Butter. So Close to a New Invention.

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davew's picture

Ever since I have heard about it I have been on a quest to find some Irish-style butter. Aren't some things just like that? Based on a description alone they sound delicious and exotic, and by the difficulty to be had in attaining them, all the more delightful. Sex is like that. The first time I heard about it I had only the vaguest concept of what it was like, but I just knew I had to get me some. Back to butter. What distinguishes the Irish style is they deliberately let the cream go bad before churning. This adds a nice lactic tang to the finished product. We Americans refer to this as spoiled, just as the Gaels refer to our butter as bland. The problem is it is hard to get a hold of in the states. Irish butter is usually made with raw (unpasteurized) milk which probably means a big no-no on the importo. Even so it would be difficult to ship without spoiling and the price would be out of sight by the time it got here. The Americans do make some rough approximations of this style, especially back east, but to my taste as well as reliable reports, it just doesn't measure up.

This state of affairs lasted until last weekend when my time off work led random thought pathways which led to an epiphany. What if I made yogurt out of cream and then made butter out of that? I bet you guys have thoughts like this in the shower all the time, huh? Me too. The yogurt culture should provide a nice flavor as well as enhanced stability and how hard can it be to churn butter? Not hard as it turns out. I got my quart of cream and heated it up to tepid on the stove. This is 115F for you right-brained folks. I stirred in 1/2 cup of yogurt that I always have around. (Actually it's better than this. I used 1/2 cup of the whey that had separated out of the yogurt I always have around. Bugs are bugs. Waste not. Want not.) I incubated mine at 110F for six hours, but letting it sit at room temperature would work. It just takes longer. I'd give it 10 hours or overnight at 68F. The result was delicious in and of itself. It had a texture a little firmer than half-whipped cream and a nice bite to the flavor. I forced myself to stop after three spoons full. I wonder if this is at all similar to clotted cream?

Next up came the churning. It was in researching this that I found my idea was not unique. Letting yogurt cultures munch away on cream before it is converted to butter is a well accepted technique. At this point I was less impressed with the originality of my idea, but more convinced it would work. I opted on the food processor method using two cups of yocream per batch. The process is fascinating and only takes about five minutes. At first the cream whips, then the top starts to show some seams, then the volume drops to half and the texture looks like seafoam. And then, after a bit, the mixture breaks, the butter clumps up on the blade and the whey starts sloshing around. It's like magic. Foody, buggy magic. Now if you've never had real buttermilk before here's your chance. By "real" I mean what your grandmother meant by buttermilk before the megamarts got a hold of it. Decant the liquid into a glass and quaff deeply my friend. It is unlike anything you can buy today. The liquid is translucent, surprisingly thick, totally fat free, with a marvelous, tongue-slapping bite. Yummy. To get the rest of the whey out of the butter pour in a cup of ice water, give the food processor a few pulses, and drain. After repeating this two or three times the liquid should be very clear. If you want salted butter now is the time. Just put in as much as you like and give a few more pulses. Gather up the butter, put it in a large plastic container and shake the bejeebers out of it. The butter should form a softball-sized clump and rock and roll with each shake. Periodically open the container to drain out the water. Separating out the extra water is the point of this exercise. And you're done. I refrigerated half and froze the other half minus, of course, what accidentally spilled onto a couple of slices of freshly toasted English Muffin Loaf.

The final product is delicious and cheap. I would think the acidity and live cultures should keep it fairly stable as well. After all milk spoils in a few days, but yogurt lasts for weeks. Also, since the final product is still semi-whipped, you can easily scoop it out with a spoon or a knife at refrigerator temperatures. Try that with the store-bought butter.

Bon appetite!
__________________________
"we must be the change we want to see in the world"

scrooks's picture

Re: Butter. So Close to a New Invention.

Steve's lovely wife, Terry, says:

So, Steve and I both found ourselves wondering where we could find some of this elusive golden Irish butter that our good friend Dave had been unable to locate. Never mind that ultimately the Kerrygold butter itself wasn't really the point. We both read the blog and found ourselves fixed on the same point - ok, cool, it's easy to make your own butter and maybe we'll try that soon but in the meantime we simply had to find this Irish style butter and give it a try. It was important that we do this because A) Dave hadn't been able to find it, and B) ...well, is there really a need for another reason?

As it turned out, the search was neither protracted nor terribly difficult. Really, I'm not being facetious - we looked online first and based on that did believe that we would have a tough time locating any Irish butter here in town because it was out of stock everywhere we looked. But we bundled up our toddler and headed on down to the Plaza to our favorite gourmet cheese shop, Better Cheddar, in the belief that if this Kerrygold Butter were to be found anywhere here in Kansas City it would be there. To our pleasure, we found several bars of Kerrygold Unsalted Butter in the cold case alongside some English and Danish butters. I believe it cost something like $4 plus change for an 8 oz foil wrapped bar. There was no expiration date stamped on the package, so we decided that if it tasted at all edgy we'd attribute it to some sort of gourmet weirdness and leave it at that.

Based on Dave's post, I was expecting something more tangy. But, other than the fact that the bar is wider and flatter than the usual American stick, I have to say that the Irish style butter both looks and tastes like...well, butter. Let me qualify that by saying that we long ago quit buying standard butter and now only purchase organic butter - perhaps that accounts for my response.

On reading the Kerrygold website, I didn't find any mention of the fact that they allow the cream to go bad before they churn it, Dave. So, I didn't notice any particular tang or edginess in this product. I did note the pretty gold color and remark on the creaminess and richer taste. The pretty gold color comes from the beta-carotenes in the grass the cows eat - as opposed to the pesticide-saturated grain slag that cows here in the U.S. are fed and which produces a tepid and pale colored product lacking in rich flavor. But, again, both in terms of color and taste I felt that the Irish style butter was quite similar to the organic butter I've been buying. Good stuff, mind you, especially spread on bread with a bit of honey drizzled over it.

Anyway, I know that ultimately the Kerrygold butter itself wasn't the point of your homemade butter journey, but I thought you'd be interested in the result of our taste test. Also, the Kerrygold website indicates that you should be able to find the butter at Wild Oats and King Sooper - both of which I believe you guys have there around Longmont, yes?

__________________________

Consequences, schmonsequences, as long as I'm rich. -- D. Duck

davew's picture

Re: Butter. So Close to a New Invention.

Terry wrote:
Anyway, I know that ultimately the Kerrygold butter itself wasn't the point of your homemade butter journey, but I thought you'd be interested in the result of our taste test. Also, the Kerrygold website indicates that you should be able to find the butter at Wild Oats and King Sooper - both of which I believe you guys have there around Longmont, yes?

Thanks for the extensive research! As you say that particular product, Kerry Gold, was not the point of the exercise, but it is nice to know it can be found. Indeed it is the only Irish-style butter I have laid eyes on before. That was at John's Grocery in Iowa City. I checked our local King Stoopers and had it they did right along side the gourmet cheeses. It does have a creamer taste, probably due to the higher fat content than regular American style butter, but I also did not detect any noticeable lactic bite. Some research on my own, thanks Wikipedia, turns up the style of butter I am referring to is "cultured butter" and alas Kerry ain't. I'll check Stoopers again to see if they do have any cultured products.

Ah, the Better Cheddar. I remember it well. It is still the only brick and mortar shop where I have found jalapeno and chipotle powder.

If I had kids I would think butter making would be a fun and educational exercise. You can blow their minds when you tell them that butter is simply crystallized cream. Of course proving that would be tricky.

__________________________

"we must be the change we want to see in the world"

scrooks's picture

Re: Butter. So Close to a New Invention.

Dave wrote:
If I had kids I would think butter making would be a fun and educational exercise.

You're welcome to borrow our kids anytime.

__________________________

Consequences, schmonsequences, as long as I'm rich. -- D. Duck