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Everything’s Better with Butter

Is butter a staple in your house?  It definitely is in ours!

For decades, butter has been pitted as evil and unhealthy and scary, despite it being a glorious traditional food.  It basically started back in the 1950s when a researcher named Ancel Keys proposed his idea and a study that showed a relationship between the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in one’s diet and the incidence of heart disease.  Sadly that study was skewed.  He had data from something like 22 countries…but cherry picked ones to present to make it appear like there was a correlation.  The flaws of his research have been pointed out by many researchers since then.  Even if they hadn’t, his “results” certainly don’t support what we are seeing today in the public’s health.  The attack on saturated fats has been running rampant for decades and so Americans have avoided it like the plague and turned to different sources of fats.  However, we still have plenty of heart disease and high cholesterol incidences, don’t we?  Big Food companies that produced items like margarine and vegetable oils worked behind the scenes to promote further research that would demonize saturated fats.  Recent research, however, has shown that butter is not quite the enemy it’s been made out to be.

As I said before, butter is a glorious traditional food!  Weston Price found butter was a staple in the diets of many traditional cultures, even though these isolated cultures didn’t know the names of the vitamins like we do today.  They still recognized the importance of this food for their health.  Yes, it’s a saturated fat.  Well, partly saturated fat.  All fats are a combination of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats.  Butter is about 40-60% saturated fat.  The absolute best butter is the stuff that’s naturally deep yellow in color.  The deepest yellow butter will come from cows that graze on fresh rapidly growing unsprayed grass (not Skittles!).  This butter has the most fat-soluble vitamins, particularly vitamin A in its true form of retinol.  According to the book, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, “[Weston Price] called these vitamins “activators” or “catalysts”. Without them, […] we are not able to utilize the minerals we ingest, no matter how abundant they may be in our diets. He also believed the fat-soluble vitamins to be necessary for absorption of the water-soluble vitamins.”  She goes on to mention its importance in things like growth, healthy bones, brain and nervous system development, and normal sexual development.

So basically, butter is a superfood, but again, as long as it’s from grass-fed pastured cows.  We use Kerrygold here most of the time (who have their cows out on pasture about 300 days of the year), but one thing I enjoy doing is making butter. Have you ever attempted it?  It’s a little bit of a process but let me tell you, the result is amazingly delicious!  This could be a fun project for your little helpers too!  Here’s how it goes:

I start out with a pint of organic grass-fed heavy cream and fill a pint size mason jar about half way.  (I personally will only use heavy cream, never heavy whipping cream.  The point of me making butter is to get as pure and fresh a product as possible.  Most whipping creams that I’ve seen have extra ingredients like carrageenan and chemical stabilizers.  For that reason, I’ve never even tried it, so it may technically work the same, it may not, but I like my butter to be pure.)

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Making sure the lid is secure, start to shake the jar and after several minutes it will start to thicken.

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Keep shaking and it gets thicker.  When it gets this thick, it’ll feel like nothing is happening or moving in the jar.  (This is also the part where my kids quit on me.)  You do have to put some muscle into it, but keep going!

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Eventually, after several minutes, you’ll start to hear some liquid swishing around in the jar as you shake as well as what sounds like a ball of something.  This is the beginning of the separation of liquids and solids, and means you’re almost there.

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Once I get to this step, I keep shaking for another 5 or so minutes to get as much liquid separated out as I possibly can.  Now you have 2 different products…the yellow solid ball is technically your butter, and the white liquid is buttermilk.  I know we are making butter here, but you can save that buttermilk for cooking/baking!  Freeze it in ice cube trays and transfer to a container or bag once frozen and store for up to a few months.  So drain that buttermilk (or discard it if you’d prefer) and put the butter into a bowl.  It’s time to rinse!

I know your arms are probably a bit tired from all that shaking, but seriously, do not skip this step!  This is crucial to keep your butter fresh.  The purpose of rinsing is to get all the extra droplets of buttermilk out of the butter…otherwise it will make your butter rancid in just a couple days.  And trust me on this, nobody wants rancid butter.  Nobody.

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Using (filtered) extra cold water, or even adding ice cubes, will help ensure your butter doesn’t melt in the process and waste all your hard work.  All you want to do here is kind of squish through the butter (with clean hands).  You’ll notice your water gets cloudy.  That’s the buttermilk coming out of the butter.

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Dump the cloudy water, taking care not to dump your butter with it, and repeat with fresh water.  Keep repeating until your water is as clear as possible even though you’re still squishing.  This usually takes me 4-5 rinses, but may vary depending on how much buttermilk you released during the shaking session.  Once you’ve reached the clear water point, dump that water and you should be left with beautiful yellow creamy butter.

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I like to add just a pinch of Celtic sea salt but that’s optional.  You can flavor this butter as you wish too.  A little cinnamon and maple syrup would be lovely for the holidays.  Maybe some garlic powder or rosemary…many possibilities here!  I store our butter in a glass jar with a lid.  Delicious!!

One thing I’ve been really wanting to try is to make this with the cream from raw milk from a local farm so that our butter also retains all the beneficial bacteria that would normally be killed off during pasteurization of the cream.  Unfortunately raw milk is difficult to come by in most states, totally illegal in some.  Here in Virginia, it’s required to have a cow or herd share which we don’t have (yet) but have been tossing the idea around.  If you’re unsure where your state stands on having raw milk available, you can check out this site.

In good health,

Michelle

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