Last Saturday afternoon, I participated in a workshop hosted by the Contemporary Food Lab here in Berlin. Titled “Butter: a workshop on cream, cultures and churning”, it was run by Dr. Johnny Drain, a researcher in food science who finished a PhD in Materials Science (ooh!) and was most recently researching butter at the Nordic Food Lab in Copenhagen (ooh ooh!).
Butters have identities too!
My personal interest in butter stems not just from wanting to learn how to make butter (since we’ve been on this “making our own bread, pasta, pickles, pesto, you name it” roll for a few years now), but also the rivalry between the dairy industry and the margarine industry.
In Indonesia, margarine is a cheaper material to buy than butter, and it’s often touted as the “healthier” option too. Judging by the huge tubs of Blue Band margarine in street food stalls, and available in Indonesian supermarkets, I worry about the overall consumption of margarine.
The first part of the workshop was not only about churning butter, but included a discussion on cultured and uncultured butters, how hard it was to get raw (unpasteurised) cream, explaining a bit of the food science behind dairy products like milk, cream and butter and the bacteria/live cultures used, the invention of margarine and tasting the neutral cream, cultured cream and buttermilk.
Butter is made from churning fresh or fermented cream. European-style butters are often “cultured” or made out of fermented cream; the fermentation of cream happens when live cultures like lactococcus is introduced to the cream. Fermented cream will yield a tangier flavour, higher butterfat content makes it richer (and better for making flaky pastries). American/US butters are made of uncultured cream, and is often paler and more neutral in flavour.
A lidded jar filled with cream and a mixing bowl with cream and whisk was passed around the participants, each of us asked to shake the jar vigorously and whisk the cream for a few seconds. By the end of the round, the cream in both containers had separated into butterfat solids and buttermilk.
We then formed small groups of 4 and worked to churn our take-home butters.
What you need: Approximately 12 cups of cultured/fresh cream, a hand mixer or standing mixer, a mixing bowl, two wooden spatulas, a wooden chopping board, a sieve, a container for the buttermilk.
I’m just guessing the quantities here, but we had 2 of those 6-cup containers (see image below), which yielded about 250g of butter for each of us.
And you’re done!
The by-product of churning butter is buttermilk. Having lived in the Netherlands and married to a Dutch guy, I’m not a stranger to buttermilk or karnemelk as the Dutch call it. I was put off the first few times I tried it, but now it’s grown on me enough that I’d even drink at lunch with my broodjes.
The cultured cream gives buttermilk its probiotic nature, and buttermilk has lower fat than milk since the fats are transferred to the butter during churning. I use buttermilk in baking my cake loaves (recipes are here and here), as well as last-minute Irish soda bread.
The plan was for the workshop participants to try pickling with buttermilk and making a salad dressing as well. The vegetable pickling and the small picnic I unfortunately missed because I had to run home and get ready for our anniversary dinner at Horváth with the handsome-and-talented husband.
Oh well, this just means I have to try it myself at home, and it will get its own blog post : )
Bread and Butter Sunday
Since the next day was a Sunday, and Sundays are very much our lazy “staying in” day, the handsome-and-talented husband baked some bread to go with the butter I made in the workshop. It was wonderful, I love the smell of baking in the house, especially on Sundays. I had some smoked sea salt, which I sprinkled onto our bread and butter and made it so so yummy.
Naturally I had to take some close-ups of our sexy bread-butter-butter-salt foursome!
Thank you CFL!
Generally, it was a great way to spend Saturday afternoon: informative and practical session around cream, cultures and butter-churning, and to meet others who are as curious about food and making as I was. I walked away from the workshop having learned the basics to set me off on a journey of butter-making, with a jar of cultured cream that hopefully will spawn more buttery deliciousness.
Contemporary Food Lab will be holding regular workshops, so if you’re interested in learning about various food and nutrition topics, I suggest you keep in touch with them via their newsletter, or via their Facebook page.
The butter workshop was free of charge for the participants, which I think is great. Not sure if this will change in the future, though. Personally, I wouldn’t mind contributing to the cost of materials.
See you at the next workshop!