Shaken But Not Churned: Making Butter At Maker Faire


photo: Bonnie Hulkower

Watching Little House on the Prairie while growing up (more times than one should admit to in a blog) led me to be fascinated with people who could make things themselves at home, instead of running to the store. This probably explains why I spent most of my time at Maker Faire in the Homegrown Village, where food growers, tofu makers, coffee roasters, and all sort of homesteading experts and food DIYers converged under one tent. Maker Faire is about getting your hands into projects and learning how to do "it" yourself. I didn't try the tofu and yogurt making, but did check out the butter making workshop with California Organic Valley farmers. Now I went in thinking any butter I made would a) require a churn or a food processor, b) take a long time and c) taste gross. Happily I can report I was wrong on all counts. You can make butter by hand, it is pretty easy, it takes only ten minutes and it tastes delicious.
Babette Pareira along with her children Jared and Isabella led the four butter-making workshops (two on Saturday and two on Sunday). Babette and her children were adorable and wearing the Organic Valley Cooperative t-shirts that asked, "who is your farmer?" The Pareira's maintain a family farm just outside of Merced in Snelling, California. They have 380 organic Jersey and Holstein cattle that roam the 400 acres freely in pastures thick with trees and a running creek.

Jared led the workshop I attended. The attendees were both kids and adults. Everyone was given a mason jar with some heavy cream. It won't be a surprise to those of you who did this in grade school, but I was astounded those were all the ingredients you needed. The other key ingredient was a strong arm that likes to shake things, which was the ingredient I seemed to lack. Three minutes into it, I realized I probably needed to work out more, I was getting tired and my cream was only starting to look like whipped cream, a far cry from butter. I then ingeniously passed around my mason jar to children who didn't want to try it on their own, but seemed happy enough to give my jar a good shake. Slowly the whipped cream was congealing and the buttermilk was draining off of the butterball that was forming. The buttermilk could also be used for pancakes or baking. Twenty minutes into the workshop all of the butter makers were finished making their butter and enjoying their labor spread out on crackers. This seems easy to try at home; the only variations would be to add a pinch of salt or other flavors if you wish. Also before you refrigerate, it is a good idea to rinse off any remaining buttermilk, which can spoil faster than the butter. The Organic Valley Farmers gave me some extra cream before they returned to their farms, so I am going to try this on my roommate at home tonight.

Maker Faire was a great way to meet farmers and food makers. Before I left Maker Faire my friend Ted asked what was my favorite part of the day, and I proudly held up my butter and smiled.


photo: Bonnie Hulkower

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Maker Faire 09: The Bigger Picture of Remaking a Sustainable America

Tags: Farming | Maker Faire | Organic Agriculture | Recipes