How To Make Raw Butter   27 comments

An entry in The Household Economy

I love butter. I grew up eating margarine, but those were dark days indeed and I try not to think about them now. Instead, I think about butter, and I eat it. I slather it on toast, on cornbread, on pancakes, on pretty much any sort of baked good. I love cooking eggs in it, sauteing onions with it, roasting potatoes in it. I love baking with it. It’s my main fat. Sure, I’ll use olive oil at times and occasionally something else but butter is my standby and I go through a decent amount of it. I hardly know what I’d do without butter.

This seems appropriate to me for a couple reasons. First of all, I feel right eating butter. Animal products as part of my diet just work for me. I feel better eating that way, more satisfied, more satiated, with greater energy. Something about the combination of my genetics, heritage, childhood diet, and so on comes together in that way. Second, I live in dairy country. I live right on the Tillamook county line in Oregon, home of Tillamook cheese and with a fine history of dairy farming stretching back many years. It’s a tradition that continues to this day and fits this land—and taking advantage of that local resource only makes sense.

In other words, my personal and local context fits butter. It doesn’t fit, say, olive oil. That doesn’t mean I don’t have a bottle of olive oil on my counter, but let’s just say the butter is in a more accessible location. It’s the old standby, after all.

I wrote about that context in my previous entry in The Household Economy. In that post, I used an overabundance of thought about butter to come to a philosophy of homesteading that hit on three main themes: context, education, and patterns. While other aspects will inform the homesteading adventures I’ll be writing about in this series—personal enjoyment and interest, for instance, is kind of a big one—those were the three tenets that I thought I would focus on in the hopes of making this series a bit more than just a number of how-to guides.

I already covered the relation of butter to the above tenets in the above-linked “Considering Butter,” but I’ll hit on the high points again. In terms of context—aside from the aforementioned relevancies of personal taste and local tradition—I receive a gallon of raw milk each week from a local dairy. The milk is delicious and healthy, the cows grass fed, and the milk’s fat content higher than whole milk from the store. Left alone for a couple days in my refrigerator, I can skim around a pint of cream off the top and use that as my base ingredient for making butter. I use an already-existing resource, bring a small bit of my living into my own household, and increase my personal resilience. It’s coherent.

In the sense of education, I noted that butter is a mix of butterfat, milk proteins and water and that it’s created by agitating cream so as to join together the molecules of butterfat by breaking down their surrounding membranes. That simple knowledge, combined with the knowledge that I can skim cream off the top of my own supply of raw and non-homogenized milk, allows me to see the context in which making my own butter makes quite a bit of sense for me. It’s basic knowledge, but even much of our most basic knowledge in regards to homesteading has been lost over the last couple centuries.

A steel pail full of fresh, raw milk, straight from grass fed cows. So delicious. I can’t tell you how happy this sight makes me, every time.

In terms of patterns, I noted the local abundance of quality dairy farming and the attendant access to raw milk and cream. If I want to live in a local context, then it only makes sense for me to gain access to locally-produced milk—either through money, barter, trade or gift—and then to use some of the cream from that milk to provide myself butter. It helps wean me from globalized supply chains and an industrial economy that I don’t believe is well-designed for the future and it increases my integration into the local community, as well. It works in patterns and systems, cycling in on itself and rippling its effects throughout my life. Something as small as butter can do so much.

This sense of pattern and reinforcement, in fact, is something I want to talk a bit more about. It exemplifies much of the ideal behind homesteading. Yes, there’s the intense satisfaction of making something with your own hands and providing for yourself, but it really goes beyond that. There’s little in going to the store and buying butter. Perhaps you’ll run into someone you know or make some small talk with the cashier. You’ll help to support a local business and likely will support some non-local businesses, as well. It’s not devoid of impact, but it doesn’t burrow you into your community in the way that making your own butter can.

In making highly efficient and focused, globalized supply chains, we’ve largely insulated the recipients of those supply chains from the ripple effects of their patronage. When I buy butter at the store, I often don’t know the dairies involved, the people who run them, the cows who are milked, what they eat, what the land looks like, how that butter was made, who made it, how they’re treated or where they live or if their work supports them well, and a thousand other bits of information that are intricately a piece of that one pound box of butter. But if I bring that into the household, I begin to better understand these ripple effects. For me, it’s particularly pronounced because I get the milk, and thus the cream, locally. I know the farmers who produce my cream, I know the cows whose bodies it comes from. I know what they eat. I’ve touched and talked to them. I’ve walked on the same land they walk on. I know whom I support and I much better understand the context and ramifications of my decision to drink milk and eat butter.

Skimming the cream off the top of the milk, which has been sitting undisturbed for a couple days.

My getting that milk integrates me more into my local community, building connections. My making butter thus does the same. However, beyond the local community and land, my making butter also informs my understanding of the natural patterns that butter has always been placed in under the best of circumstances. It helps root me in an entirely different way of thinking.

Buying butter at the store places me in the industrial economic context of making money at a job, spending that money at a store, and consuming what I spend. The connections are frayed and broken, or so spread through an intricate web of globalized commerce that I could never track down the ways in which they intersect, reflect and amplify each other. And that lack of knowledge, in my mind, is a huge piece of the broken world we live in now. We don’t understand our actions, we don’t understand the ramifications, and we find it increasingly hard to live our lives well when we don’t even know what our living does to the rest of the world. By bringing more and more of my economy into the household and rooting it in a local and personal context, I’m better able to gain a grasp on those ramifications, those intersections. I begin to understand how to better live my life. I begin to see the patterns.

The farmers raise the cows, who eat the grass in the pasture and the hay in the barn, who walk the fields much as the farmers do. I trade my own labor—or money from labor at another nearby farm—for the milk, which I take home in a steel pail. Already, by knowing well the place where my milk comes from and how I acquired it, I have a far more complete understanding of how I’m living my life. But it doesn’t stop there. I bring the milk home, skim the cream, and make the butter. Now I know the production of that butter and how it got to me. I also understand the process of making butter and begin to see why this was such an integral practice in times past, when cream was produced on the homestead and of course you would turn it into butter for other uses.

Furthermore, I know that after you make butter, you have the leftover buttermilk. Unlike with buying butter at the store, I get to keep that resource and, even better, I get to find out what happens with it. For me, what’s been happening with it is I’ve been using it in the baking of cornbread or the making of pancakes, and soon I’ll try baking some bread from it. The ripples from my butter continue to spread, informing my life and playing out in the days to come. The buttermilk goes into the cornbread, then the butter goes on the cornbread. These small patterns and systems emerge. One action leads to another, and before you know it you’re filling your life with good work and good food.

Suddenly, in this small ramekin of butter, I begin to find some semblance of being human. It sounds melodramatic, I know, and . . . well, it is. Yet, it also feels very true. Maybe I have too much of a sense of romanticism about the past, but the idea of having a small homestead and raising a cow, milking that cow, drinking that milk and turning it into other food such as cheese and yogurt and butter; using the byproducts of those activities to make still other kinds of food, some of which then recombine with the previous food; even taking the leftover milk from the cow and feeding it to other animals such as hogs or chickens, which then you eventually eat as well and turn into various other forms of food within the household; and all this providing you work that makes your living and provides your life meaning and satisfaction; that seems like a coherent human existence to me and one that provides ample opportunities to build and reinforce community, to live and work well, to understand and worship this world a bit more each day. The alternative industrial system that we’ve built and allowed to devour this older way of life doesn’t feel coherent to me at all. It feels empty and destructive, for the most part, and the pattern I most often see in it is degradation and alienation.

Maybe asking butter to build a community is asking a bit much. But the amazing thing is that it actually can help do that, even though it’s so small, this one dish of butter. One more reason I love it.

So let’s make some. Here are the steps.

What you need:

Fresh cream, skimmed from the milk and ready to be made into butter.

Heavy Cream — Get as fresh and local as is available to you. If you can get raw cream, all the better (see note below.) The more cream you start with, the more butter you’ll end with. Get at least a pint, which should leave you with 6-8 ounces of butter (i.e. approximately half the amount of cream you started with.)

Agitator — This is some kind of device to shake your cream for a good while. I’ve been using a food processor. It’s easy and quick. A stand mixer with the wire whisk attachment will also work (make sure to cover up the bowl as much as possible and slow down the mixer once the butter begins to form to avoid crazy splattering.) Or you can shake the cream in a jar for 20 or 30 minutes, or you can buy a butter churn, or you can rig up your own butter churn.

Salt — If you want salted butter. You won’t need much. You also may skip the salt.

Flavorings — I’m not going to get into this, but you can also add honey, maple syrup, garlic, herbs or whatever else your little heart desires to the finished butter, just mixing it in with a fork or a couple paddles. Begin with a small amount and continually taste until you reach the flavor you’re looking for. Also, do a search—somebody’s bound to have made the flavored butter you’re drooling over and written up a blog post about it.

Note: I’m using raw cream, but most people will likely use pasteurized cream from the store, just due to availability if nothing else. These steps work for either. However, I’m a strong proponent of raw milk and I’ve been enjoying the raw butter I’ve been making. It gets a stronger flavor as it ages, becoming more cheesy in its taste, along the lines of cultured European butter. This is because all the enzymes and microbials haven’t been killed off via the pasteurization process. As the butter ages, these little critters do their work and culture it a bit more each day, leading to an evolving flavor. I enjoy this because my food’s alive and, thus, much more interesting. I also think it’s healthier and pretty fantastic for the digestive tract (though often my butter comes into contact with hot things or is used in cooking, which will kill those tiny critters before they get into my digestive tract.) I’ll be writing more soon about why living food is cool.

Now onto the process!

Step One: Pour your cream into your agitator. In my case, this is a food processor fitted with the plastic blade. I’ve found that the plastic blade does the job more quickly than a steel blade, possibly because the steel blade is cutting the fat globules and impeding their ability to stick to one another. The plastic blade talks about half the time, as little as 3-5 minutes. The steel blade has taken me upwards of 20 minutes. Also, if you’re using a food processor, I would recommend a full quart of cream. In my experience, having only a pint has created the need to continually turn off the machine and scrape the whipped cream down off the side because there otherwise isn’t enough cream in there to keep the whole batch agitating away.

Step Two: Make like you’re at a political protest and agitate. Turn on your food processor or blender, start cranking away with your churn, or just start shaking that jar. If you want to check on the progress of things or give yourself a rest, you can pause the agitation. But the more you pause, the longer it takes.

The cream has thickened into whipped cream. Getting close to butter!


Step Three:
Keep agitating and watch the progression. As you whip up that cream, it will go through a series of transformations. It’ll gradually grow thicker until you have your basic whipped cream, seen above. As you continue the shaking, that cream will become more and more fluffy and begin to turn a bit yellow. Keep going and before you know it you’ll have lost your membranes: little bits of yellow-ish fat globules will be sticking together and floating in a thin and milky liquid and your agitation will have devolved from the whipping of cream to the churning of a splattering mess. You should know when you’ve reached this stage, but if you’re unsure then just stop the process and fish out one of those little bits of fat. It should have the texture and taste of butter. You also may find that at this point the little butter globules coalesce into obvious hunks of butter. If so, all the better, as that’s the next step.

Here’s the final stage of the agitation, with the butter globules floating in the buttermilk. As you skim them together, press them against the side of the bowl and they’ll form into larger clumps of butter.


Step Four:
Now what you want to do is drain (but keep!) the milky liquid from the butter. That liquid is buttermilk, and we’ll talk about that at the end. How I strain it from the food processor bowl is thus: I take a bowl and place a wire mesh strainer over it. I then clump together as much of the butter in the food processor bowl as I can with a spatula, scooping the butter bits over to the side of the bowl and pressing them together. Once I’ve done that, I drain the remaining buttermilk through the strainer, which will catch whatever larger chunks of butter are left in the liquid. If you want to be more detail-oriented, you could line the strainer with cheese cloth or a thin towel, but I don’t bother with that. Once I’ve drained the buttermilk (which you’re keeping, remember!) I put whatever butter the strainer caught back into the food processor bowl with the other butter.

The buttermilk was poured out of the food processor bowl, on the left, and into the metal bowl on the right, through the strainer. You’ll note that the strainer caught some of the larger bits of butter. That gets added back in with the other butter and then that’s pressed against the side of the bowl to ooze out more of the buttermilk.


Step Five:
Using spatulas or wooden paddles, pull all the butter together into one clump and work it with the spatulas, either in the food processor bowl or in a different bowl if you prefer. Press the butter against the side of the bowl to drain the buttermilk out of it. Each time you do this, hold the butter in the bowl pressed against the side while you drain the buttermilk through the strainer. Keep doing this until you’re not getting much of any buttermilk out of the butter anymore.

Pressing the butter against the side of the bowl. It pushes the butter together and presses out buttermilk.


Step Six:
You now have yourself a clump of butter and a bowl of buttermilk. At this point, you have the option of calling your life a success and moving on to the salt (if you want it salted.) Or you can be anal about the process and wash the butter. There’s a good reason to do this: the more buttermilk you get out of the butter, the longer it will last. Personally, I find the process tedious for seemingly limited value, so I don’t bother. (This, I’ll note, is another benefit of using raw cream—the butter will simply culture as it gets older rather than souring into something rancid and inedible, which will eventually happen with butter made from pasteurized cream. Still, it’ll take awhile, especially if you salt it. And butter never lasts long enough for that to happen in my place, anyway.) If you want to wash the butter, though, you can do this by using ice cold water. Pour some of the water in with the butter and work it more with your spatulas. Drain the water. (Not into your buttermilk! Just pour it down the drain.) Keep doing this until the added ice water stays clear even after you work the butter. At that point, you should have yourself some very clean butter. Make sure you’ve worked the butter well at that point—using your hands if necessary—to get out all the water.

Step Seven: Salt! Flavor! Or do nothing! If you want salted butter, start small and work your way up to a level of saltiness you like. Try 1/8 teaspoon per cup of butter and go from there. Just sprinkle the salt on the butter and work in with your spatulas. If you want other flavors, add them now, as well. Again, start very small and work your way up by tasting.

Step Eight: Store your butter. I put mine in a ramekin and then leave it on the counter, covered by a bit of plastic wrap. Alternatively, you can wrap tightly in wax paper or store it in a lidded mason jar. Remember that butter absorbs flavors, so if you scoop yours into a ramekin and then put it in the fridge uncovered, it’s likely to pick up the taste of whatever foods are hanging out in there.

The finished product, pressed into a ramekin and looking irresistibly delicious.


Step Nine:
Eat your butter. No, really, right now. Toast some bread and smear it on, or eat some straight, or do whatever you love to do with butter. The sight of the finished butter will be its own reward, but your taste buds deserve to get in on the action, as well. Fresh made butter is a real joy.

As For The Buttermilk: This is real buttermilk, but it’s not the same buttermilk that you would buy from the store. Store buttermilk is skim milk that’s been cultured. This leftover liquid from butter making is very much like skim milk. If you used raw cream, then it is a live culture product and, depending on its age, may already taste a bit cultured. You can store it in the fridge and it will continue to culture and turn more sour as you keep it. If you used pasteurized cream, then you’ll also have something akin to skim milk but it’s not live culture and it won’t sour over time. It eventually will just go bad.

You can drink your buttermilk if you find it agreeable. What I do is use it for baking. Cornbread, buttermilk pancakes, biscuits or bread, coffee cakes, and so on. Use it in something that calls for buttermilk or just use it in place of milk. It’s worked great for me and it continues the cycle of your butter-making, of which I’ve already expressed my approval. After all, the making of butter becomes about ten times better when it not only leads to that ramekin of deliciousness pictured above, but this, as well:

I’d make the butter just to eventually get this breakfast out of it. The pancakes were made with the leftover buttermilk and I, of course, spread some of the butter on them.


Maybe not quite as fulfilling as a healthy community and coherent humanity, but pretty darn close.

— ∞ —

Other posts you may be interested in:

27 responses to “How To Make Raw Butter

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  1. Thanks for this post! I must make my own butter now!

  2. Very cool post Joel – brings to mind the current discussion over on Casaubon’s Book re: no-knead bred vs kneading. My comment there had to do with the division between those who view breadmaking as ‘production’ vs those who do it because they just want to…similar, I think, to your basic philosophy with regard to buttermaking; community building notwithstanding.

    • Thanks, Martin. I’m going to have to pop over there and check out that bread discussion, which I haven’t yet seen. Almost all my bread making last year was of the no-knead variety, which is mighty convenient. I’m not anti-kneading, though. But I’m not very experienced with it either, so I need to get some more tries under my belt. Still, the no-knead makes some pretty solid bread.

      I’ll check out your comment, but it does seem that the no-knead is pretty great for those who want the fresh baked bread but aren’t too into the time it takes traditionally.

      • I went over to Casaubon’s site earlier and found that my comment was simply ignored – totally. Guess most folks that post there are into ‘production’ and have no room for ‘soul’ – heh.

        • Well, huh. I still haven’t gotten over there to check it out, but will. As it happens, I have a loaf of buttermilk bread in the oven right now—of the no-knead variety. There’s definitely a benefit in that I get fresh bread tonight even though I spent much of the day riding around on a tractor and walking the fence line.

          • Have to admit there’s something to be said for the no-knead method when time, and energy, are short.

            • Okay, got over to the site, read the post, read the comments up to yours and probably will check out the others later. It’s an interesting discussion, no question. Yet I feel a bit at a loss with it because I actually have not made much bread via the traditional, kneading method. I’ve done it once or twice with a friend and that’s it, so I really don’t feel like I have any knowledge or connection to that. Last year was when I really started trying to make bread and I used the no knead method. Even then, while I’ve made a number of loaves, I never got to the point of doing it regularly.

              I do want to eventually start making my bread, though, and that’s based in the desire to get a really good sandwich bread recipe down, as that’s the sort of bread I most eat. If I could come up with something that is somewhat similar to a particular sandwich bread I eat regularly, from a bakery out of Portland, I would be pretty much ecstatic. I haven’t had much success with no knead, though I’ve always thought the bread made that was was tasty. So I do want to give kneading a try.

              This is all inspiring to delve more into bread making. The kneading has felt somewhat intimidating to me, and I’m not entirely sure why. It seems like you really have to get the kneading right, and I’m never quite sure if I am (in the two times I’ve done it.) I’m probably quite overthinking it, though.

              No doubt my bread adventures will eventually be written about here on the blog.

  3. I make butter with a quart canning jar and a couple flat marbles. I just shake the thing as I read blogs! This is a very cool post that explains my reasons, better than I ever could, for homesteading 20 years ago. Today I live closer to town and have a neighbor with a lot more water than I have. He has a fabulous produce stand, while I have chickens and pork. My milk supplier loaded up her cow and moved to Alaska! (I can’t even imagine how that worked) So I get my raw dairy at my local co-op grocery store. I’m looking forward to your fermented post. That is some great food in need of a public relations make-over. And another element of your macro view of community, society and food is the situation where so many of us are outside healthcare. Commercial foods are so sterile and unhealthy that leaning about real foods – live, fermented, local, fresh – is an empowering path to impacting our own health.

    • Making butter as you read blogs! I love it. That sounds far more productive than my time poking around on the internet. I’ll have to keep it in mind.

      As someone who’s now working on animal farms and had worked on veggie farms the last three years, I’m a big proponent of trading between the two. And as Ginger—the owner of my last veggie farm—she’s excellent at growing veggies but isn’t that interested in raising many animals, outside of some poultry, and so it only makes sense for her to trade veggies for meat, which is available from a few different local, grass-based, caring farms. One person can’t do it all, and the back and forth trading only serves to enhance the local community.

      I’m still trying to get my mind around the idea of loading up a cow and heading off to Alaska. That’s kind of impressive.

      Great points on healthcare. I don’t have it myself and will be surprised if I get any sort of official healthcare anytime soon, so trying to take relatively good care of myself and investigating alternative modes is pretty important. Luckily, I’m still young but that will change in due time and health will no doubt become more of a concern. My post on live foods, assuming I actually follow through and write it, will probably be more of the love letter variety, building on my thoughts of patterns and systemic ways of thinking. I don’t expect to be throwing in scientific research or health data, for the most part. But if I inspire some people to investigate that further, the information is certainly available on the good old interwebs, and I’ll be very happy to have provided some inspiration.

  4. Every couple of days I puruse the list of what titles our local library has added to it’s collection. Today, I found this….

    “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Fermenting Foods” by Wardeh Harmon. Brand new and looks like a good starter guide. On-line reviews are good.

    • Interesting, I’ll have to check that out. Nourishing Traditions, which I’ve referenced here, has quite a bit in it about fermenting foods and Wild Fermentation is sort of a bible on it. Those are my two main references.

  5. Hi Joel,

    Really, nice work. I didn’t realise how easy the process would be. It makes you wonder how that sort of process was discovered in the first place? It is good to see that each by product has a use as well. Out of interest how long does it take you to get through a gallon of milk and do you have to make an active choice between milk, cream and/or butter? I find here we need to have processes – which the old timers would call, lore or tradition or some such in order to make the best use of all the different goings on and outputs of the farm.

    I get yoghurt – which we make here – which was just someone eating solidified cultured milk in a warm climate. You get a mental image of them going, “Oh well, what the heck, I’m hungry, let’s give it a go. Hey, this isn’t too bad, it’s a bit tangy, but quite edible.” Or something like that! hehe!

    We’re up to 3 eggs every two days now, however they’re all from the Silkies and they don’t quite look like the same size as the ones in your photos. The halcyon days of 8 and 9 eggs a day are just a memory. Protein is an interesting problem, which I hadn’t considered and will obviously have to put more thought into next year. I’m considering stock piling eggs to get through this Autumn dry patch.

    Another interesting thing too came to mind the other day from the week of no LPG and warm days and cool nights. As I turned my lunch meals into dinner meals and dinner meals into lunch meals I realised a serious problem. Every day, I usually bake a small loaf of bread for lunch using the gas oven when it is warm outside or the wood oven when it is colder weather. Well, as the wood oven was the only choice, I ate the bread at night, but realised although I was getting the same amount of calories in total each day, during the late afternoons I was running very low on energy as the calories were differently distributed throughout a day. Interesting stuff.

    By the way, what is a coffee cake?

    Regards

    Chris

    • I get a gallon each week and I generally get through it, between drinking and often using a bit for baking. I could get by with a half gallon a week, no problem, but I love having the abundant gallon and just never feeling like I have to ration it. Sort of the joy of gluttony, I guess. I’ve been pretty much skimming all the cream for butter, but even after that it’s not anything like skim milk at the store. There’s obviously still some cream in it and the milk still seems largely like whole milk, so taking the cream off hasn’t felt like any sacrifice. What really would be nice would be to have enough cream for butter and for my coffee. I really love cream in my coffee rather than just milk, and so that would be great. But I don’t get enough butter from the cream to fully supply my butter needs, so I’m not saving any for the coffee.

      I do wonder how butter was originally figured out. I wonder about a lot of those things. I’ve read interesting claims about indigenous cultures claiming they dreamed these sorts of knowledge or that plants would tell them how to properly prepare them. Always interesting claims—I’m pretty open to the idea that human cultures have communicated with other creatures in ways that would seem bizarre or nonsensical to us now.

      I’ve been scrounging around for eggs a bit myself here, but I’m managing to stay well stocked. For awhile, the ducks either weren’t laying or just weren’t laying in their house—with the same result of us not having many eggs, either way. But now they seem back in the habit of laying in the house, so we’re getting a decent amount of them. Then I’ve generally been managing to track down Mrs. Hen’s nests, so every once in awhile I’ll stumble onto a cache of a half dozen eggs to stock me back up. It’s kind of fun. Of course, I’m not dependent on them necessarily on a main source of protein, though they do end up that way. I have the insane luxury of having multiple freezers packed full of good, grass-fed meat on the property that I can raid (though have to pay or work-trade for) if I should want.

      Interesting on the calorie distribution issue. It does matter when those calories comes, especially in relation to labor. It’s amazing how much insight one can have if you just pay close attention (to your body, the land, the household, etc. etc.)

      Coffee cake is kind of a sweet quick bread. Cake like, though not always as sweet as outright cake. It often has a crumb topping. It’s pretty delicious and goes very well with coffee. I tried baking one but it didn’t come out quite right—too wet and kind of rubbery, though still edible. I’ll try again with a different recipe at some point.

  6. Oh yeah, you were spot on about permeate too. Apparently it is whey – not that I’ve made cheese, although I’ve procured a cheese making book and will try it sooner or later. Home brew is next in line once the herb garden is sorted. Chris

    • Good to know on the permeate. Home brew is great—I’ve brewed beer four times, three with friends and once entirely on my own. That’s also on the to-do list for this year. Also have made sodas (and have used whey to ferment and thus carbonate them!) and that should find it’s way onto the site here sooner or later. I’ve made ginger ale and berry sodas with pretty good success.

  7. Hi Joel. Brewing beer with friends sounds like good fun trouble, but mostly just fun. Ah, I get through 3 litres (there’s 3.8 litres to the US gallon) of organic milk – not raw, but homogenised all the same, each week. The comparisons are really interesting and I appreciate swapping information / experiences.

    Talking to animals could be just really good observation skills too. Indigenous skills are way beyond me and now alas it is virtually impossible to learn them. A strange example is that I get white native truffles here and they freak me out every time I come across one as they are like small spongy rocks, yet no one knows whether they are edible or not and liking my liver, I’d prefer not to tempt fate. It’s also mushroom season here and they are popping up all over the place. The wallabies and kangaroos tend to eat all of the blue meanies. I wouldn’t touch them as again I don’t want to tempt fate.

    I reckon there’s another 5 odd years before I can just entirely feed myself off this block. Still, as you quite rightly point out you can’t be on top of everything and I’m more into chooks, vegies, fruit and herbs. Bigger animal systems will require too much fencing here which is a bit outside the budget. On the other hand it means that the wildlife can enjoy the produce here too – A lone kangaroo was eating in the orchard the other day whilst I was quietly being a chook shepherd. Friends convinced me that I was bad chook owner for not letting them free roam, so I’ve started letting them out. Now the chooks begin harassing me from late afternoon onwards to be let out.

    I’m planning to purchase more Silky chooks (at the next chook auction / sale) and also stockpile eggs to get through autumn. It’s all about having systems. If you had to learn all of this and eat at the same time, you’d starve. Agriculture is really quite complex if you pursue a low energy / organic / basic skills farm.

    As to bread, I’ve been making it for a few years now and have noticed that the quality of the yeast affects the final rise of the loaf. I buy my yeast from a specialty bread / baking shop (Marg and Marees – on the Internet too, but probably won’t deliver to you!) and they source their yeast from France. The difference between this yeast and supermarket sourced yeast is amazing. Only half as much yeast is required with the good stuff and I barely knead the dough for more than a minute. The local wild yeasts here a very sour, but that is another story of error and slackness on my part! I’m sure the baker’s yeast has contaminated the soils here for sure too! Worthwhile thinking about.

    Regards. Chris

    • I agree totally on the good observation skills potentially being a form of talking to animals. I remember reading at some point about being able to track animals through the forest by closely listening to bird warnings, including noting the level of the trees the birds were at as well as where in the forest they were. The level could tell you what type of animal it might be, as they’ll stay out of reach, and of course the location will tell you where they are at the moment. To somebody growing up in the forest and needing to know that information (a hunter) that might become second nature. Me? Unlikely I’ll ever be able to do anything so sharp!

      The more you provide the chickens, the more they come to expect. That’s been my experience. Of course, I think they should be able to get out and about if it’s safe—seems only fair. They can get quite demanding, though! I kind of love that about their personalities.

      I buy my yeast in bulk from the local co-op and it seems like good enough stuff, but it may very well not be as nice as what you’re getting. I wrote about experimenting more with kneaded breads to Martin above, but another thing I want to get into is sourdoughs and using wild yeasts. I find that very intriguing and love the philosophy behind it. So we’ll see if I add that to my bread experimentations. If so, as I also note to Martin above, no doubt it will make its way onto this blog at some point—though it may take awhile!

  8. Yikes! I meant unhomogenised. Chris

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  10. can you shake or blend your b utter too much. i started in the food processor. it went to the whipped, and then like, wen to all liquid. I put the rest of my cream in a mason jar and shook it. The blended cream never did a thing but stay liquid. The rest of it kind of made butter. Any hints would be awesome.

    • Hi Cecilia,

      Sorry for the late reply. I haven’t had an issue with blending the butter too much. Once it transitions, it just forms up into small chunks of butter splashing around in the buttermilk. Even running it for a bit longer didn’t break it back down into a full liquid. Then again, I haven’t run it for a long time after the transition, as I’m generally monitoring it.

      I have a couple times had it so that once it transitions, the bit of butter are really small and it’s not completely obvious until I ran a spoon through it and started to push the bits of butter together into larger hunks. I wonder if this might be what happened with yours? When it transitions from whipped cream to the butter state, it’s bits of butter in buttermilk, so it does seem to go back to more of a liquid state and starts splashing around. But if you run a spoon through it and press it against the side, if should form up a hunk of butter in the buttermilk.

      I hope that helps. Good luck!

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