Making Butter.. how to have luxury in a credit crunch kitchen

As I look out of the window I see greyness everywhere…the skies are grey, the pavements are grey and even the people look grey. It’s the Age of Austerity, say the Government and the financial whizz kids who got us all into this mess.

Time to tighten our belts… cut back…spend less. We have to suffer….

The papers are full of articles on the cost of living and how food bills are soaring, utilities bills are going through the roof and how the ordinary person must make sacrifices.

Well, I agree. I agree on the cutting back, anyway. If we cook at home with care we can all produce marvellous meals for much less than you would spend on a takeaway or a pizza, or even fish and chips.  I have made a habit of cooking carefully and spending very little and, truth be told, have often turned out meals that are better and tastier than many meals I have had in restaurants. Look through the Credit Crunch section and you’ll see recipes for Beef Cheeks (the most wonderfully tender beef casserole you will ever eat); delicious soups like Roast Garlic and Marrow or Puy Lentil and Pumpkin or the gorgeous Tomato Rice Soup – simple, inexpensive ingredients made into food that you are glad you are at home for. There’s recipes using polenta, that staple of Italian peasant cooking made into Baked Polenta Pie and rice…. risottos made with Black Pudding and Apple and Bacon – just scraps of things added to a basic ingredient and transformed into something you’d be proud to serve to guests.

I don’t really believe in too many sacrifices though. I always like to use butter in my cooking – I certainly won’t use margarine or some cheap, chemically concocted spread, where dubious oils are treated with this and that to make them go solid and spreadable. Butter is better. I don’t use too much and it doesn’t feature in every dish but when I need it, it’s there.

Butter is just milk shaken until it is solid. What could be simpler?

What could be better than calling in at the supermarket and spotting, in the marked down section, a large pot of cream that you know, with very little work indeed, can be made into lovely fresh butter? That appeals to my penny pinching ways and my love of luxury.

I’ve written before about making butter, way back at the start of this blog, when I did it by using marbles in a tupperware box. I still say this is a fun way to make butter and a most excellent way of entertaining children. I don’t suppose you could get them to do it all the time, but as a one-off? A Saturday afternoon’s entertainment? It’s a brilliant way to keep them occupied and then, of course, you can make them buttered toast for tea. 

This time, however, I had plenty to do and didn’t need to entertain myself unnecessarily, so I was going to do it the quick way. It’s probably the way you will end up doing it, too.

I had been shopping to get some ricotta as I was going to make ravioli and as I walked past the Dairy section, I spotted a large pot of double cream… the really thick double cream. It had been reduced  as it had reached the sell by date. This doesn’t mean that it was going off at all, just that the date they had set for it still to be in peak condition was today. Fresh cream, still perfect and at a reduced price?

Well, I had planned to be doing other cooking and I had plenty to do in the kitchen but this was a bargain, calling out to me. And it just shows how easy it is to do if I was going to do it in between making three different sorts of bread and pasta.

I put the cream into the mixer (you can do it with a hand mixer if you haven’t got a standing mixer… it doesn’t take long) and started to whip it.

It thickens quickly.

And you keep whipping.

All of a sudden it transforms from a white, whipped mound to a lumpy, granular and yellowy mass. This is not great if you were looking for a topping for a dessert… but it is just what you want to see if you are making butter.


Look at it. Granular and yellow. That’s the butterfat.

Now, if you were using a thinner cream than I was, you would see quite a bit of buttermilk separating out from the creamy globules. The cream I was using was almost solid it was so thick, so there was less liquid.

Pop the lot into a sieve and wash it inder a tap. I gave it a squish with a flexible spatula to get more of the buttermilk out.

You can save the buttermilk for baking, or adding to soups – yet another credit crunch saving.

The Bear came over to help at this point… not because it is difficult but because I needed him to take the picture for you to see.

I got the butter out of the sieve and squeezed it together. More buttermilk ran out.

That’s butter, that is!

The next thing to do was to add salt.

I’m a great fan of Maldon sea salt and a pinch or so of that, scattered over my hand squished butter and then squished some more meant I would have a beautifully salted butter.

I do happen to have some old wooden butter pats  which are ideal for flattening the butter and getting the last of the buttermilk out. It also adds to the fantasy playing in my head that I am the consummate housewife and cook….

If you don’t have any, don’t worry. I just like them, that’s all.

If you look at them you can see they are finely ridged to help force the liquid out.

It helps make the shape of your butter. Again, it doesn’t matter if you haven’t got any, just shape your butter neatly.

And look what I ended up with…283g of best butter.

Surely that counts as being careful with cash? A credit crunch success?

The butter can be frozen if you wrap it carefully…. you can flavour it with whatever you fancy….

Or you can spread it on bread that you made and just enjoy it.

How simple was that?

That was made, while I did other things, in less than half an hour.

Now, as I said,  you can do it in a more relaxed fashion, getting young helpers to shake it about in a jar or a tupperware box, but you know what? This is just as satisfying and oh, so delicious.

Credit crunch money saving at its best.

Churn baby, churn… Or, how to make butter

This morning I realised, as I struggled to get dressed with only one working arm, I would have to make things easier on myself. If I did do a loaf as normal, even calling in help to get it out of the oven, I probably wouldn’t be able to slice it. I could gnaw at it, I supposed, but descending into savagery was a slippery slope.

I wouldn’t be able to lift the Le Creuset casserole, or any casserole, come to that. I did have a bowl of dough ready to be baked……the answer, my friends, was to cut the dough into little bits and then put the little bits into mini covered pots and make buns! It has to work, right? Reduce the time, I suppose, but it should be plain sailing.

Lamb Henry, bread and butter 010

And what would I want on these delicious morsels of bread? Why, butter! Ages ago (and no, I don’t know when because despite Googling for quite some time for the article, I can’t find it) anyway, ages ago, The Telegraph Magazine had an article about Richard Corrigan, making butter.

Lamb Henry, bread and butter 011

Luckily I do have my tattered bits that I ripped out of the magazine and I promise to copy out exactly the bit about making butter. How easy it would have been to have given you the link but, hey ho, one does what one can.

I first made this when I was wandering through a supermarket and saw a large pot of cream reduced for quick sale as it had to be sold that day. Never being one to miss a bargain, I thought this would be a cheap way to try out what Richard Corrigan assured me, was a quick and easy way to make butter.

How could it not be good for you? All it was was, was cream and a pinch of salt….Lamb Henry, bread and butter 016

Richard explained that one way of doing it was to put the cream into a plastic box with some marbles and shake… or you could go the easy route and whip it. Guess which way I did it? Think of the fun for the family… everyone having a go shaking the box.

First, find some marbles. These are beauties – my sister in law in Australia gave them to me, and she was sent them from her cousin in law in America. How international is that?

Lamb Henry, bread and butter 014

Then put them in a plastic box that seals tight. You really don’t want cream going everywhere, do you?

Lamb Henry, bread and butter 015

The put in your cream and start shaking!

This is what Richard Corrigan says

” To make butter

The simplest way to make butter is in a standing mixer, but it is also possible with any vessel that can be agitated back and forth. A Tupperware box with a couple of glass marbles is a perfect makeshift churn for a child to use.

Pour fresh double cream into a very clean mixing bowl and whisk at medium speed until thick. When it becomes stiff, slow down the mixer. The whipped cream will collapse and form into butterfat globules and the buttermilk will flood out. Strain through a sieve, reserving the buttermilk to make milkshakes or soda bread. Return the  the butter fat to the mixer and mix slowly for another 30 seconds. Fill the bowl with cold water. Wash your hands well and knead the butter, allowing the water around it to wash it. Drain off the water and repeat twice. Weigh the butter, then, if you wish to salt it, add a quarter of a teaspoon to every 115g/4oz. Pat it into a shape with wooden spatulas or butter pats, wrap in greaseproof paper and store in the fridge.”

So, you can do it in a mixer, but I have always done it in a box with the marbles. Cream in, marbles in and shake it up baby…

You can hear the change as it goes from liquid cream to whipped cream and then to a strange thickness, almost as if it is one solid mass slapping against the sides of the box. Take a look at it…

Lamb Henry, bread and butter 020

Keep going and then all of a sudden the colour seems to change and it looks different, almost granular. It becomes a yellowy golden substance, almost cottage cheese like in texture and you can see the buttermilk is separating out and you have almost-butter!

Lamb Henry, bread and butter 022

You need to drain the excess liquid off, so put a sieve over a jug and pour in the almost-butter.

Squish it about with a wooden spoon getting more and more of the buttermilk out of there. Then you need to rinse it with cold water. You need to get the buttermilk out, leaving only the butterfat. If you don’t then it will go off sooner, though I have to say, there’s never been any left lying around to go rancid in this house.

Lamb Henry, bread and butter 024

At this point I add some salt and mix it in, giving it a good slapping. The first few times I just used a wooden spatula and that worked brilliantly but The Bear found some wooden butter pats at an antique place at some ridiculously low price (maybe £3?) and bought them for me. You can slap the butter from both sides then. They aren’t essential at all unless you are looking at it from a style point of view. Just whack it with whatever you have. More of the buttermilk will come out and what is left looks just like…… butter!

Lamb Henry, bread and butter 026

There you go, rough and ready, but that is undeniably butter. I usually make it look a lot better but as I keep telling you, I only have one working arm, so what do you expect? But if I can do that in under half an hour? What could you do?

Think of the fun if you have children to entertain – you can make bread and they can be put to forced labour shaking a plastic box filled with cream and a couple of marbles.

I have chopped herbs into it before and even mixed in truffle oil to make gorgeous flavoured butters….You can freeze it too, all you do is  make sausages of the  butter and wrap it in cling film and then freeze it, ready for when you need it.

So now I have butter, ready for my buns. I told you I  had made the dough as normal and then I put it into heated mini Le Creuset pots….

Lamb Henry, bread and butter 017

Lamb Henry, bread and butter 019The oven was hot and in they went. There they stayed for 30 minutes, with their lids on and then another 15 minutes to brown… what little beauties they are? Don’t they deserve the beautiful butter?

Lamb Henry, bread and butter 028

There you go. Wonderful home made bread and butter.

Easy, isn’t it? I reckon it would be easier still if you did what Richard said and used a food mixer……