All About Butter

There is a special magic to simple foods like butter. It has a nurturing and gentling quality, and is one of the few animal fats we can eat without harming the animal. You can cast spells by rolling butter in edible herbs and serving it on bread, baking, or cooking with it. It is multilayered, capable of combining with other food-based spells for maximum effect.

Making butter is also an excellent family-friendly activity for sabbats, and a beautiful metaphor for change and transformation. Butter is an example of when you take one thing, cream, and it turns into two perfectly useful things, butter and buttermilk.

Butter is made using high fat dairy, such as heavy cream. The higher the fat content, the better, so in America, Jersey dairy cows in particular are prized for their butter. Other types of milk, such as goat’s, are also useable. Goat’s milk in particular makes a very white butter, as it does not have beta-carotene like cow’s milk does.

There are many options, all with their own unique flavors and properties.
Finding an edible-dairy-producing livestock animal that associates with your purposes might be an excellent addition to this working. This can include water buffalo, bison, camel, donkey, goat, horse, pig, reindeer, sheep, and yak. Some are harder to find than others, but a start can be finding the closest farm of that type near you, or speciality organic grocery stores. You can collect the cream from raw milk by leaving it overnight in the fridge, and skimming off the cream that has floated to the top in the morning.

When the milk is pasteurized, the butter is called sweet cream, which is what we are generally used to in America. When it is made with raw cream that is mildly fermented by being left sitting for a few days, it is called cultured butter, such as the more tangy variety we call European. Modern cultured butter is pasteurized, but then fermented by the introduction of Lactococcus and Leuconostoc bacteria.

Clarifying butter is a way to extend its shelf life and give it a higher burn point so it can be used in higher heat applications. The butter is gently melted, and all the foam skimmed off and the butter finely strained, to remove milk solids and excess water. Ghee is a form of clarified butter that cooks the milk solids for a while before removing them, giving it a lightly browned, nutty flavor.

The byproduct of butter, buttermilk is the liquid left over after the butter has come together. The buttermilk sold in stores is also cultured (fermented by introduction of Lactococcus and Leuconostoc bacteria), which makes the buttermilk thick and produces lactic acid. Buttermilk can be used in baking, in marinating meat, or you can drink it straight.

How to Make Butter
(Makes 2 sticks/1 cup worth)

  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • A medium bowl
  • A large bowl of ice water
  • 1 tsp fine salt or to taste (optional, not recommended if you plan to use for baking)
  • Stand mixer, hand mixer, blender, or clear jar with a tight-fitting lid
  • Small spatula or spoon, cheesecloth (optional)

If using a mixer or blender, start on low speed and build up to medium. First it will look like whipped cream with soft, then stiff, peaks, then it will solidify. It can take between 5-10 minutes.

If you are shaking the jar by hand, it takes much more time. Share the job with energetic children!

Strain out the buttermilk and save for other immediate purposes.

Place the lump of butter into a bowl, and pour ice-cold water over it. Using a small spatula or spoon, press the butter to squeeze out excess buttermilk. Drain the liquid, and repeat until the water runs clear. You can also squeeze it with some cheesecloth. You need to remove all the buttermilk or the butter will not last as long.

At this time, you can add the fine salt and work it through the butter. You may also add in other flavors and herbs as you like.

Can be stored in the fridge for 6 weeks.