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.

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Gorgeous Spring Cookbooks, Part I

favorite cookbooks spring 2011

You many not realize it (I didn’t know it until I started writing about food), but the arrival of new cookbooks is a seasonal event. They tend to come out in large clusters in the early spring (in time for the peak summer season) and in the fall (so that you have new ones to choose from for holiday giving). So far, this season’s crop of books is just gorgeous. In fact, so many lovely ones have crossed my path recently that I’m splitting them up into two posts, so that this doesn’t turn into an epic.

The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches

Having grown up in Southern California and Portland, OR, I partial to that variety of sandwich that is hard to find off the west coast. I’m sure some of you know what I’m talking about. It is made on either sourdough or whole grain bread and includes very thinly sliced red onion, sprouts, cucumbers, avocado, lettuce, shredded carrots, a smear of mustard, a bit of cheese and, if you’re me, a few slices of turkey breast.

Though we don’t lack for sandwiches in Philadelphia (it’s the homeland of the cheesesteak, after all), it’s hard to find ones made in that hippie, crunchy west coast style. However, with the help of The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches I’m working to broaden my sandwich horizons. Written by Susan Russo and photographed by Matt Armendariz, this book is gorgeous and is sure to induce hunger pangs. I think someone should do a cook-through blog of this book (and invite me to share in some of the sandwich bounty. *I do realize that sandwiches don’t have a whole lot to do with canning, but the book is just so pretty that I couldn’t resist including it in this stack.

How to Cook Indian

A few weeks ago, someone asked a question on the Food in Jars Facebook page, wondering if there was a good source for ethnic canning recipes. At the time, I didn’t have a good answer for her. That was before How to Cook Indian showed up on my doorstep. If you’re in search of recipes that can guide you through a world of Indian recipes, including wide assortment of chutneys and pickles, this is a fantastic book. I will warn you that not many of these recipes can be water bath canned, but many will keep in the fridge for a nice, long time. For more on Indian pickles, I also recommend checking out some of the posts that the Tigress has written on the subject.

Tart and Sweet

Hooray! A new canning book! Tart and Sweet is a lovely book written by Kelly Geary and Jessie Knadler and I’m so delighted to add it to my preserving library. I think one of the things that you guys are going to love about this book is that when a recipe needs pectin, it calls for Pomona’s Pectin. I don’t know of any other book that references that particular pectin and so will be a great confidence boost for those of you who are just starting out using it (oops, I’m hearing in the comments that Put ‘em Up also includes instructions for Pomona’s Pectin. I had forgotten that). But don’t think that this is just a jam book, it also includes a variety of pickles, preserved fruits and other amazing sounding compotes. I’m really looking forward to making a few of the recipes from this volume.

Goat

Have you ever found yourself tempted to buy a jug of goat milk in a natural foods store? If the thing holding you back is a fear that you wouldn’t know how to best use it, then Goat: Meat, Milk, Cheese is for you. Written by prolific cookbook duo Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough, this is a beautifully photographed and appealingly penned volume. It has me itching to leap up from my chair and make the cajeta on page 148.

Super Natural Every Day

I have been reading Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks for more than six years now. It was one of the first blogs I followed and has always been a source of great inspiration for me. When Super Natural Cooking came out, I wasted no time in ordering a copy. It has been a beloved volume in my kitchen and when I heard she was she was working on a new book, I had no doubt that it wouldn’t be similarly wonderful. Having now had my hands on a copy for a couple of weeks, my hunch has been born out. Super Natural Every Day, is a fantastic book. It is bursting with bright, healthy, accessible food that I can’t wait to eat. With Easter coming up, I’m definitely going to make the Hard-Cooked Eggs with Dukkah on page 106 very, very soon.

One-Block Feast

As a native west coaster, I am ordained by birth to love Sunset Magazine. My mom subscribed to it when I was a kid and over the years, I’ve build up quite an archive of vintage cookbooks published by the Sunset empire (Cooking Bold and Fearless, for instances). The One-Block Feast is the latest volume to issue forth from Sunset and is dedicated to food editor Margo True’s project – to produce delicious meals only using the foods grown in the yard at Sunset HQ. I followed much of the project last year via their blog and loved both the concept and the execution.

What makes this book so fabulous is that it isn’t just documenting the process. It gets into the nitty gritty and gives readers the tools to tackle all the same projects as the One-Block team took on. And while I don’t have the space for chickens, I plan on using the guidelines offered here to finally turn some of the crappy wine I have squirreled away into useful vinegar.

River Cottage Every Day

There are some cookbooks that are clearly designed to be used regularly and there are some that are more aspirational in natural. While I am totally smitten by River Cottage Every Day, I’m a bit afraid that it falls more into the aspirational category than the regular utility one for me (remember, this is just my opinion. Cooking styles vary widely, so it might work differently in your life). That’s not to say that there aren’t a few recipes I will try (hello Cauliflower Cheese on page 322), but many of the recipes are too far outside of my culinary dialect for daily use.

All that said, I don’t actually think there’s anything wrong with an aspirational book. This volume has rapidly become my go-to escapist fare, the thing I turn to when the pressures of my regular life get a bit intense and I just want to imagine a life lived in the English countryside, where gooseberries grow like weeds and there’s always time for a four hour braise. But it’s not going to be as useful as the Every Day title implies.

Heartland

You don’t have to be a country girl (or boy) to want to crawl right inside the pages of Heartland. Written by Judith Fertig, this huge book is appropriate for both coffee table displaying and trips to the kitchen. It offers good reminders that the artisanal food revolution isn’t just happening along the coasts. I am desperate to make the Popcorn with Smoked Gouda on page 120.

The Complete Kitchen Garden

The Complete Kitchen Garden is a book that does just what it says it’s going to do. It walks you through the steps necessary to plant and maintain a thriving garden and then shows you what to do with your bounty. However, if you’re like me and don’t have any outdoor space, don’t write this one off. It also contains 100 recipes that are the perfect thing for those heady days of mid-summer and early fall. I am already looking forward to making the Roasted Fall Vegetable Tart on page 118.

Now, because no cookbook post would be complete without a giveaway, here’s the deal. I have one copy of the The Complete Kitchen Garden to give away to a lucky reader. Leave a comment and tell me what your current favorite cookbook is by Monday, April 11 at 11:59 p.m. I’ll close the comments at that time and use random.org to select a winner.

And now, the disclaimers. All books included in this post were sent to me as free review copies. However, I chose which books to include in this round-up and all opinions expressed herein are mine. The links embedded in this post are Amazon affiliate links. I earn a few pennies each time you click, which occasionally adds up to enough money to buy a few new jars. If you click through and buy something, I earn a tiny bit more, which gets invested in produce, vinegar and sugar (we’re living high around here!) If clicking these links makes you feel squidgy, feel free to skip ‘em and find the books another way. Thanks!

Canning 101: How to Unstick a Stuck Ring

jar of tomatoes

Back when I first started canning, I didn’t know that you were supposed to remove the rings from your jars once they were cool. This led to some very frustrating moments in which I went to open jars and found them stuck fast. An irritating situation, indeed.

bowl of water

Now that I remove the rings for storage, as well as to check the seals and rinse the jars (if there was any pesky siphoning during processing), I don’t face that sticky issue. However, while I was working my way through those older jars, I discovered an easy trick to get those stuck-on rings. It involves a bowl, filled a third of the way up with warm water.

inverted jar

You simply invert the jar in the bowl and let it sit for 15 to 30 minutes. Check the ring every so often, eventually it will turn easily.

Now, before you ask, here are the reasons you store the jars without rings.

1. To fully check your seals after processing.
2. Without a ring in place, you will know if something inside your jars has gone off. When bacteria grows it produces gas. Those gases will eventually loosen your lid and will make it easy for you to know that that is a jar that should be discarded.
3. Keeping rings on the jars can actually damage the quality of your seal, as it applies unnecessary pressure to the lid.

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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.

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A Potluck with Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking Author Kate Payne

I have something quite fun to announce. On Tuesday, April 26, I will be hosting a potluck for The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking author Kate Payne as she swings through Philadelphia on her East Coast book tour. If you’ve always wanted to meet Kate (or you just want to check out my tiny kitchen), this is your chance. My apartment isn’t huge, so we’ve limited attendance to 25. If you want to attend, plug your information into the form below. If you’ve got questions, leave a comment.

If you can’t make the potluck, don’t fret. Kate will also be appearing at the University of Pennsylvania book store the following evening (April 27).

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Winner of the Eat Boutique Giveaway

Thanks to all of you who entered the Eat Boutique giveaway over the last few days! Nearly 400 of you threw your hats in the ring, hoping to win a box of handmade edibles. I’ve consulted the oracle known as random.com and it has divined that commenter #144 is the winner. Congratulations Corrie!

For all of you who didn’t win, please don’t despair. I’m working on a round-up of some recent favorite books that will be appearing on Monday and it will include a fresh, new giveaway. So stay tuned!

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