If there is one thing that Eastern European food, and most other European food for that matter, is known for is a liberal use of pork and dairy products. These are two of my favorite things, so whenever I have a catering event, I use this as an excuse to stock up on both. It never hurts to have a few extra pounds of butter lying around for that last minute Eggs Benedict with Hollandaise, and weeknight BLTs are my favorite “I don’t feel like cooking tonight” meal.
After my last catering event, I had a couple of pounds of bacon left but no butter. However, I did have a gallon of heavy cream that was nearing the expiration date. Problem almost solved: I’ll just turn the cream into butter.
Anyone who has ever over-whipped cream and watched the solids start to separate knows how to make butter. Basically, all you do is separate the liquid from the solids in heavy cream. This time around, I tried a new trick that worked fairly well. I put the heavy cream in a blender and let it run until the solids began to separate. At this point I took the over-whipped cream and put it in a food processor and let it run for five minutes. (Note: if you pour liquid into a food processor, it will start to run out the bottom once it reaches the height of the inner tube that holds the blade, I learned this a few years ago the hard way.) The food processor does a great job of working the cream and getting all the liquid out.
Once you have a visibly separated butter, remove the butter and place into a bowl of ice water for a few minutes. This will solidify the butter and make it easier to work with for the next step. The remaining liquid in the food processor is traditional buttermilk and can be used for cooking or baking.
After the butter has cooled, gently knead it together until you get tennis ball sized pieces. The kneading process helps remove excess moisture, so make sure to spend a few minutes on each piece. If it starts to get too warm to work with, put it back in the ice water for a few minutes and move on to another piece. When you think you have gotten most of the moisture out, form into balls and place in a clean bowl to drain.
Now that you have fresh homemade butter, roll into tubes and wrap tightly in plastic wrap or place into an airtight container. If you are feeling really motivated, you can take some of your fresh butter and season it up with some lemon zest, salt, pepper and fresh herbs for a delicious compound butter you can use on grilled steak, fish or chicken. Compound butter freezes really well so make enough for a few meals, wrap in plastic and save for later.
Have you ever made homemade butter? It tastes so much better than store-bought butter, don’t you think?