A ritual for feeling more connected to Earth and all living things.
Making butter is an exercise in energy exchange. When done with intent, making butter is a way to develop an understanding through food of how we are nature, in constant exchange with the rest of nature. Picture the milkmaids of old and the churns that you saw in grade school when you were on a field trip to a historic site. What those maids were doing was using their energy to warm cream to kick molecules into full blown work out mode, getting them to move around faster. As that happens, fat molecules clump together leaving a sour liquid behind. Your energy has transformed energy in a dance of exchange. Whenever I do this, I visualise the big bang and the earth forming out of a swirl of cosmic soup, left to orbit around our life-giving energy source, the sun.
To make butter, you don´t need a churn. All you need is a jar. Humans have been making butter for at least 4,000 years. We really don´t need factories to do it. Using more of your energy and removing some steps of industrial processing from your life is a winner for your climate footprint.To have luck at home, what is really important to remember is that you want to leave the cream out of the fridge for 15 or 20 minutes so that it reaches room temperature. The warmth gives the molecules more energy. Sound anything like human behaviour in summer as opposed to winter? Seriously, in which season are you more likely to spring out of bed ready to take on the day? Mmmhmmm, there is a little butter molecule in all of us!
The cream you are using, of course, comes from cows, an animal with which humans have had a rather intimate relationship for millennia. The Mindful Kitchen supports developing relationships with farm animals that are as respectful as those that we have with our family pets. There are lots of dairy farms out there who agree and are doing amazing things. If you want to learn more, pick up the book “The Secret Life of Cows” by Rosamund Young. It is the Jane Austen of the cow universe and had a big impact on how I see the role of the dairy business in a regenerative world. Suffice it to say, when you buy your butter making cream, try to find a shop that sells some organic locally produced cream.
As for that buttermilk, well, as you develop your nature related practice you will be less likely to waste food by default. However, it also requires some new skills. The buttermilk that you have left over is a delicious, nutritious and low fat snack unto itself (you have just separated out the fat molecules). One option is to just cool the buttermilk and help yourself to a tall glass with a biscuit when your tummy rumbles. Or, use it in place of milk in your favourite pancake recipe to whip up buttermilk pancakes. Or, if you fancy something lighter, mix your buttermilk with olive oil, herbs, garlic and salt to make a dressing that I find to be quite pleasing on a red cabbage salad. But do use it in the next day or two, it will spoil quickly.
Whilst you embark upon each stage of this ritual, let yourself ponder the Nature Relatedness statement from which we started this week of exploration: I feel very connected to all living things and the earth. In these moments, do you feel more or less connected than you did previously?
Here’s the recipe
- One Cup of heavy cream, the higher the fat content, the better
- Jar with a lid that can hold at least double the amount of liquid
How to make it
This recipe makes the equivalent of a stick of butter.
Leave your cream to sit at room temperature for 15 or 20 minutes. Pour your cream into a jar. Ensure the cream fills no more than half the jar and put the lid on, tightly. Really tightly. Check it a couple of times. Now, shake! This is a good workout. I love to put some Donna Summer on and do a wee disco workout as I shake. Seriously, it’s a blast.
If your cream is warm, it should take less than 10 minutes. As you shake, listen to the sound of the process. What does it tell you about how the molecules are separating? Use your senses. When you hear as though nothing is moving any longer, you are halfway through and have whipped cream in your jar. That stage will last for a minute or two, keep going. Suddenly you will begin to hear sloshing once again. The fat has begun to separate and form a little earth like ball amidst the cosmic buttermilk soup.
When you have a solid ball, pour the contents of your jar into a strainer with a bowl underneath to collect your buttermilk. Now place your butter ball in a bowl and bathe it in a couple of tablespoons of cold water. Knead your butter ball as if it were a bread. What you are doing is squeezing out any remaining buttermilk. The more liquid that remains, the sooner the butter will go off. Empty the bowl of the water after your first bath, and repeat the rinsing process a couple of times. Mould your butter ball into shape, place in an airtight container until you serve it.
And before you are done, give thought one last time to how connected to all living things and the earth the process had made you feel. Do you have any new reactions to that statement than you did when you first considered it? That is nature relatedness in action, from head to hands to habit.