Archive | other preserving RSS feed for this section

Transforming Homemade Creme Fraiche Into Cultured Butter

creme fraiche

The deliciousness of butter is a universally understood truth (and the primary reason for Paula Deen’s career). However, for as good as regular old butter can be, cultured butter is just that much better. Cultured butter is made from cream that has been doctored with a culturing agent, allowed to sit out for a bit and develop tasty, tangy bacteria.

Now, cast your minds back a couple of months to when I wrote about making creme fraiche. To recap, it’s a process in which you stir some buttermilk (culturing agent) into a jar of heavy cream (not the ultra-pasteurized stuff) and let it sit out until it develops a host of tangy bacteria. Do you see where I’m going here? That’s right! Once you’ve made creme fraiche, you’re about 15 minutes away from homemade cultured butter. Let’s walk through the steps, shall we?

creme fraiche into the processor

Pour your creme fraiche into the bowl of a food processor. I started with approximately 20 ounces of very thick, tangy product. Tighten the lid of the process and run the motor for 2-5 minutes.

butter in the food processor

It only takes about 2 minutes in my food processor, but I’m certain your times will vary. You want to process it until it looks like the picture above. You should have a thin, visible liquid with clumps of butter spread throughout. Do know that the liquid will be thicker than when you make butter from uncultured cream.

straining butter

Place a fine mesh sieve over a bowl and pour the butter and whey through the sieve. Make sure to save that whey, it’s incredibly flavorful and I’ll be posting a baking recipe for you guys that will detail how to use it later in the week. Using the back of a rubber or silicone spatula, gently move and scrape the butter in the sieve to help remove more of the whey. You will find that a bit of butter pushes through the sieve, just scrape it off the bottom and plop it back into the bowl of the sieve.

working butter

When most of the visible whey has been released, remove the bowl from underneath the sieve. Rinse the butter with the coldest water your tap can produce and repeat the pressing and draining of the butter (still without the bowl). The goal is to remove as much of the whey and water from the butter. The more whey you can remove, the longer the shelf life of the butter will be.

After several rinses, place the butter in a shallow bowl (I love this wooden bowl for this job) and work it some more, still attempting to work any remaining whey out of the butter. If you like a salted butter, this is the point where you can sprinkle in a pinch or two of fine grain salt. Mix it into the butter thoroughly with the spatula. In addition to the flavor boost the salt gives, it will also extend the shelf life of the butter a bit.

butter and whey

When your butter is a smooth and whey-free as you can manage, pack it into a small jar (I got enough to exactly fill an 8-ounce jar with this batch). Pour the reserved whey into a container (I love this milk jug I brought back from Portland a couple of years ago for this sort of thing). Both should be stored in the fridge.

Cultured butter is amazing stirred into polenta, dabbed on warm muffins or slathered on toast. Once you make it, you’ll find yourself inventing reasons to eat it.

Comments { 38 }

Dehydrating Meyer Lemons and Limes

dehydrating lemons

It’s been spring for more than two weeks now, but today I finally felt it. I walked to work without a coat, though my down-the-hall neighbor did raise an eyebrow at my wardrobe choice as we rode the elevator downstairs together (my mother need not worry, living in a building with hundreds of retired Jewish women means I never lack for vocal commentary on my seasonal appropriateness. I have been told to go home and get an umbrella on multiple occasions).

dehydrating lemons

Last week, before this balmy weather arrived, I was doing everything I could to brighten both my mood and the state of the kitchen and so tackled one final citrus preservation project. This one is so easy that I feel a little silly even mentioning it, but the pictures came out so nicely that it would be a shame not to share them.

dehydrating lemons

I scrubbed two pounds of citrus (half Meyer lemons, half limes), dried them and cut them into slices between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick. I pulled out my very basic dehydrator, laid the slices out on the trays and dehydrated them for 18 hours on the 135 degree setting.

319 | 365

Stashed in tightly sealed jars, these slices should last for a very long time. I like to pop one into the water bottle I use each day, so that it rehydrates and gently scents the water with the flavor of fruit.

A few thoughts. If you do this, make sure to keep them going until they are entirely dry. Leaving them with any liquid means you run the risk of having them go bad quite soon. Store them out of the sunlight to further extend their lifespan. The one thing I haven’t done yet that I’m planning on trying is to pulverize them in a food process or blender and see if I can’t make citrus powder with them. I think that would be a nice touch in salad dressings and other good stuff.

If you don’t have a dehydrator, I’ve heard that you can achieve a similar effect in a very low oven (I have not tried it, but Kevin West has). Make sure to put the fruit on a rack so that the air can circulate and moisture can evaporate. I bet a convection oven would do a good job as well.

Comments { 46 }

Homemade Crème Fraiche

homemade crème fraiche

A week or so ago, I posted a link to this Serious Eats post about making homemade creme fraiche on the Food in Jars Facebook page. The response was quick and fevered. People were amazed at how easy and simple it was to do something like this at home.

Here’s the funny thing. This is something I’ve been doing at home for years now but it’s never occurred to me that it would make a good subject for a blog post because it’s so incredibly simple. Truly, it’s nothing more than combining some heavy cream with a generous glug of buttermilk in a jar or bowl. Give it a brief stir to combine and then leave it out on the counter (uncovered) while you sleep.

I tend to let my creme fraiche do its thing on the counter for about 24 hours before I move it to the fridge, but the length of time you let it culture depends entirely how thick you want it to be and the intensity of the tang you’re hoping to achieve (longer equals more tang). When you’re done, take a moment to marvel at the alchemy of it. It never fails to feel a little bit like magic to me.

If your kitchen is dusty or you have pets who might be interested in a jar of cream on your counter top, stretch a bit of cheesecloth over the mouth of the jar and secure it with a rubber band. The good bacteria that you’ve introduced with the buttermilk needs to be able to breathe in order to transform the cream.

homemade crème fraiche

For those of you who like more specific measurements, I use approximately three tablespoons of buttermilk for every pint of cream (though truly, I don’t measure. Who needs to clean another spoon?). I do try to use local, grass-fed cream when I can find it, as the flavor is even better. However, if you can’t find similarly pedigreed cream, don’t let that be a deterrent to giving it a try.

If you’ve never tried creme fraiche before, it’s similar to sour cream, though it’s typically got a higher percentage of butterfat. It’s also got a more complex flavor than the sour creams we can buy at the grocery store. It’s amazing stirred into soups or dolloped on top of cut fruit or berries.

Amanda Hesser frequently suggests stirring it into a bit of freshly whipped cream for lightness and nuance (though in many situations it can be substituted for the whipped cream entirely). I like it on top of flourless chocolate tort as it works well to cut the richness of the cake.

Have you tried to make creme fraiche at home before? How do you like to use it?

Comments { 69 }

Preserving Zucchini + Giveaway

shredding zucchini
Had it not been for the destructive maws of the squash vine borer, my fridge would be bursting with zucchini at the moment. Sadly, all of my squash plants (zucchini and patty pan) succumbed to the evil ministrations of that pesky bug, so my entire summer yield was just a single, 12-inch zucchini. However for those of you who are currently awash in squash, let’s talk a bit about how to preserve that which you can’t possibly eat right now.

This might shock you, but my favorite way to “put up” squash does not include a jar or a trip through a boiling water canner. Nope, when it comes to the summer squashes, I turn to a sturdy grater, zip top bags and my freezer. I roughly grate the zucchini, press out a bit of its liquid and measure it out into two and four cup portions. Packed into bags and labeled, that squash then becomes part of quick breads, soups, pasta sauces and even zucchini fritters all throughout the year.

I’ve always relied on a basic box grater for this type of task, but recently, the nice folks at Microplane got in touch to say that they were making a new Ultra Coarse Grater and did I want to try it out. I said yes, as I’ve been enamored of Microplane products since I first tried their basic rasp about six years ago. They make the best graters and zesters I’ve used.

Almost immediately upon arrival in my kitchen, this new coarse grater became my favorite tool for squash shredding (it also works nicely on potatoes, harder cheeses, carrots and apples). It’s easy to use (a rubber strip keeps it stable on the cutting board), it’s super-sharp and its flat design makes it so much simpler to clean than the box grater. I am in grater love.

Happily, I have one of these Ultra Coarse Graters to give away. Leave a comment by Friday, August 21st at 11:59 pm to enter. I’d love to hear your zucchini recipes and preservation tips if you’ve got ’em!

Comments { 122 }