-1 pint heavy cream
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-Quart sized sealable jar
Pour cream into jar, not more than halfway full, and seal. Shake vigorously for 10-15 minutes (or whip in a stand mixer) until the fat separates and butter is former. Remove butter, pressing out excess buttermilk and rinsing with ice water. Fold in salt, form into shape, and serve immediately (or later if you can stand the wait)
Next week, Episode 2 of the Anthrochef podcast, Gardeners of the Neolithic, will be released. To learn more about the first villagers and settlers who planted the seeds of modern civilization, you will have to tune in on October 9.
But what I can tell you for now is that this is the era where we see the birth of domestic farm animals, and the beginning of human’s love affair with dairy. Lactose tolerance is one of very few ways we are NOT identical to ancient humans. Like most animals, humans used to drink breast milk as babies, then lost the ability to digest dairy as they get older.
But as people began putting pens around wild goats and cattle, and the first herding societies took off around 10,000 years ago, that all began to change. Genes mutated, human evolution continued, and soon enough, many Neolithic people could drink milk into adulthood, and things would never be the same.
Soon enough, we will be taking on fermented milk (yogurt) and cheese, but today we’re going to keep things more basic, with a simple recipe for milk-fat, aka butter!
Butter is just the solid fat of milk separated out. It was very useful to ancient people because it could be stored long term, a great way to extend the life of very perishable milk. All you need to make it is a jar with a lid, ten minutes, and some muscles.
Put your heavy cream in the jar, not filling more than halfway (for a bigger batch, you can get a bigger jar, a butter churn, or cheat and make in a stand mixer). Obviously glass if not an authentic material for your container here, but just like the ancients, we modernites have to use what we have available.
The higher quality heavy cream you can get a hold of, the better your butter will taste, but even a pint of Dean’s Heavy Whipping Cream will do the job.
Seal that jar up tight, and start shaking it, hard as you can. Up and down, left and right, every direction. The important part is to keep the cream moving around and smashing against the walls of the jar.
This is going to take a bit. 7-10 minutes if you’re strong and vigorous, and you’ve got those early agriculturalist muscles, but it could be up to 15 if you need an understandable break.
Consider making butter an alone time activity, as you are going to look silly, and maybe even a bit lewd. From an observer, it does look like you’re, uh. . . “getting primitive” so to say.
Eventually, you’re going to make whipped cream, and the contents of the jar will seize up as they solidify. It feels like the cream is no longer moving.
Keep going. Don’t stop till you get enough (butter). You’re nearing the finish line I promise!
When the whipped cream takes on a dense, dare I say more butter like texture, you are almost there. Not done!!! But almost there.
The fat is starting to separate, but you’ll know when you’re really done. I promise.
You will hear the butter before you see it. The solidness of the whipped cream will start to give way, as you heard a small at first, but then bigger lump, start to smack against the sides of the jar.
Shake it, shake it, shake it!
Eventually, like magic, it happens. The fat fully separates and you are left with a solid lump of butter, and the leftover buttermilk, great for baking and milk fermentation.
Now you have to briefly wash your butter to prevent it from spoiling.
Remove it into a larger, open container, outside or over your kitchen sink. Press the butter with a spoon get out some more buttermilk, and drain it into your jar to use another day.
Now you want to rinse the butter off with ice cold water, while you press and squeeze the remaining buttermilk out of it. Pressing it down into a flat shape and a few quick rinses on all sides will do the trick.
After that, fold in a little salt, and any other desired flavorings like herbs, spices, honey, or fruit, and form into a shape you like.
And that’s it. Try not to eat the whole thing in one sitting.