Butter in the raw

Until fairly recently, I reserved the same fear for raw milk as I did for rare hamburgers and pork chops–things that were as likely as not to kill me through the introduction of nasty parasites and bacteria into my digestive system.  But shortly after we started this blog, I realized that if I wanted to purchase local dairy products from small producers, my only option was to buy raw milk.  Though my first outing was filled with much trepidation, I survived not only to tell the tale, but also to become a raw milk convert.  I began buying raw milk and cream from two local dairies–Grace Harbor and Sea Breeze Farm.  I’d never had a problem, conceptually or otherwise, with raw milk cheeses, and continued to purchase these with abandon whenever I found them.  The only raw milk dairy product I could not find, in fact, was fresh butter, though Sea Breeze does occasionally produce some ghee.

butter1.jpgAs it turns out, the Washington State Department of Agriculture limits the products raw milk dairies can sell to cream and milk.  Raw milk cheeses must be aged a minimum of 60 days per the US Department of Agriculture, based on the idea that pathogens are unable to survive in a low-moisture, low-acidity environment.  My quest for butter made from raw milk was beginning to take on the aura of the quest for the Holy Grail; I was thinking of trying my hand at making my own butter when Man of La Muncha returned home one evening with a surprise; raw milk butter, which he’d received from a friend.

I immediately opened the plastic storage bag and unwrapped the saran from a stick of butter.  Grabbing a knife, I dislodged a small piece from the end of the stick and popped it onto my tongue.

butter3.jpgNow, clearly my fondness for butter is no secret; my nom du beurre, as Dairy Queen calls it, does not hide my feelings for this fabulous fat.  Good butter is rich and creamy, with a hint of salt.  Butter is everything in all seasons–spread on corn in the middle of summer, dropped in fat slabs onto split squash in autumn, baked in cookies or mashed in potatoes in the winter, and plopped on a pile of pea pods in the spring.  It makes everything a little more savory; there are few things more satisfying to my palate than coming across a lump of not-quite-melted butter during the course of the meal–the fat spreads across my tongue, dancing with the flavors of the accompanying food.  But for all that, when I tried the raw milk butter Man of La Muncha came home with, I realized that this was the first time I’d truly had butter.

butter5.jpgThe raw milk butter was savory, with a slightly green tang to it.  It crumbled like a cheese, and, like a good cheddar, there was a fullness and roundness to the flavor profile that provided a feeling of satiety from a very small amount.  Commercial butter paled in comparison; it was as though I’d been eating oleo all these years, only to wake up one day to the magic that is butter. 

We’ve since cooked with the raw milk butter, in addition to eating it spread on toast and bread.  The smell of the melted butter is unique–slightly gamey, with a bit of sharpness.  I can always tell when Man of La Muncha has used some of our precious raw milk butter when cooking, just by walking in the back door.  We suspect that it won’t keep as long as commercial butter, so we keep it frozen until we’re ready to use an entire stick in the course of a week or so.

butter9.jpgWe’re now down to the last stick and a half.  There is no more.  There is only one solution–I need to start making my own butter.  Does anyone know if overbeating whipped cream really does give you butter?

24 Responsesto “Butter in the raw”

  1. Sheryl says:

    Yes, dumping some cream into a mixer and whipping away will, eventually, give you butter. This was one of the first things we learned in cooking school pastry class. You can also pour the cream into a glass jar with a tight lid – a good way to keep kids occupied on a rainy day.

    Mind you, you’ll need to start with raw milk to get the same flavour as the stuff you’ve been enjoying, otherwise pasteurized milk will give you boring pasteurized butter.

  2. Jack says:

    “Does anyone know if overbeating whipped cream really does give you butter?” Yes it does – from ah, unintentional experience. But, to me, this is just another example of common food knowledge that’s not so common anymore. Shouldn’t this be taught in Jr. High School? Or earlier?

  3. Skud says:

    Others have said it already, but yup, over-beating cream will definitely get you butter. I was wondering by about the start of paragraph 2 why you hadn’t tried it already :)

  4. cookiecrumb says:

    Well, then I guess I won’t have to tell you about the time my mom (accidentally) made butter.
    Yup. You can.

  5. DairyQueen says:

    All right, people! I didn’t know you could make butter just by whipping cream either. I thought you needed a churn thingy. And they had gotten rid of Home Ec by the time the Bitch and I were in junior high…I took shop instead, and I have the wooden unicorn bas-relief to prove it.

    I do think cooking and basic food chemistry should be taught as part of a life skills class, along with an introduction to basic automotive maintenance, checking accounts, credit cards, and the pitfalls of media and advertising. But I guess that’s what parents are for.

  6. elliebelly says:

    It is important to rinse and squeeze the butter. Otherwise it will taste odd and go rancid sooner. So after it separates in the food processor, pour out the buttermilk. You can use it for other purposes. Then pour in some very cold water. Strain this into a sieve. Press and rinse this until no more buttermilk appears. You can use your hands for this, but http://www.Lehmans.com has wooden paddles as well as other butter making paraphanalia. The woman I spoke with when ordering mine told me that she kept her cream for 5 days in the fridge befor making butter, Then let it sit out for a few hours before making it into butter. I think it depends on the particular bacteria in your cream whether or not this will result in that good tangy taste or not. You can also play around with culturing your cream.

    And here’s what happened to my husband’s hands once we started eating lots of good butter: they became smooth and soft and didn’t need any cream even if he was spending most of every day with his hands in the soil. Before good butter they felt like sandpaper no matter what he did.

  7. Man of La Muncha says:

    Elliebelly, thanks for the tip about pouring off the buttermilk. Cream > Whipped Cream > Butter, that I knew from accidentally whipping cream past the fluffy stage one Thanksgiving. I didn’t know the buttermilk trick, which I think is what puzzled the Butter Bitch and stumped a friend in Seattle.

  8. Butter Bitch says:

    Thank you all for the butter-making feedback! Now I HAVE to try my hand at butter-making!

  9. Jenni says:

    I’m the stumped friend in Seattle, and I’m glad to have the buttermilk tip, but I don’t think that was my problem. I never got as far as whipped with my cream, much less to the point of producing buttermilk. Following the advice of a friend (the same friend who provided Man of La Muncha’s butter), I’d poured the cream in the blender and walked away. She assured me that it was that simple to produce great butter. For me, it produced slightly frothy cream, which I salvaged by dumping in Ghiradelli’s powder for hot chocolate. Good stuff, but not the good stuff I was hoping for. I may have learned the source of my problem at the farmer’s market last weekend when I purchased cream from Seabreeze for my chantrelle tart. The vendor told me that if I wanted whipped cream I’d have to leave it on the counter for an hour or two, since their cream was otherwise too fresh to whip. Since I had tried to make butter from likewise very fresh milk, maybe the same trick would work to get me past the great hot chocolate phase. If not, well, I guess that wouldn’t be so bad.

  10. Joanne says:

    Organic Pastures make raw milk butter – they sell through Whole Foods in CA. http://www.organicpastures.com/ It has a distinctive flavor and is not a favorite for all. In the butter tasting we did it was either judged wonderful or awful, there were no middling impressions.

    Otherwise butter is *easy* to make, albeit expensive. You can use your new mixer or just get a child and a large jar with a screw-top (they shake the cream filled jar). Jack made me make butter a couple of years ago trying to emulate a French raw milk butter with huge salt crystals in it. The trick is to find a milk you really like the taste of – as the butter concentrates that flavor.

  11. donna says:

    I taught my youngest son that cooking was chemistry, and got him a book on the science of cooking. He made bread for his AP German party this year and had a blast.

    Yes, there’s way too much common food knowledge we don’t know any more. I still remember going to my uncle’s dairy farm and having raw milk and butter for the first time – amazing flavor indeed. Not to mention the farm breakfasts – good god, I had never seen that much food on a table even at Thanksgiving!

  12. Curious says:

    Does Washington state have special rules for selling raw dairy products in state? I thought the FDA put the ax to selling raw milk awhile ago…

  13. Butter Bitch says:

    Hey Curious, from what I can see, the FDA only bans interstate distribution of raw milk–within the states, it is up to the individual state as to the regulations they want to impose. Some states follow the FDA lead and ban it outright, while others provide regulation and oversight. See http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/2005/NEW01278.html for more information.

  14. DairyQueen says:

    Hi Curious: The Weston A. Price Foundation, a big proponent of raw milk, has compiled this list of applicable state laws.

    To summarize, California, Pennsylvania, New York and Maryland are the only states not to have adopted the FDA’s Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO) of 1924, but plenty of other states who did look the other way as it’s sold through “cow shares” or as “pet milk.”

  15. DebbieA says:

    OK…my friend and I bought some raw butter from a farmer yesterday (interesting info from him: it takes three gallons of milk from a cow to make a pound of butter). Anyway, it smells like parmesan cheese…it that right? I am afraid to eat it. Just want to run it by the raw milk experts before I gorge….


  16. Butter Bitch says:

    Hey Debbie, our raw butter smelled a little “cheesy” too. I’d try a little (maybe on some toast) and see how it goes. It’s a very different taste from traditional pasturized butter–slightly gamey somehow. But if you got it from a producer you know and trust, I don’t think it’s going to do you any harm.

  17. YellowTop says:

    Here’s a butter-making “how-to”, complete with pictures!


  18. Barb from SeaTac says:

    Where can I buy raw milk, salt free BUTTER?

  19. It is important to get ALL of the buttermilk out of the butter when you work it or it will not stay fresh.

    Leave the cream out so that is comes to room temp. and freeze your dasher & churn (or your bowls & beaters).
    It will make the butter come faster.
    I’m in PA so it is easy for me to get raw milk. Barb check with your state Dept. of Ag. If raw milk is “legal” where you live they will know.

    Here’s my butter “how to” complete with pics :-)


  20. Wendy says:

    Barb from SeaTac: Raw milk can be bought in the Seattle area from Sea Breeze Farm on Vashon Island. Their products are carried at some health food stores in the area, and they sell at some of the local farmer’s markets.

  21. Man of La Muncha says:

    Barb from SeaTac: Butter from raw milk is not sold in Washington, as far as we have seen. When I asked various raw milk producers, they said that the process of becoming a butter producer in Washington was too cumbersome to be worthwhile. I’ve not seen any truly local butter in Washington from small producers.

  22. Donna Sutton says:

    I would like to buy raw milk and raw butter.

  23. Kathy Gibb says:

    it is not hard to make butter and real butter should smell and taste like butter; not something gamey or cheesey which you are scared to try. I have been making raw butter for my immediate family for several years and will be happy to give advice to anyone who is interested. Call or e-mail me for suggestions, I am a Weston A. Price chapter leader in Oklahoma and my contact info can be found here:
    Kathy Gibb

  24. Bonnie Eggers says:

    I am looking to purchase raw butter. A friend let me buy a pound from her, pure heaven.Could you give me any help on where I could buy some raw butter? I started on a raw food eating plan and it is improving my health espically the raw milk products. I could never drink regular milk it made me ill but the raw is different, I love it.
    I would really appreciate any help you can offer. Thank You!
    Sincerely, Bonnie