Continuing my series of food posts from Diane St. Clair’s The Animal Farm Buttermilk Cookbook, I was going to be making her buttermilk lasagne today, but ran out of time. The reason I ran out of time was that I wanted to make my own “proper” buttermilk — that is, the liquid left over after you churn cultured cream into butter. St. Clair gives a recipe in the front of the cookbook, which (other than starting with a commercial culture milk) is the same as she uses to make her own farmstead butter and buttermilk. Before I read her book, I had figured that this would be too much effort for the home cook, but it turns out to be ridiculously easy: take two pints of cream, some previously made buttermilk (even supermarket cultured skim “buttermilk” is OK for this), mix together and heat to 70°F, then let it sit in a sanitized container at room temperature for a day. Whiz the result (which is creme fraiche) in the food processor until butter forms, then strain through a sieve and wash and knead the butter to ensure that there are no remaining pockets of buttermilk to go off.
I had a some small issues with her procedure. She says to whiz the cultured cream in the food processor for about three minutes; I found that the cream “came” (her word) in less than a minute, but I kept on whizzing for the full three minutes, so I ended up with something that looked a lot more like whipped butter than what the recipe suggests. I also ended up with quite a lot more butter: she says this procedure makes about half a pound of butter, but I ended up with more than a pound and a quarter, and comparatively less buttermilk. I used about a third of a cup of Butterworks Farm cultured nonfat buttermilk (which I had left over from last weekend’s buttermilk recipes) as the culture, and for the cream I used Sky Top Farms’ unhomogenized grass-fed heavy cream (which is apparently from Indiana) — my suspicion is that the recipe was probably tested with the usual supermarket UHT super-homogenized cream, so it makes sense that it would call for more agitation than a “creamline” cream would.
In any event, I’ll be using my fresh unsalted cultured butter tomorrow in the lasagna recipe (where both the meat sauce and the bechamel call for butter), and I’ll do some baking with it, too. One downside: there wasn’t that much buttermilk left after churning (perhaps more than usual was trapped in the butter by the extra whipping) so I’ll have to buy more supermarket buttermilk to make the quantity I need. (I wonder if I could “multiply” the buttermilk I have by adding it to some regular low-fat milk?) If it turns out well, I’ll definitely try it again (perhaps with a different brand of cream, maybe High Lawn — then I could compare my butter with theirs, made from the same milk). “Proper” buttermilk is much thinner than the supermarket variety, so I’m wondering how much of a difference this is going to make in a thickened sauce like a bechamel.
Total active preparation time: under an hour.
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