Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hillbilly Culture - Cultured Buttermilk

Having grown up on a Goat Dairy, I am all to familiar with "fermented" dairy products. After all, fresh raw milk only lasts so long in the refrigerator, no matter how clean all of your stainless steel equipment is or how fast you filter it and get it chilled, it still has a short shelf life... Enter pasteurization...

Pasteurization is a god send for the small dairy, but it can be troublesome as the milk has to be heated to 145 degrees and then held at that temperature for 30 minutes. A pain to be sure, but the added shelf life is worth it. There is only one downside, it alters the taste of the milk slightly, and kills off all the vitamin C. Enter Ultra-Pasteurization.....

This is where I get a little opinionated. Ultra-Pasteurization is a way for big business to make money. In the UHT (Ultra-Heat Treatment) process, milk is flash heated to 280 degrees under pressure and only held there for 2 seconds. Sure it saves time and energy costs. However, the milk is now a dead liquid. The proteins have been denatured, all the natural enzymes (like lactase) that help your body break down lactose are dead, and it is devoid of ANY vitamins at this point. It is so damaged that you can't make cheese with it, that should tell you something right there. So just like white bread, they add synthetic vitamins to it and call it a day. Pathetic.

Thankfully, there still remains a few hold out companies that simply pasteurize their milk instead of killing it. BUT, I challenge you to find Half and Half, Whipping Cream or Heavy Cream that have not been boiled to death. Even Horizon Organics "fries" these products, which slays me... here you spend the money on ORGANIC dairy products, and they have been denuded of all their intrinsic food value by Ultra-Pasteurization. On top of the food value issue, UHT cream doesn't whip as well as pasteurized cream, for not only have the proteins been torched beyond recognition, but the fats have been damaged as well.

Needless to say, when I was a kid, we did a lot of goat milk pasteurizing before making cheese, yogurt, sour cream and butter, to ensure that the bacteria we were inoculating the milk or cream with, would have the upper hand and prevent spoilage. Sure there are a lot of raw milk cheeses out there, as well as raw fermented dairy products, but we weren't taking any chances back then. Especially when making butter and buttermilk (for buttermilk is really the best part about making butter).

There are 2 bacteria that make great "cultured" buttermilk in my opinion. True you can use Yogurt which has a plethora of different lacto-bacter in it such as Streptococcus Thermophilus, Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Bifidus infanti and Bifidus Longum. You can also use Sour Cream (Leuconostoc Mesenteroides Cremoris) as well, but I love good old Lactobacills Bulgaricus (also known as Bulgarian Buttermilk Culture), the other option is Lactobacills Lactis (formerly known as - Streptococcus Lactis); but L. Bulgaricus is tangier and creates a thicker buttermilk than L. Lactis.

This is the part where I tell you that cultured buttermilk is fake buttermilk. If I was making traditional buttermilk, I would simply sit raw milk out on the counter and let the cream separate so I could skim it and let the proteins in the milk "clabber" or coagulate slightly... this would mean that the lacto-bacter in the air moved in and acidified my milk for me. But I think I will stick with the more modern method for right now.

So, to recap; This is good

This is bad...

and this is the culture I like to use for making buttermilk and butter. (I use it for Crème Fraîche too, but that is another post)

The bonus is that the acidified cream coagulates better than "sweet" cream, so this will facilitate easier butter churning.

Cultured Buttermilk

(oh, and Cultured Butter too)

4 cups (1 quart) Heavy Cream (preferably about 35%)
6 oz Bulgarian Buttermilk, room temperature (Yeah, I probably only needed 1 oz, but I wanted a REALLY good starter)

Pour the Buttermilk into a glass pitcher and let is come to room temperature.

Place heavy cream in a saucepan and heat to at least 85 degrees over low flame. (If using yogurt, heat to 110 cause Thermophilus needs more heat to function)

Remove the Heavy Cream from the flame and add the Buttermilk, stirring well to spread the bacteria around.

Cover the saucepan and set on the counter for 12 hours.

After 12 hours the heavy cream should have thickened significantly.

Move the saucepan to the refrigerator and chill for 8 hours.

Once chilled you have 3 choices.....

Pour the inoculated cream into a 1/2 gallon mason jar, cap it and roll it around on the floor (like we did when we were kids) until it separates (it takes a loooooooooooooooong time)

If you are lucky enough to have a butter churn (this is my mom's Dazey churn) then you can sit there and crank the handle for 1 hour to make butter and buttermilk.

OR --

You can use modern technology and pour the heavy cream into a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. woo hoo!!

So, beat the heavy cream until it begins to become fluffy......

Then turn the mixer on low or stir and let it run for about 20 minutes.

Slowly, but surly the Heavy Cream will begin to turn grainy.....

Then all of the sudden (and this is why you need low speed) everything will separate and you will have sloshing buttermilk in the bottom of the bowl with butter stuck to the paddle.

Prepare a bowl of ice water.....

Scoop out the large butter chunks into a medium mesh strainer and let them drain back into the bowl. (you can press on it lightly with a spatula)

Move the hunk of butter to the ice water and chill it down, this makes rinsing and tempering easier. (yep, you temper butter just like chocolate, to force specific fat crystallization which will determine the hardness of the butter)

Strain the buttermilk from the bowl, into a container to ensure you get the larger lumps and add those to the chunk of butter in the ice water.

Begin kneading the butter and dunking in ice water then knead some more.

Then take it to some running water, and continue to fold and knead the butter. (this will help rinse out as much of the left over buttermilk as possible so it will not go rancid)

Once the water begins running "clear" you are done.

Now if you are a salted butter person, go ahead and knead in some salt. Me? I like the flavor of the butter itself. I have always thought of salted butter as a way to preserve "sweet cream" butter. Since cultured butter is acidified, it doesn't need salt as a preservative, so I leave it unsalted.

I got 3 cups of buttermilk (for Cinnamon Rolls, ButterMilk Pie and Red Velvet Cake) and 15.2 oz of butter (for Shortbread)

And now, a toast. mmmmmmm Real buttermilk.

The Buttermilk will last 3 weeks in the refrigerator, and the real beauty of all this, I now have a culture to do this again. (Just like keeping a sourdough starter)

Mangia and Cin Cin!!


Bob said...

Nice. I've been wanting to make my own butter for a while, but I'm wicked lazy.

Ok, are you drinking straight buttermilk? Blerg. Heh.

Cookiebaker said...

Very interesting and informative post! I never knew there was any other kind of buttermilk other than cultured. Now I want to make my own butter. :)

Alexandra said...

Question-I've combined the buttermilk and cream, left it out for about 16 hours now, and it still hasn't thickened. Do you have any ideas? My cream is pasteurized, not ultra-pasteurized, and I'm using Belgian Buttermilk. The only way I deviated slightly from your recipe is I accidentally heated the cream initially closer to 100° F, not 85. Any ideas? Thanks so much--I love your blog! I just came across it and have already made the Butter Brickle Ice Cream (A-mazing), Creme Fraiche (and went on to use is to make Creme Fraiche Ice Cream--fantastic), and tomorrow, hopefully plan to tackle the Tres Leches cake. Thanks so much

Unknown said...

This is a great post, I never understood the real difference between pasteurization and UHT before. Still, my preference is for raw milk. Too bad you can't just add some of the Bulgarian buttermilk to milk and get more buttermilk in a day or two, like with kefir.