In the spirit of competition, or something, the Accidental Locavore decided to add homemade butter to the better butter comparison. Making butter is pretty easy. You just abuse heavy cream long enough and it starts to separate into butter and buttermilk. You may have experienced this if you've ever made whipped cream and let it go a little too long. The toughest part of the butter-making process is that you need to have heavy cream that's not ultra-pasteurized and that's become harder to find in your local supermarket. Luckily, and in the spirit of keeping it local, Hudson Valley Fresh has a heavy cream that's not ultra-pasteurized. Unfortunately, three out of the four cartons I bought turned out to be past their expiration dates -- not so "fresh." They tasted fine, however, so I proceeded on.
There are lots of ways to make your own butter, but they all end up being "beat it" or "shake it." Taking the beating path: put four half pint cartons of heavy cream into a mixer and let it go on medium high for about eight minutes until it starts to look like whipped cream. Then, turn it up to high and in a few more minutes it will start to separate into butter and buttermilk. You'll know when this happens because if you don't cover the top of the mixing bowl, buttermilk will start spattering all over the kitchen (there's a lesson here...).
Once you've got separation, line a colander with a layer of cheesecloth and place over a bowl. Pour the contents of your mixing bowl into the colander. You'll end up with buttermilk in the bowl and butter in the colander. Pick up the butter in the cheesecloth and squeeze as much of the buttermilk as you can out of it. Store the buttermilk in a container in the fridge and use it for biscuits, salad dressing, or crème frâiche.
If you would like to salt your butter, put it in a bowl, sprinkle a little (1/4 teaspoon) salt on it and knead it until the salt is well mixed in. Now just form it into logs, wrap in plastic or waxed paper and foil, serve and enjoy. My four cups of heavy cream made about 12 ounces of butter and 1 1/2 cups of buttermilk.
My verdict: It's certainly easy enough and it was tasty. Possibly better milk (i.e. cream) would have made a better product. However at $2.99 per half pint, my 12 ounces of butter cost $11.96 -- almost a dollar an ounce, about what the expensive butters cost. So, in terms of time and cost, I think I'll stick to Cabot for daily use and one of the "better butters" for the good stuff.
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