How far we’ve come.
I suspect that my Grandmother took the evolution of the food distribution chain in the same stride as my generation did the telephone. One day, now firmly planted in the U.S., she stopped making her own butter and simply added it to the milkman’s delivery list, just as we replaced the curly-corded push-button phone with a cordless model from Best Buy. No fuss, no fanfare. No celebratory triple layer cake. It’s just what you did.
In stark contrast, I stood in Kroger one day years ago, clutching a pint of organic cream, and studied the 8-foot refrigerated case of butter and butter substitutes. The afternoon’s planned project seemed crazy. Homemade butter. One ingredient, 20 minutes. Impossible.
Nothing from these four shelves of boxed and tubbed spreads had just one ingredient.
And yet. Nearly a century since my Grandmother last made butter — like her mother, and her mother’s mother before her — this 21st century girl circumvents the agribusiness food chain and circles back to her family’s culinary roots: one ingredient, one amazing result.
Sweet, rich, way-better-than-store-bought butter. And when you add things to it — sea salt and honey and cinnamon. Oh, my.
1 pint organic heavy cream
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped (stem reserved for another purpose)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Yield: a little more than a cup of butter
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream on high (speed 8 or 10) for 15 to 20 minutes. If your mixer came with a flour shield, put it in place on the bowl, and cover the openings with a towel or plastic wrap. Otherwise, drape a large towel over the mixer head, tucking it around the bowl. Check on the mixture frequently, scraping down the sides as needed.
The cream will proceed through various stages, from glossy whipped cream to scraggly whipped cream to odd curds and lumps.
Eventually — have patience! — the buttermilk will begin to separate from the butter solids. This is the point where you’ll be glad you covered your mixer.
When clumps of butter have formed, stop the mixer. Remove the butter solids to a large bowl. Gather the butter clumps together into a ball, and then squeeze. Rinse the ball briefly under cool water, and squeeze some more. Repeat until the water squeezed from the butter solids runs clear (not milky). The goal here is to remove as much buttermilk as possible.
Replace the whisk attachment with the paddle attachment. Dump the liquid from the mixer bowl and return the bowl to its base. (If you’re a fan of buttermilk, the liquid left behind in the mixer bowl is gold. It is, quite literally, buttermilk. You can drink it, bake with it. Cool, eh?)
Add the fresh butter and the remaining ingredients to the mixer bowl. Beat the ingredients on low-medium (speed 3 or 4) until well blended.
The butter can be used immediately or wrapped well and frozen for several months.
If you already have a favorite cultured butter on hand: bring 8 oz of butter to room temperature, then combine with the other ingredients (except the cream, of course) until well blended. If you use salted butter, you might want to skip the addition of salt.