April 2015
The Herb Farm

Like Buttered Cornbread and Buttermilk

  This is butter and buttermilk. Refrigerate it now in order to make separating them easier.

We’re going to get around to all of the fermentables I create here at the Herb Farm, and I know I promised a fermented drink for this month. Instead of fermenting a drink, let’s culture one and get a byproduct to boot!

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Rita phoned me and asked if I wanted to place a dairy order. She belongs to a co-op that makes regular trips to Wright Dairy Farm in Alexandria, a town just north of Anniston.

Rita doesn’t live anywhere close to the farm, but there are so many folks in the co-op that each member only has to make the buying trek about once per year and there’s a fresh dairy delivery to the co-op headquarters about once every two weeks. The co-op is operated by a family who just wants good, quality dairy products for her family and to operate a co-op in their home is a small price to pay for their good health.

Since I was due for a trip up to the big city anyway, and I hadn’t seen my friend in what seemed like a coon’s age, I ordered some heavy cream, whole milk and cheddar cheese.

She picked up my order from her friend who operates the co-op and brought it to her house. I made my journey into the big city, took care of appointments, visited with friends at their small businesses and then headed for Rita’s house to get my goods.

When I arrived, she said she was getting ready to make some cultured butter that she started the day before and asked if I had ever made any.

"No," I said, "but I would like to try it."

She explained her process thus far and brought me up to speed on what she was doing.

The only butter I had ever made was sweet cream butter, where I took some heavy cream and churned it to separate the butter from the milk. The end result was butter and the byproduct was skim milk.

Cultured butter is quite different in that you end up with butter and buttermilk.

You begin by combining 1/3 cup of buttermilk (fresh yogurt will work as well for the bacterial culture) with 2 cups of heavy cream. Fold together in a mixing bowl, cover with cling film (plastic wrap) and keep at room temperature for at least 24 hours for the culture to do its thing.

This is where I entered the process. Actually we started another batch so I could photograph the beginning as well.

The result of the culture at this point is crème fraîche.

Crème fraîche is a soured cream simply made by adding a bacterial culture to heavy cream and allowing it to stand covered for a certain period of time at a temperature warm enough for the live cultures to work that converts the whole culture to a slightly thinner product than sour cream.

Save a little of the crème fraîche for later.

Pour the crème fraîche into your blender or food processor and turn it on. The butter will start to appear as small bits. As the yellow bits begin to separate from the white liquid, the butter will start to lump-up and ball.

Place the entire batch into the refrigerator to chill. Chilling the batch makes it easier to separate the buttermilk from the butter.

At this point you can place the whole content into a sieve to drain off the buttermilk. Then place the butter into a butter bag. If you don’t have a butter bag, use what we used – a clean cotton pillow case dedicated to kitchen use only. (Washed with mild, unscented detergent and borax, then line dried.)

Place the butter into the bag and squeeze it like a stiff piping bag. The buttermilk will start to seep from the bag.

After extracting as much of the buttermilk as you can, it’s time to knead the butter to remove all traces of the liquid. Adding ice water to the butter as you knead it helps dilute the buttermilk and remove it. Do this several times.

Your butter is now ready to put in your butter mold or butter crock.

Use the buttermilk for making cornbread or biscuits, or for just drinking. I could make a meal out of buttered cornbread soaked in a cup of fresh buttermilk.

As for that crème fraîche; it’s delicious on fruits and vegetables. Rita gave me a recipe for buckwheat pancakes that I’ll share with you.

Buckwheat Pancakes

1½ cups buckwheat flour

1 Tablespoon honey

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 Tablespoons crème fraîche or melted butter

2 cups buttermilk

1 egg

Mix dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients and whisk together. Cook on hot greased griddle.

Serve the pancakes with fresh seasonal berries, a dollop of crème fraîche and Dean’s Country Sausage made in Attalla. Yum!

Coming up, we’ll make some sauerkraut and I’ll tell you all about the benefits of kombucha.

Until next time, remember to watch your salt and sugar, drink plenty of pure water, and breathe in and out!

Thanks for reading!

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As always, check with an expert, like your doctor, before using any herbal remedy.