Thursday, July 11, 2019
Butter happened on Tuesday. It is a different process than making a pie. Seems like a human makes a pie but butter just happens. Its a mechanical process, stirring really fast, and then bam! Butter appears where there used to be cream.
Last year we were blessed with about 12 pounds of butter happening every 10 days from May until October. This year butter started happening in June, once a week, to give us around 4 pounds each time. This farm life continues to change and evolve with each season and that really appeals to me. I enjoy the challenge of observing, planning, and then adjusting my activities so everything flows. It requires creativity and attention and that stirs my soul, makes me feel human.
So butter happens. We are receiving around 4 gallons of milk each morning from our cows, God bless them. One gallon comes in the house each day for "house milk". The other 3 gallons stays in the milk-house refrigerator for two days. During those 48 hours the cream part rises and settles on top. I use a huge ladle to skim off this lovely, thick cream and store it for up to a week in the fridge.
At the end of 7 days I dip my finger into the oldest can of cream and taste. It is usually a bit, oh, how to describe the flavor? Funky cheese, yes mild funkiness, in a good way. The fresh cream is incredibly sweet so its easy to taste the difference. The next oldest can of cream is mostly sweet with just a hint of "I'm six days old, not so fresh". The total gallons of cream and their diverse flavors will make a real nice batch of butter.
Now down to the basement to set up the super-cool Cadillac of butter churns that we are so blessed to have. The butter churn that was here when I arrived 8 years ago was a beast, difficult to use, and physically dangerous. It made good butter but I started complaining immediately. My partner had been fantasizing about a churn he had seen a few years before so the abundance of the farm paid over $1,000 for the new churn. And its wonderful. So easy to clean, easy to handle. Its still dangerous but it takes a much more idiotic move to be hurt by this one.
When the churn is all set up I dump in gallons of cream, (up to 7), turn it on, and just wait. The cream is violently whipped by a large paddle inside the churn. It hums and vibrates and I love to hear the noises change as the texture and consistency of the cream changes. At some point when I stop the motor and lift off the lid, there are tiny bits of butter floating in butter milk. Done. How does that happen? I put cream in, washed a few cans while listening to the churn, then there's butter. It has taken me a few years to learn the art of when to stop the churn but that's about all the skill it takes.
Now the rinsing of the butter. Butter likes to be rinsed. First the buttermilk is drained off from the cool spigot on the bottom. At least one quart of this must be drank immediately by anyone present. The rest feeds the happy pigs. Then the churn is filled up with cold water, mixed with the paddle just for 2 seconds and then allowed to rest as the butter chunks float to the top. Open the spigot to drain off the water, fill up again with cold water for the final rinse. The rinse water drains clear and now its time to squeeze the butter. Butter likes to be squeezed. I used to put the butter in a milk pail and squeeze the water out with the back of a wooden spoon. Using my hands is much more fun. Reach into the churn and scoop out a large snowball-sized lump and start squeezing. Its a fantastic arm and shoulder workout. Each lump can be squeezed about twenty times then formed into a nice ball.
That's how butter happens here on the farm where I live. No, I do not know what buttermilk is except that its the yummy white liquid that floats the butter pieces. I do not know how butter happens. I guess all the fat pieces stick together when they get whipped around well enough. I do know that I love to eat butter and it is a wonderful way to store the milk. The skimmed milk turns into bacon, thanks to the pigs. The abundance from the cows continues to boggle my mind and fill my heart with joy. I do not know how to make a pie but I do know how to let butter happen and for now I am satisfied.