We discovered in our research of Inland Northwest dairy producers, that there is no local butter. Darigold comes from west of the mountains and I'm not sure about the other brands. Strict health regulations have caused the consolidation of specialty dairy producers. It's more cost effective to ship stuff given the high cost of meeting the regs. Inland Northwest Dairies operates their bottling operation only four days a week because it takes four hours every night to clean up. The benefits of operating one more day are outweighed by the operational costs of clean up. The shipping operaton on the other hand operates all week.
We're starting to see that this is a lesser known reason for the de-localization of food items. It is driven by the almighty dollar, but in a different way than you might expect. It's not greed so much as the pragmatics of production. It's generally cheaper to ship than produce locally and until those metrics change it's hard to see the trend turning around. That's one of the reasons we can't find any cheese makers in our region. Aside from small goat cheese operations and and the WSU creamery there is nothing nearby.
Okay, back to the butter.
We haven't done much research on local cooking oils, so in the short term we decided to see if we could figure out how to make butter. A little googling turned up a variety of techniques that all start with whipping cream or heavy cream. You can use a jar and shake it around for 30 minutes or use a blender. We tried it with a Cuisinart with great results.
- Pour in a quart of cream and whip it with the plastic blades for about five minutes. It works best with four cups. I tried it with 2 cups and it splattered too much and stuck to the sides of the container.
- Keep an eye on it and watch it start to get yellow and before long the butter will separate from the butter milk. Stop the machine as close to that moment of separation as possible.
- Pour out the buttermilk, and squeeze the butter together in your hands.
- Place the butter ball in a bowl full of very cold water and squeeze it with your hands. You'll see the remaining buttermilk ooze out. Continue squeezing until no more liquid comes out. It's helpful to change out the water in the bowl to see if more is coming out. It's important to get as much liquid out as possible, or else it can go rancid.
It's fun to make and my kids are so impressed, I think I've got them convinced I can make anything.