Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

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From Milk to Butter

1/29/2014 10:15:00 AM

Tags: home dairying, butter, raw milk, Ryan Harvey, Maine, Bethann Weick

Shake-shake-shake-shake-shake. Switch hands. Shake-shake-shake. Shake-shake-shake-shake. For 10, 15, sometimes 20 minutes or more I slowly pace about our tiny cabin floor with an unusual sort of maraca in my hand: a pint-sized ball jar filled with cream. I am making butter.

Cozy inside despite a cold winter out!Once a week we pick-up raw cow’s milk from a neighbor in Plymouth. She’s local, with just a few cows and goats in her barn. With access to pasture, and plenty of personal care, these animals and their milk feel like a great choice. And drinking the milk raw, with neither pasteurization nor homogenization, leaves the milk healthy and full of natural enzymes. Not to mention the good taste. And, our quart of milk is topped off with an inch or two of thick cream.

Now, I’m not much of a dairy lover, but Ryan enjoys milk in his coffee, and I’ll often create casseroles, mashed potatoes, or sauces making use of the extra milk. We use butter only occasionally, but it suddenly dawned on me a few months ago: we use so little, surely I could make our own from the cream!

So since then, when we bring home our fresh milk for the week, I scoop the cream off the top and into another ball jar. From there, it’s a simple matter of shaking the liquid into a solid. Interestingly, the more cream you have in your jar, the easier it is to do this. Shake-shake-shake. Shake-shake-shake. The cream thickens first into whipped cream, at which point it becomes very hard to shake. Keep going, though, and the milk solids begin to settle out and clump together. Lumpy milk becomes a nugget of butter in whey. I store the butter for us, and give the whey to Mica as a treat. He’s certainly a fan of this process.

In the beginning, I lightly salted the butter, thinking that this was what I should be doing to preserve it. But I’ve since ceased, finding that the cool winter temperatures lurking behind our kitchen shelves offer more than sufficient preservation for a few week’s time.

So, thanks to Clare and her cows, here’s to a few buttery meals and the satisfaction of creating another detail of our lives by hand, at home, ourselves.

Start planning your spring plantings now! Contact Beth via to design your herb garden, vegetable plantings, or small orchard (see Business Directory listing under ‘Garden Design & Services’).

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