Butter is trendy again, and I for one consider this to be very good news. Ireland has a tradition steeped in butter-making. Now I know that the return of real butter doesn’t mean a return to butter churns in kitchens, but the taste of real butter is a taste enjoyed for centuries and one I hope that future generations continue to relish. It’s great to see so many artisan producers now giving us ‘real Irish butter’.
Making butter at home is unlikely to ever become a weekly chore again, but it would be a shame to entirely lose the art of butter-making, especially when all that’s required is cream and a hand mixer. From a household budget point of view, you will not save money by making your own butter, but it does make an inexpensive and delightful gift for family and friends. Wrapped in greaseproof paper and tied with twine, this is truly nostalgia wrapped up in a bow.
For smallholders and grow your own enthusiasts, adding herbs from the garden is the perfect way to create your own homemade flavoured butter, but you don’t have to stop with herbs. Spices, anchovies, black pepper and lots more kitchen cupboard staples can be transformed into delicious homemade flavoured butters.
Due to its large fat globules, the cream in a cow’s milk is ideal for butter making.
Butter is rich in the most easily absorbable form of Vitamin A
Making Butter – the basic formula
It is important to keep your hands cold throughout the butter-making process, so run your hands under the cold tap before you get started. You will have to handle the butter and keeping your hands cool with help keep the butter firm as you shape it.
500ml double cream (it can be hard to find an Irish double cream, but Glenisk regular cream will work well)
Salt (if desired)
You will need.
3 spotlessly clean bowls
- Pour the cream into a bowl and whip using a hand-mixer on a medium speed. Once the cream has thickened, continue to whisk for another few minutes. You will quickly see that the cream is starting to break down which means two things – you now have a great big lump of butter sitting in liquid in the bottom of the bowl (this liquid is buttermilk).
- Put the butter in a sieve and sit on top of the bowl to allow the excess buttermilk to drain into the bowl. Squeeze the butter gently to release the excess liquid. This buttermilk is ideal for making soda bread.
- Place the butter in a clean bowl and once again whisk with the hand-mixer to release any buttermilk that is still remaining.
- Remove the butter and place in a bowl of ice cold water. Gently knead the butter to release any remaining buttermilk. Drain the water and repeat the process with fresh water a couple more times to ensure that all the buttermilk is removed.
- Remove the butter from the water, place on a board and shape.
- If you like salted butter, add the salt now (1/4tsp per 115g of butter).
- Wrap the butter in parchment paper and keep refrigerated.
Unsalted butter will keep for up to a week. Salted butter will keep for up to one month.
If all the buttermilk has not been removed the butter will spoil quickly so it is important to rinse and knead the butter several times. Don’t be tempted to skip this process. And in the true spirit of self-sufficiency, make a simple soda bread with the leftover buttermilk.
To make your flavoured butter..
100g soft salted butter
Flavours of your choice (herbs/spices/garlic/anchovies/peppercorns/horseradish)
Mix the butter and the flavourings until they are well combined. Leave to stand for about 30 minutes. Place the butter onto clingfilm or greaseproof paper, roll into a sausage shape, seal well and put in the freezer. Remove the butter from the freezer just before serving. Cut into disks and place on top of your meat/fish where it will melt and release all those delicious flavours.
Keeping a few flavoured butters in the freezer will give you an array of instant and delicious toppings.
Butter may have been demonised as unhealthy over the past few decades, but research is now showing that butter in moderation is actually quite good for you. Isn’t it great to see another Irish food product making a grand comeback? Try making your own butter at home – it is great fun to make with children and older generations will really appreciate that real Irish taste of years gone by.
Here at Hunters Lodge I make butter regularly before visiting friends and family. It makes an interesting and tasty alternative to the old box of chocolates. And of course if you make your own soda bread or scones to accompany the butter, you will not be short of invites – trust me!
Let me know if you make your own butter any time soon. In the meantime, Happy Valentine’s Day and thank you for all your book orders. It really touched my heart looking at the wonderful messages families were sending to each other. You can order your gift of books HERE.
Stay safe and I’ll be back soon.
Adapted from Fiona Dillon’s feature on making butter in Irish Country Magazine.