The cultured life I lead

The other day my other half broke a tooth. As it was on a piece of my sourdough garlic baguette I felt duty bound to accompany him to our dentist (100 miles down the road). Fortunately he was fixed up quickly (they’re excellent dentists) and so we found ourselves with the rest of the day for play.

After a trip to a garden centre, which was fairly uninspiring (probably not out of the ordinary for the North Highlands in October), we found ourselves following our usual path to the supermarket. It was later in the day than our usual visits and behold – in the reduced section – six 600ml tubs of extra-thick cream for 24p each! I nearly fainted. The rest of the shop was pretty mundane, mainly because I was so excited by my cream stash I just wanted to go home.

I’ve wanted to make cultured butter for years but cream is pretty expensive – I figured for 24p a tub it was worth the experiment.

When we got home we bunged four of the tubs in the freezer and I mixed the other two with ¼ cup of kefir, in a 1.5l Kilner jar, and left it on the kitchen worktop to culture. The usual way of making it is to mix it with buttermilk from a previous batch but as I didn’t have any a quick interweb search suggested kefir would be fine. I couldn’t find out how much to use so I had to wing it. 1200ml cream: 60ml kefir – 20:1 ratio looked OK. I shook it a couple of times a day and sniffed it – I’m a great believer in the sniff test. By the morning of day three it had started rise up the jar and had a good number of holes – a bit like sourdough starter – and had a distinct tang (definitely no sour or rancid smells though, thankfully).

The best thing for making butter is the stand mixer. I have to tell you it’s amazing – quick and effective – just my kind of kitchen tool. Using the whisk attachment it took about 2 minutes (I was a bit timid with the speed so it could possibly have been even quicker) and then starting making a rather off putting, squelching noise as the butter and buttermilk separated. I poured that off into a clean jar, scraped everything down in the mixer and repeated the process a couple more times until nothing much more happened. I didn’t measure it but I think there’s probably about 500ml in the jar. Enough to make the next lot of cultured butter and a batch or few of buttermilk scones.

The next stage was to wash it but OH arrived at that point brandishing an empty coffee mug and we decided to have some of the butter on toast, purely for the purposes of sampling, you understand, and so it got done rather more quickly and possibly less effectively than it might have. The water was pretty clear so I’m hoping it won’t affect it. Anyhow, I poured a mug full of filtered water into the mixer bowl and gave it 30 seconds, tipped the water down the sink and repeated it. Like I said, another couple of goes might have been ideal but hopefully (as it’s cultured) it’ll have a pretty long life.

I think we probably got about 6-700ml of butter. Finally, after bashing it a bit with a wooden spoon (I don’t have any butter pats) and adding 1 tsp of grey salt I put it in a clean 1l Kilner jar. I decided not to press it down too much just in case there was more liquid to come out – hopefully I’ll be able to pour it off. It looks like if it were smushed down the jar would be over half full. Not bad for just over 50p!

How did it taste? Remarkably like butter, thank you, only more so if that makes sense. We tasted it first without salt and it was very tasty but I decided lightly salting it would be even better and I think I was right. At lunchtime it was perfect on a nice soft piece of sunflower seed rye bread. I’m tempted to leave the next batch to culture for an extra day to see if it tastes any different

I’m not taking any more risks with teeth this week!