Thursday, February 28, 2013

Cultured Butter, Why You Should Eat It, and How To Make It

This is my youngest at 18 months. He
grabbed a spoon, pulled up a chair,
 and dove into the butter I had
softening on the counter. Little ones
know what's good for them!
I first tasted butter as a sophomore in high school.  Like most public schools, mine sold lunches every day. Not as typical, they also offered some “breakfast” items before school in the morning. These items consisted of chocolate chip cookies, cartons of milk and juice, and … buttered hard rolls. Not exactly ideal morning fare, but a friend offered me a piece of her hard roll one morning and that was the beginning of the end. I started bringing spare change about once a week to buy one of those hard rolls. I can still taste it! It was soooooo good!
I grew up eating margarine. Not that my mom ever bought into the whole no fat/ low fat mantra, it’s just that margarine was cheaper, and she didn’t really know anything was wrong with it. She did her best by us ,and I have her (and my dad) to thank for my ability to think objectively and make choices about food regardless of what popular culture tells us. We didn’t eat much sugar and ate as many real or whole foods as a single income would allow a family with 10 kids. We just couldn’t afford butter is all, and I never knew what I was missing.

We’ve been “in the know” on butter for such a period time now that I was sort of shocked a few weeks ago, at Sam’s Club when I overheard a man ask his wife if she wanted him to grab the margarine. Sometimes when we know something, it seems sorta strange that everyone else might not know it, too, doesn’t it? That was a good wake up call for me. Even though conventional wisdom is coming around and demonizing trans fats (of which margarine is definitely one) they have not also accepted butter as the healthful alternative and so most are left with a conundrum. What to do? Butter?? Margarine?? Which is least bad?
Well, in case you don’t know already, butter is unbelievably good for you. When cows are healthy and grazing on rapidly growing green grass, the butter is at its best."Dr. Price thought [this kind of butter] could heal rickets and that it brought blood serum and calcium ratios toward normal". (Cure Tooth Decay p.38) It is rich in vitamins A, D, E, K2 which, by the way is design perfection since we need the fat in butter to absorb these vitamins.

Most people are aware that vitamin A plays a key role in vision, most are not aware of it's role in reproductive health, bone and tooth growth, and cell division. Most people are also under the false impression that we can get plenty of vitamin A by eating carrots. Not so. The water soluable carotenes found in vegetable foods are not the same as vital, fat soluable vitamin A. These carotenes must be converted by the body into retinol, but it is a difficult process for the healthiest of bodies and requires stunning ammounts of the carotenes.

Vitamin D assists in the metabolism of trace minerals in the body, especially calcium and phosphorus. Adequate levels of vitamnins A and D help the body to ward off infectious diseases like the flu! There is a common misconception is that we can get all the vitamin D we need from the sun. Well, yes, our bodies do have the ability to convert sunlight into vitamin D, but only if we have high levels of fat in our diets and have access to both UVA and UVB rays. How many of us are blocking those with regular sunscreen application? (don't even get me started on sunscreen!)

Vitamin E strong antioxidant and aids in ridding the body of free radicals. According to Adele Davis it also assists with skin elasticity

K2, or as Dr. Price called it Activator X, is what makes grass fed butter yellow, and it isn't easy to come by. Perhaps the best source is butter from cows feeding on spring grass. Next would be the livers of these same animals. The Swiss of the Loetschetal Valley used to have a religious service of thanks to God for the first butter and cheese of the year because of it's life giving properties. It is essential for tooth health and remineralization. It also plays a key role in protecting heart and brain. Activator X works synergystically with Vitamin D, A and calcium. It is uncommon to find poor bone or dental structure, and cavities in the ancient exhumed skeletons of the Loetschetal Valley.

When I first started making my own butter from the rich cream skimmed from our jersey milk, I found it nearly impossible to wash all of the buttermilk out of it, and it would get a sour taste fairly quickly, even when kept in the refrigerator. I found it frustrating and eventually I sort of gave up on the butter making and just bought sweet cream butter from the store.(which is really not that great since it's made with pasturized milk from cows in confinement) Then my 2 year old developed a lactose intolerance and I couldn’t use butter in cooking anymore. I decided it was time to take another look at butter making. Since raw milk contaise Lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose, most people with lactose intolerance can drink raw milk and eat raw milk butters and cheeses with no problem. I had been hearing wonderful things about Kerrygold cultured butter and mentioned it to my husband. We love cultured things! Yogurt, milk kefir, water kefir, Kombucha, and sauerkraut are all regulars in our kitchen. We both wanted to know WHY it was so delish and started doing some research. What exactly makes cultured butter cultured??  I’ll let you in on a little secret. Ready? It’s made from soured cream! That’s it!

Now, I had seen the recipe for cultured butter in my Nourishing Traditions Cookbook a hundred times and passed it up because it sounded gross. I mean who wants sour butter? Ewwwwww! But after all the research and forum reading, I decided what the heck? I might as well give it a shot with a bit of the cream. If you never try, you’ll never know, right? Oh my word! It is so good!! The butter is still very sweet, and what’s more, even if you don’t get ALL the buttermilk out, it stays good for quite a while just sitting out on the counter. Of course, I don’t advise you to leave it out on the counter. That’s just what I do. On top of that, the buttermilk you’re left with  is just like what you would buy in the store, except it’s raw. You can use it however you would normally use buttermilk. Do you make buttermilk pancakes, for instance? I really like it for marinating venison roasts. It makes them more tender and less gamey. SCORE! Two for the price of one! J  And what I have discovered is that the longer you let your cream set to sour, the thicker the buttermilk is, but it really affects taste very little. Of course you don’t want to leave it until it’s clabbered, but if you don’t get to it right away, no worries. It’s not going bad on you.
Lest you worry about  bacteria in the sour cream, let me put your mind at ease. If you have a good local source of raw milk from healthy cows, rest easy.  The milk is loaded with beneficials that actually protect the milk. In fact studies have shown that raw milk from healthy cows, when inoculated with a pathogenic strain, actually killed off the pathogenic bacteria or virus, and the only side effect was that the milk soured more quickly. It was not, however, any less safe to consume! 

***I can not vouch for what would happen with pasturized milk. Those animals are not healthy and any good bacteria that might be present has been killed by the pasturization***
Traditional cultures prized dairy and rarely drank it sweet and fresh the way we do today, especially those cultures in temperate climates. They relied on souring to protect their milk products! Souring is the process of beneficial bacteria (lacto-bacilli) consuming the sugars and protein in the milk, making it safe to consume for longer periods of time. Amazing, isn’t it, how God provides the means of protection right in the milk? And in the process, the milk becomes more healthful, providing beneficial bacteria to populate your gut!

Not only does the culturing process make it easier and safer to digest milk by prediegesting the lactose and casein, it also intoduces enzymes that help the body absorb the minerals already present in the milk, while at the same time increasing B and C vitamin content! Isn't that magical?
OK, so now that all that’s out of the way, how do you make this fantastic stuff?

Equipment you’ll need:

·         Fresh raw cream

·         Something to beat or shake it in. Hand or stand mixer, blender, or just a jar with a cover for shaking.

·         Strainer of some sort with small holes. A typical colander probably won’t work here.

·         Wooden spoon (wet so it won’t stick to the butter) and a bowl.

·         Salt to taste (optional)

 If you are blessed to have the ability to buy quarts of cream from your local dairy, you can start there, or simply skim the cream off the top of your milk with a ladle or a turkey baster and  allow it to sit on the counter for about 8 hours, or overnight. Depending on how warm your house is you may need more time or less. Keep an eye on it. Whenever it smells sour you can go ahead and begin with the next step.

Now you can form your butter in any number of ways. If you have a traditional churn, that would work, or a stand mixer, or hand mixer, even a blender. I personally prefer to just shake a jar by hand. Make sure your container, whatever you choose, isn’t too full. That’s key. You’re cream has to have plenty of room to slop around in order for the butter to form. Then just start shaking, whipping or whirling away. When it’s done, you won’t have any trouble knowing it. There will be globs of yellow butter floating around in your white buttermilk.

At this point you will need to strain your buttermilk into a jar. Use a canning funnel for this. It makes the job a heck of a lot easier, trust me! Now you’ll be left with a strainer full of butter. It will look something like this:

I just got this strainer in the kitchen section of Walmart. It’s not fancy but it does the job.

Now  you can just run this butter under cold water from the kitchen faucet. Alternately you could put it back in your blender or stand mixer with cold water and turn it back on. Repeat this rinsing several times until the water runs pretty clear. I usually put mine in a bowl here and press out as much water and buttermilk as possible and rinse as needed.

Once it’s running clear or pretty near to it you can optionally salt it, or just press it into bowls, or just slap lumps of it onto plastic wrap to store in the fridge or freezer. That’s it! Pretty easy, right?
Give it a try! Then let me know how it turns out!
source: Cure Tooth Decay, Ramiel Nagel
source: Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig PhD


  1. So where do you get your raw milk or cream around here?

    1. Look on there should be some resources on there for your area. When I was in Chattanooga we used to go down to Georgia every week. The farm was called Trinity Oaks and I'm pretty sure I found them on if you can't find them let me know and I'll PM you.