Have had butter on my mind for the past two weeks (I often have butter on my mind, but it's been acute recently), and when my thoughts turned to Indian food the combination resulted in the desire to make ghee. Ghee, the Indian version of clarified butter, is traditionally made with cultured butter that's cooked till it's lightly browned. In the mood to experiment I thought I'd try doing it myself. I wanted to know what it really tasted like. And I wanted to know what genuine buttermilk tasted like.
As we are a cowless family, I bought a pint of organic cream and used some of my yogurt culture. The cream thickened and took on a gentle acidity in a day. I then hammered it in the food processor, dumped it into a cloth-lined strainer (above), then kneaded it to squeeze out the remaining water, till I had a ball of delicious home-cultured butter (below). A couple years ago I posted about making your own butter. A couple other folks had written about it as well (Wednesday Chef and Travelers Lunch Box), around the same time a good New York Times article on the subject by Daniel Patterson appeared. Butter from store bought cream is worth doing because, if you like to cook, it's part of educating yourself about the way food works. But it doesn't have much flavor.
Cultured butter? Whole other story. The buttermilk was deliciously tangy, the butter sweet and flavorful. If you have access to fresh cream from a local farmer and a good culture, making your own amazing butter is a breeze. I ended up clarifying it for traditional ghee, but the real revelation was how delicious the culturing effect was. The links above both give recipes, but it's really as easy as I've just described. It's best to use organic cream that's not been ultra-pasturized. I processed the cream at room temperature which worked fine. I'm lucky to have an Indian neighbor who's mom made butter every morning from the family's cow; Tripta gave me some of her yogurt which I've been using for a couple years now (thank you Tripta!). Would love to know where others who make their own yogurt, get their dairy. I gave Tripta some of the butter and buttermilk; she took one smell and said, "This is it!"
Making your own cultured butter is enormously satisfying. Which is how I find myself longing for a cow on a Monday morning....