Why Churn Your Own Butter?

Cream-to-Butter-Transition

I’ve met people who make their own cakes, pasta, bread, fermented foods, sausages and even beer. Yet when I tell them I make my own butter, they are floored. Is it because they have the mistaken impression that it’s hard? Or do they think it’s not worth it? Well they’re mistaken in either case.

Ever notice how different the butter in the store tastes from Mbrz butter and how different that tastes from the butters in Northern Europe? That’s because there are so many different flavor “levers” you can pull when making butter. Why not experiment yourself and play around with the various factors that impact taste, which are explained in great detail in Harold McGee’s On Food & Cooking:

  • Cow’s Diet: Butter made from grain-fed cows vs grassfed cows is very different in taste and consistency, with grassfed being creamier and maybe more “cheesy” tasting
    Raw cream butter (what Mbrz uses) is missing that “cooked” flavor of supermarket butter, which is pasteurized or ultra-pasteurized. I know that the “p” word is frowned upon among this crowd, but I sometimes still like to scald Mbrz cream before churning it into butter for its flavor and longer shelf life.
  • Culturing: This is what gives European butter its special flavor and that characteristic buttery aroma. You do this by heating the cream to kill its native bacteria and then adding certain bacterial strains and letting them culture at room temp (there are many different cultures you can use here – I tend to really like Mesophilic Aromatic B). Then you chill the cream and finally churn it. Another way to accomplish this is to take that old cream that’s been sitting in your fridge souring a bit and churning it into butter (though I personally would heat it first and then may or may not re-culture it).
  • Fat Content: This has a huge impact on butter flavor and consistency, baking properties, etc. Typical for store butter is 80%. Have you ever tried to make a pie crust with Mbrz butter and gotten a crumbly, hard-to-handle and ugly (but tasty) result? I suspect that Mbrz butter is relatively low in fat (maybe just 70-75% or perhaps even lower).This is due to how difficult it is to extract all of the moisture and protein. The high-end bakers of France source specialty butters, like beurre cuisinier, beurre patissier & beurre concentre, which are almost pure butterfat. They do this by gently melting it and centrifuging the fat off of the water and milk solids. In other words, not easy to replicate at home!

If you want to give butter making a try, here’s a blog post I did that provides detailed instructions. Let me know how it comes out!

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