Saturday, January 30, 2010

Experimenting with Butter

Yesterday I happened to have some homemade raw butter (HRB) and some store-bought butter (SBB) side by side on the counter. I turned my back for a moment, and when I looked again, Jess the Cat was licking the HRB. I assumed she had licked the other one too, so I threw her down and scooped the HRB onto the wrapper with the SBB to throw away. I noticed then what Emma has been telling me-- the HRB was much firmer at the same temperature than the SBB. I pinched a section of the SBB between my thumb and forefinger. It collapsed easily. It felt like oil. I pinched the HRB. It was much more dense and creamy. Emma described it as being more like cheese. The HRB was also about two shades darker yellow than its factory counterpart.

The density issue really surprised me. Previously, I had thought the main difference was the flavor and the nutrient content. I'm guessing the raw milk butter has a stronger molecular structure because the fat globules have not been smashed with homogenization*, and the protein structure has not been damaged with pasteurization.

In the flavor category, if I make butter with fresh cream, it tastes similar to SBB but with more depth. The SBB tastes "flat" in comparison. I am experimenting with using older cream and with "cultured" cream. (I leave it on the counter for 8 hours or so) It produces a stronger flavor, which at first I did not like. Now I am beginning to enjoy it. I imagine it would be especially good on strong-flavored breads like rye.

* I have since thought this over and realized that there would be absolutely no sense in homogenizing the milk/cream in the process of making SBB. I checked my box for unsalted butter; the ingredients list said "pasteurized cream and other flavors".

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