This is the third in a series of posts about some changes to help you incorporate more healthful eating into your life – without a mutiny from your kids!
I’ve passed my love of butter on to my daughter. (I got it from my mom, anyway, so it only seemed fair.) The wonderful thing about a Real Food lifestyle is that when you’re talking about REAL butter, not only is it “allowed,” you can’t be healthy without it!
Butter has gotten a bad rap over the years. But we now know that it is hydrogenated fats – such as the margarine we were told to use in place of big, bad butter – that leads to heart disease and cancer. Even newer butter-replacement spreads that avoid hydrogenated oils contain rancid vegetable oils, GMO soy by-products and other additives.
Here Are Just Some of the Benefits of Eating Real Butter:
*The short and medium chain fatty acids in butter are used by the body for quick energy, and NOT stored in fat tissue. (In humans, fat tissue is composed mainly of longer chain fatty acids.)
*Butter contains important anti-oxidants: vitamin E, selenium and cholesterol. (Yes, cholesterol is an important anti-oxidant!)
*Butter contains vitamins A and D, along with iodine (in a very absorbable form), and has anti-cariogenic effects (protects against tooth decay).
*Butterfat contains glycospingolipids, which protect against gastro-intestinal infection, especially in the very young and the elderly, and conjugated linoleic acid which gives excellent protection against cancer.
*Being rich in nutrients, butter makes you feel full/ satisfied when it’s consumed.
Do you need any more reasons to love butter? (That was rhetorical, but if you really do, visit WAPF’s Why Butter is Better.)
What’s Wrong with Store-Bought Butter?
The butter you’re getting in the grocery store is probably not providing you with these wonderful benefits. Let’s just touch on the main reasons why.
1) The difference between grass-fed (pastured) and grain-fed cows. Most factory farmed cows are fed a diet consisting of GMO corn and soy, when they are designed to eat green plants, especially the quick-growing spring and fall grasses. Only when cows have the proper diet will their milk (and therefore cream and then butter) contain the rich supply of vitamins and minerals, cancer-fighting CLA and the X factor (also called the Price Factor), now thought to be Vitamin K2. Because grass-fed butter is a rich, golden yellow and grain-fed is… not, coloring is often added.
2) Pasteurization. This is a topic for a much longer post (coming soon!). But it’s important to realize that clean milk (from healthy animals kept in sanitary conditions) does not need to be pasteurized. Raw milk contains lactic-acid-producing bacteria that protect against pathogens. This is why raw milk naturally sours (and is not only still usable but very pleasant to some palates, especially for butter making) and pasteurized milk putrefies. (Visit www.realmilk.com for more info if you just can’t wait for a future post.) Among other issues, pasteurization makes the whole protein complex less available by altering milk’s amino acids lysine and tyrosine, and promotes rancidity of unsaturated fatty acids and the destruction of vitamins, including vitamins C and B12. It reduces the availability of mineral components, and last but certainly not least, it destroys all of the enzymes in milk.
Sally Fallon writes in Nourishing Traditions, “After pasteurization, chemicals may be added to suppress odor and restore taste. Synthetic vitamin D2 or D3 is added – the former is toxic and has been linked to heart disease while the the latter is difficult to absorb. The final indignity is homogenization, which has also been linked to heart disease.”
If you find a dairy farm from which you can procure raw milk, you can probably buy butter (and other dairy products), as well. (You can click here for a place to start in sourcing raw milk, but your best bet is to ask local Real Foodies and join a buying club, or contact a WAPF chapter leader.) For me, I like salty butter, and my farmer’s wasn’t quite there. And so, I began making my own. (Plus, you may have noticed, I just like doing things myself. It’s the German in me, I think.)
If you’re not ready or not able to take the leap into buying raw milk and cream, find the most unadulterated dairy you can. Look for farm-fresh, organic, low-temp pasteurized cream. But absolutely get grass-fed; Natural by Nature is one widely available grass-fed brand. (If you can find unhomogenized milk, you can allow it to sit out and let the cream rise to the top, and then skim it off and use it for butter. I like keeping the fat in my milk, so I buy cream from our farmer separately.)
There are a few widely available brands that produce their butter from grass-fed cows (although of course, it is not from raw milk) and these can be found in the WAPF’s shopping guide (which has been a lifesaver in the grocery store). The only brand I could find in my local Wegman’s was Kerrygold butter. (This may be found in the cheese section by European products rather than the dairy section, depending on your store.) It is delicious, although can be expensive. I usually buy it when it’s on sale and keep it in the freezer to use in a pinch if I run out of homemade butter.
There’s More Good News About Real Butter!
Making butter is easy, and even fun! It’s a great way to get your kids involved in the kitchen.
What you’ll need:
*Cream (Ideally raw, but definitely grass-fed, not ultra-pasteurized)
*Sea salt, if desired
*Blender or mixer
Basically, butter is whipped cream. It’s just whipped passed the point of what we call ‘whipped cream’ (confused yet?) so that the butter fat separates from the buttermilk. I have made butter in my blender (and once finished it with my hand blender when my old blender died halfway through), my KitchenAid stand mixer, and now make it in my Bosch Kitchen Machine. The technique is the same, and I’ll use the pictures from my KitchenAid as more people are likely to own one of those than the Bosch. (By the way, thanks to my wonderful friend, Angela, for the idea to do it in my mixer – now my preferred method!)
…do it the fun way with your kids. Get a small jar with a lid, pour in some cream (if you’re using farm fresh cream, let it sit out so it won’t be as thick), put the lid on tightly, and have them shake, shake, shake! Teach them to listen for when they stop hearing the sloshing of cream, and start hearing the soft thud of an ‘almost-butter’ ball. Have them keep shaking until they hear sloshing again; that’s the butter separating from the buttermilk. They will be so excited that they just made butter! Remember to mix in some salt if you kids are used to salted butter (or serve it on a salty cracker) and let them enjoy wholesome goodness.
OK, onto the grown-up method…
…which is pretty much the same!
1. Pour your cream into the bowl of your stand mixer and attach the whisk attachment (or pour it into your blender jar). Begin whipping on low, and move gradually up to medium or medium-high.
2. Watch for the cream to stiffen up, into whipped cream. Scrape down the sides as necessary. (You’ll definitely want to do this before you get to the butter stage so you’re not left with pieces of whipped cream in your butter.)
3. Once you pass the whipped cream stage, make sure your kids are watching because it’s about to magically turn into butter! (Two tips if you’re using your KitchenAid: One, you may want to switch to your batter attachment at this point so you don’t have to clean butter out of your whisk. Two, you may want to turn down the speed, especially if you put in a lot of cream, otherwise you will have buttermilk shooting all over your kitchen. Ask me how I know.)
4. When you see gorgeous yellow butter being whipped around, and pale buttermilk sloshing at the bottom – you’re done. I usually give it another minute once it passes this stage. I’m not sure if it really does, but I feel like it ensures that most of the buttermilk is separated.
5. Pour your buttermilk into a glass jar (remember to use a little sieve to keep the butter chunks out) and store it in the refrigerator. You can use it for delicious ranch dressing, or baking or pancakes. (*Note: This is not yet cultured buttermilk. Read more about buttermilk here.)
6. To make sure you remove as much buttermilk as possible, take your scraper or wooden spoon and begin pressing the butter into one cohesive blob. You will see more buttermilk as you do this. Feel free to add it to your jar.
7. When you think you’ve removed it all, the next step is to “wash” your butter to remove any residual milk. This step is most important if you’ll be storing your butter for any length of time. Butter from pasteurized cream will turn, and raw butter will naturally sour, as time goes on. Butter doesn’t last too long it our house (plus I like soured, European-tasting butter), so I’m a bit lazy with this step, but here’s how you do it: Rinse your butter with filtered water. Remember to press it around to rinse all of it, not just the outside of your butter-blob. The water running off will be cloudy. When it is clear, your butter is “washed.”
8. Mix in sea salt, if desired. (This is also a wonderful time to add in herbs or garlic to make flavored butters, or even honey or cream cheese to make amazing spreads.)
The amount of butter and buttermilk you get depends on many factors, including the fat content of the cream you are using. I usually make butter by the cream-quart. With my farmer’s cream, one quart of cream will generally yield almost 2 cups of butter and about a cup of buttermilk (I could probably press a bit more out but, once again – lazy).
I generally put about 1/2 cup butter into my butter bell to keep it at room temperature, and then split the remaining butter between two glass bowls. One goes in the fridge, and one in the freezer. This butter freezes and thaws well. And, even if you use raw cream, freezing doesn’t destroy the enzymes in it!
Like so many things, once this becomes habit you’ll do it with you eyes closed. Now go make delicious homemade butter, spread it on some nice, warm sourdough bread, and then write me a thank you comment.
This post is linked to Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist’s Monday Mania.
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