

Update, 31 May 2010: I finally remembered to take notes while grocery shopping so that I could work up a price comparison.  Here it is (prices from last week of May 2010 at the Seward CO-OP):

Special edition Organic Valley pasture butter, 1/2 lb. (8 oz.): $3.79
Cedar Summit Farm cream, 16 oz.: $3.79
Organic Valley buttermilk, 1 qt.: $2.99

Odd that both were $3.79, yes?  Anyway, so it actually breaks down pretty much exactly the same.  For $3.79 I can get the Cedar Summit Farm cream and make 1/2 lb of butter with it.  HOWEVER, I get the by-product — buttermilk — for free.  And we do use a lot of buttermilk in our cooking, so I am saving money with this.

Another thing to consider:  I’m not really sure how much pasture time the Organic Valley cows are really getting.  Look very carefully at the marketing copy used to describe the pasture butter: “Produced without antibiotics, or synthetic hormones and pesticides…at the height of pasture season.”  So, how many of the cows’ calories are actually coming from grass?  The cows are likely getting at least some grass, but Cedar Summit Farms clearly states that their cows get all grass, all year around.  And the resulting milk is healthier.  So yes, there is an economics factor to butter-making as well as a deliciousness factor.

And for the ultimate foodies out there, apparently real buttermilk gives better results than cultured buttermilk in cooking/baking.  And I have to say — the pancakes that we made with it this week were the fluffiest we’ve ever made.

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6 thoughts on “Like BUTTAH

  1. Have you done the math? Is making your own significantly cheaper than the “insanely expensive” stuff in the store?

  2. Hey there, I finally worked up a price comparison and added it to the bottom of the post. The homemade butter is not significantly cheaper, but it is a bit cheaper, especially for the quality that I’m getting.

  3. Hey there, I dug around more on the Organic Valley website (because we drink their milk almost exclusively, and I wanted to double-check their animal-welfare stance), and found this:

    All Organic Valley animals, including chickens and turkeys, have access to outdoors. Cattle graze in pasture whenever possible. Hogs live unconfined, and bed on thick straw. Natural sunlight is required in the hen houses.

    Our on-staff animal husbandry specialist consults with farmers on how to work with animals’ natural behaviors to maximize their comfort and well-being.

    We provide conditions for optimal production and well-being without the use of synthetic hormones.
    Many Organic Valley farmers prefer to accept less than 50 pounds of milk per day rather than the usual 70 pounds conventional farmers expect. Farmers observe that this practice reduces stress on the animals and increases longevity.

    We practice holistic and preventative animal health care.
    Care for animals is a primary concern for our farmers. Since the use of antibiotics and other quick fixes is strictly prohibited, organic animal farming has to involve healthy, happy animals. Our two staff veterinarians provide holistic health care expertise and assistance to our farmers.

    Our farms are appropriate in scale.
    Organic Valley animals are raised on some of the smallest farms in America! Our average herd size is 76 cows. Appropriate scale is important to our philosophy of animal welfare.

    We love our animals.
    Organic Valley farmers often say that one of the reasons they farm is they love animals. From cows and chickens to horses and barn cats, all are considered part of the harmony of sustainable organic farming.

    http://www.organicvalley.coop/why-organic/humane-treatment/

  4. Nancy, check out Deeply Rooted: Unconventional Farmers in the Age of Agribusiness.
    http://www.amazon.com/Deeply-Rooted-Unconventional-Farmers-Agribusiness/dp/1593761805

    It profiles three farmers, and the first one is an Organic Valley dairyman.

    • I read the first profile in that book but sadly ran out of time and had to return it to the library before I could get to the other two. I loved that guy!

      I don’t want to bash Organic Valley — that would be doing the very same thing that annoys me when other people do it; namely making the perfect the enemy of the good.

      I always get Organic Valley milk as a back-up when Cedar Summit Farms is not available. But I still like Cedar Summit Farms better for a few reasons:
      1) It’s not homogenized
      2) They use the returnable glass bottles. This should be near and dear to your heart, right Nancy!? 🙂 I absolutely hate trying to recycle plastic, so I am trying to just avoid buying it in the first place as much as possible.

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