Types of Butter
Sweet Cream Butter
This is a sweet cream, churned from fresh cream, with a mild, creamy flavor. It is most commonly produced by large commercial operations.
This is a ripened or lactic butter made from soured cream. This should have a fuller and slightly nutty flavor from the natural fermentation.
In past times these cultures were found naturally in the dairies but today we can add these cultures to better control the process.
The cream is cultured before churning for two very specific reasons:
- Adding a lactic acid-producing culture to acidify the cream before churning helped to separate the butterfat during the churning process.
As the butterfat solidified as butter in the churn, the fluid that was drained away became known as “buttermilk,” the by-product of butter-making.
- Adding live cultures to the cream also yielded a better butter since they convert sugars (lactose) in the milk to produce lactic acid. This added to the storage life of butter, because any remaining milk sugars could ferment making the butter rancid.
In addition to these practical benefits, culturing the cream before churning gives the butter a unique flavor - one that is very different from the flavor of today's supermarket butter. Before the advent of the large commercial dairies, Minnesota and Wisconsin used to be dotted with small creameries, each with its own particular flavor of butter made from closely guarded family cultures.
These cultures ended up in the churned buttermilk, as well. Although buttermilk initially resembles skim milk when it is removed from the butter churn, the continuing action of the live cultures creates the tart, thick beverage that we know as buttermilk. Before the days of refrigeration, the consistency of buttermilk would change with the seasons: thin and less tart during winter and thick and clabbered in the summertime.
Cultured butter is very popular in Europe but not so popular in the US. The culturing intensifies the butter flavor itself and also introduces a number of subtler underlying flavors that greatly enhance the overall butter experience. The action of the lactic bacteria also helps to break down some of the structure which keeps the fat globules apart. This increases the yield of butter over sweet cream and also makes the butter come much quicker when churning.
If you make your own homemade butter, you have complete control over the type of cultures used for ripening the cream and how long you let them work before churning.
Since water is cheaper than butterfat, most commercial butter is blended down to 80% post churning. Cultured small batch butter ends up at more like 86%. The higher fat butter is more plastic at low temperature, which makes it easier to use in pastry, and the higher fat content also helps to make pastry flakier and brings a more full flavor.
Goat and Ewes Milk Butter Yes, it is possible to get cream and make butter from these milks but due to the very different fat structure, these milks do not rise naturally like the cows milk will do. Therefore a cream separator is required to collect the cream from these animals.