Making Butter and Tasting Memories

It was basic kitchen chemistry but it felt like magic. I had never made butter as an adult, and now having just finished I was truly amazed. It seemed like it had separated in an instant, turning from a homogenous white substance into a clump of yellow butter submerged in translucent buttermilk. The taste was incredible and incomparable to any store bought butter I had ever tasted. My only thought was, why had I not done this sooner?

I had decided to attempt making the butter a few weeks prior. I kept returning to this childhood memory of churning butter at a day camp down the road from my grandmother’s home. I still remember each of u2015-01-26 21.43.44s taking turns at the butter churn, moving the cream up and down for what seemed like an eternity. When it was finished my teacher handed each of us a saltine cracker and generously spread the fresh butter onto each one. As a child raised on margarine this was likely the first time I had ever tasted real butter. I still remember biting into the cracker and tasting how fresh and creamy it was. Now, decades later I am returning to that memory and happy to say it is as good as I remember!

How to make butter (for those without a churn)

There truly is nothing simpler! Get one pint of high quality heavy whipping cream. Place it into a one quart mason jar. 2015-01-26 22.15.57Start shaking. Pass the jar to someone else, keep shaking and shaking.

At first it will turn into fluffy whipped cream, after this it will separate and you will magically be left with butterfat and buttermilk. Pull the butter from the jar, run it under cold water and carefully squeeze it, removing as much buttermilk as you can. Repeat this step until the water no longer looks milky. Salt if desired and enjoy!

If you decide to refrigerate the butter, it will be much harder than ‘normal’ butter. This is due to the higher fat content in the homemade stuff.

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Fermentation Experimentation

My first experiment with sauerkraut did not go as planned. It was summer and I was living in Taipei, Taiwan. The temperatures were in the high 90s with humidity so high that mold was growing on my suitcases. Ignoring what should have been common sense given these conditions, I decided this was the time to experiment with making sauerkraut. I followed a basic recipe (mostly), waited, and soon had cabbage sporting an amazing array of mold. I learned two things that summer about sauerkraut: first, it is not foolproof, and second, you must follow the recipe to a tee. Going in with this knowledge, and the mild temperatures of the Bay Area, my next attempt was a success. The secret I had missed in my last try: completely submerge the cabbage beneath the brine. Anything you miss will mold.

In order to make sauerkraut, you literally chop up a couple of heads of cabbage (I like to grate mine), pour on a couple tablespoons of salt, mash it down in a crock, cover it with the outer cabbage leaves to keep the cabbage down, and put something heavy directly on the cabbage so the brine will rise above it. I got my recipe from the great man of fermentation, Sandor Katz. His book “Wild Fermentation” is a must for anyone who wants to embark on a fermentation journey!

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