Spring is also a great time to indulge in dairy products and eggs, which get more nutritious at this time of year from the new green grass the animals are eating. This weekend, we enjoyed one of my favorite childhood desserts--the year's first strawberries, dipped in homemade crème fraîche and brown sugar. The rest of the crème fraîche we are shaking into cultured butter and buttermilk tonight, to be made into Irish Soda Bread to enjoy along with our homemade corned beef and a glass of Guinness in honor of St. Patrick's day. If you are still shy about enjoying full-fat dairy products, check out this new research that shows that full-fat dairy may actually protect us against weight gain and heart disease. And cultured dairy is a source of probiotics and less dampening to your system from the Chinese medical point of view (in fact it nourishes the yin).
Crème fraîche is wonderful stirred into braised leeks or sweet spring onions, creating a decadent tasting side dish for chicken or pork or something to crack a couple eggs into to cook up into a spring brunch. You can also drain it, as in making yogurt cheese, to make your own marscapone.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
1 tablespoon organic buttermilk, crème fraîche, or plain yogurt
1 1/2 cups organic heavy (whipping) cream
Place the buttermilk in a pint jar, and add the cream. Gently stir together, cap, and allow to ferment in a warm place (such as on top of the refrigerator) for 1 to 2 days, until the crème fraîche begins to firm. Store in the refrigerator, and consume within 2 weeks.
(Recipe by Vanessa Barrington, adapted with permission from her wonderful book, DIY Delicious)
Cultured butter is really just crème fraîche whipped into butter and washed. It’s great fun to make flavored butters out of your own cultured butter. Add flaky sea salt, chopped anchovies, and/or garlic to top grilled fish or toss with vegetables or beans. Honey butter is wonderful for biscuits and muffins. All you do it work the flavorings into the butter to taste while it’s soft. Making small batches is best because homemade butter doesn’t keep as long as store bought.
1 1/2 cups crème fraîche
Sea salt or other flavorings as desired
Pour the crème fraîche into a medium bowl and, using a hand-held mixer, on medium-low speed; begin whipping the crème fraîche as if you were making whipped cream. Stop every now and then to scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula. As the crème fraîche thickens, increase the speed to medium-high. When it’s just past the stage of a stiff whipped cream, the crème fraîche will become yellow and separate into clumps. At this point, decrease the speed to medium-low or you’ll run the risk of spraying buttermilk all over. After this point, the butter will quickly solidify and separate fully from the buttermilk. The whole process takes 8-10 minutes. When the butter seems to have given off all the buttermilk it is going to, pour off the buttermilk and save it. (It’s truly delicious to drink and it’s also great to use for baked goods). Push the butter against the sides of the bowl with a flexible spatula to get it to give up all the buttermilk possible, and pour it off.
Pour cool water into the bowl with the butter and work it around with a spatula. Pour off the water. Wash the butter two or three times until the water runs clear. This step is a must, as unwashed butter will spoil quickly.
Transfer the butter to a sheet of parchment and work it for a minute or so with the spatula to press out any additional water. Pat dry and then use the spatula to work in any salt or flavorings. Transfer to a clean dish, cover, and refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 2 months. Don’t leave the butter out at room temperature, as it will spoil.
COMING SOON: Delve deeper into nutrition with my day long class in Nutrition for the Summer Season, in Berkeley on March 29th, for acupuncturists, students and interested lay people. Or try one of my hands-on fermentation classes in April and June (see sidebar for my 2014 calendar).