Discussion of specific projects
Post Reply
Posts: 34
Joined: Sun Apr 19, 2009 4:57 pm


Post by Louise » Mon Feb 04, 2013 12:39 pm

After talking about making butter as part of our show, I have finally put my money where my mouth is and started investigating whether it is actually feasible (in terms of time, cost and effort).

Experiment 1 – Electric hand mixer
I decided to start with making butter with an electric mixer in a bowl, both so I can see what’s going on, and also so that we have a frame of reference for future experiments.

Following directions and tips found online about modern home butter-making, I put 300ml of pouring cream into a large bowl and whipped on medium speed with an electric mixer. I didn’t let the cream sour, although that is one suggestion I found online for ‘european’ or ‘traditional’ butter. I need to confirm whether fresh or soured cream was used in period.

It took just over 5 minutes on medium speed to go from liquid cream, past whipped cream and collapse into globules of butter sloshing around in liquid. The change from ‘over whipped cream’ to butter is very sudden and dramatic – it should be easy to tell when it’s done with other methods.

Following the directions online, I strained off the buttermilk through a cloth lined sieve. I then put the butter in a clean bowl (so it didn’t get contaminated with residual cream) and beat the butter with the mixers for another minute or so to remove more buttermilk. This was then also strained off. In total, this got me about 140ml of buttermilk from 300ml of cream.

I then put the butter back into the bowl and covered in iced water. I then kneaded the butter with a plastic spatula to wash out the residual buttermilk. Once the water was cloudy, I poured it off and repeated twice more until the water remained clear. Modern sources refer to using wooden ‘butter bats’ to do this part of the process, which protects the butter from melting from the heat of hands. I’m not sure if cold water would suffice, but that is a future experiment.

I then added just over a ¼ teaspoon of salt. I don’t know whether salt was added to butter in period, but the modern sources I found noted that salted butter would keep for a couple of weeks, rather than days.

The butter was then formed into a rectangular block and wrapped in baking paper, then refrigerated to firm. I got about 120g of butter, although I wasn’t particularly careful about scraping the bowl when removing the butter. I suspect that the actual yield was closer to 130g or 140g of butter from 300ml of cream.

The result was very tasty, pale yellow butter, and a small jug of sweet buttermilk (which was quickly turned into scones). The total time (not really hurrying, and stopping to wash equipment half way through) was a little under half an hour.

Apart from the item to agitate the cream, it seems that the only equipment required is a bowl or jug and cloth to collect the butter milk, a clean bowl and a jug of cold water, and optional butter bats. Using the beaters, there is only a little effort involved in washing the butter, but the whole process is fairly quick and simple, but (I think) showy.

Next time: I will try agitating the cream by shaking it in a jar. Especially without a full churn, this seems like the most promising option for including butter as a ‘hands on’ aspect in connection with a talk. Hopefully the time needed to turn the cream to butter will be roughly the same as the time for the talk.

Things to research:
Was cream allowed to sour or culture before being made into butter, or was it used fresh?
How was butter stored and shaped?
Is there evidence of butter bats being used?
Was butter salted to help preserve it?

Posts: 99
Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2009 10:16 am

Re: Butter

Post by Roxy » Mon Feb 04, 2013 7:24 pm

Brears reckons that butter was always salted to preserve it.

Brears also has records from 1275/76 - two pots for putting butter in 2d
1307/08 - one clay pot bought for butter 3d which he believes confirms that butter was packed as tightly as possible into pottery jars for safe storage.

In the English translation of Le Menagier de Paris, a 1380's book written by a man for his young wife

http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Medieval/ ... agier.html

There's a recipe for Green beet soup on a fish days which calls for "butter, either salted or fresh" and again salted butter is called for in new peas from the pod.

Geese are feed crumbs soaked in buttermilk for three days.

Creeps in tournay style - salted butter, melted, skimmed and cleaned - possibly salted butter is overly salted and this is how to desalt?

Ah wait, that link actually has an item called To Take The Salt Out of Butter which is basically melt it on the fire and the salt will sink, the salt obtained is good for stews.

Unfortunately, only the cooking portion of LMP is available online. There's also a section on household hints which might have how to make the butter in it, but we'd need to buy a copy of the Goodman's wife for that.

Medieval Cookery is an awesome site, this is the search of all it's online cookbook transalations which include the word "Butter" http://www.medievalcookery.com/search/s ... r&file=all

Here's the list of manuscripts, click on the manuscript and search for butter ans see how many recipes as a percentage have it (3% for Le Menagerie de Paris) http://medievalcookery.com/statistics.html

Fake butter made from Almonds - 15th Itlay but says that "lay mixture in a mold as if it were butter"
http://www.medievalcookery.com/search/d ... po:169:BTR

Posts: 34
Joined: Sun Apr 19, 2009 4:57 pm

Re: Butter

Post by Louise » Mon Feb 04, 2013 7:53 pm

Thank you, Roxy!
I've got a hard copy translation of Menagier of Paris - I hadn't noticed the mentions of salted v fresh butter in the recipes. Nothing in the rest of it telling how to make butter, but thats probably not surprising given it's a middle class man living in a city.
Good to know there is salted butter, and that they make a distinction between salted and unsalted butter.

Might need to look into the amount of salt more - I see your point that having recipes to remove salt might suggest heavy salting. On the other hand, it may just be a taste preference like today.
The recipe for removing salt looks a lot like the technique for clarifying butter - removing the remaining milk solids. It makes the butter clearer and makes it less likely to burn at high heat, so I wonder if that's what they were actually doing and just misinterpreting it? More research and experiments required! (yay)

Thanks for the info!

Posts: 99
Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2009 10:16 am

Re: Butter

Post by Roxy » Mon Feb 04, 2013 8:30 pm

No worries. Sounds awesome and I can't wait to try home made butter! Thanks for being the guinea pig! :D

They did know how to clarify butter, there's references in the medieval cooking link I posted earlier, so that could be what they are refering to with the crepe recipe I think that there were probably cases of the butter just being too salty thanks to storage. Brears reckons that butter was stored throughout winter and makes reference to certain days that cows and sheep couldn't be milked after, or they would be too weak. Sheep couldn't be milked or sucked after Lady Day's (8 sep) and cows Michaelmas (29 sep). Of course, he doesn't say when they can be milked again but that would still be a period of at least 4 months where you couldn't have fresh milk so it makes sense to me that butter intended to be stored until say December would be more heavily salted than butter intended for comsumption in October.

Have I mentioned lately how awesome Brears is?

Le Menagier de Paris is also French and Medieval kitchen: recipes from France and Italy (14th and 15th sources) reckons that butter wasn't used as much in these countries compared to Northern countries, probably due to more difficulty in keeping it cold.

Another link!
http://totalwingnut.blogspot.com.au/201 ... r.html?m=1

Posts: 34
Joined: Sun Apr 19, 2009 4:57 pm

Re: Butter

Post by Louise » Fri Mar 08, 2013 11:58 am

Experiment 2 - Shaking in a jar

I am pleased to report that butter can be made in a jar, with about 10 mins of shaking by hand. I was somewhat less scientific this time, but the concept has been proven.

For this experiment, I put three very generous teaspoon scoops of double cream (I think about 100ml) into a clean 500ml plastic yogurt pot, with about a tablespoon of milk to help loosen it. Double cream was used because its what we had in the house - using it seemed to reduce the buttermilk yield but only slightly, and may have minimised the time needed to agitate the cream into butter.

I put the lid on the container, wrapped it in a plastic bag to guard against spills, and started shaking. I wasn't shaking particularly quickly and paused frequently, but probably kept up a moderate pace. After about 4-5 minutes of shaking, the cream was distinctly thick and clinging to the walls and base of the tub - hard to feel the cream moving in the tub while shaking.

After another 3 minutes or so of shaking, I felt the cream start to move around the tub as one big lump, still sticking to the base of wall of the tub but moving if I gave it a big shake. Once that stage was reached, it was only another minute or two until I heard a distinct sloshing noise and felt liquid moving around the tub and the large lump break down. I shook for about another 30 seconds or a minute until it felt like there was a large amount of liquid and no single large lump. In total, cream to butter was about 10 minutes.

I then strained the buttermilk off through a cloth as previously. I put the butter back into the same tub and gave it another shake. Unfortunately I don't think this was effective at removing any more buttermilk. I had pressed the butter when draining the first lot of buttermilk and the butter just stayed as a lump even after a couple of minutes of vigorous shaking. Only a tiny amount of additional buttermilk was produced at this stage.

I then washed the butter twice in a clean bowl as before, using iced water and a wooden knife-shaped spatula (not plastic this time). The wood was quite good as a tool for kneading the butter and surprisingly didn't stick much at all. I then salted the butter lightly and wrapped in paper as before.

In general - successful. My initial taste (before salting and chilling) was that this one tasted more of cream than the last batch, which might be the result of not agitating sufficiently or might be because I used double and not single cream. Both can be checked with later tests. Next time, I think I will also avoid pressing the butter together until after the second agitation, and I will try and locate a suitable screw-top jar to use instead.

Posts: 34
Joined: Sun Apr 19, 2009 4:57 pm

Re: Butter

Post by Louise » Mon Apr 08, 2013 1:03 pm

Making progress towards this being a functional display at Blacktown

I have located a good sized jar - 500ml jar left over from pickled onions at Festival. I made butter using it over the weekend and it works quite well. big enough to agitate 300ml of cream, and not so big that it gets hard to hold and shake. After having done it though, I think I will need to anticipate rapid change-over between people shaking - once we get to the whipped cream stage, it becomes hard work.

I know a modern jar is a far from perfect option, but ti should work for demonstration purposes. I'm putting a proper butter churn on my list of things I would like, but i think it will be a long-term goal.

Items remaining to get for this to work - large bowl, wooden butter pats (or just any wooden scraper/stirrer in the meantime), and making sure that i have plenty of cold water on hand.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest