About six months ago, Jana wrote a great article about how to make cultured butter. As she outlined, making cultured butter is especially satisfying, since the process produces two delicious byproducts: crème fraiche and buttermilk. All you need is a quart of cream and some culture, which can be purchased here.
Since following her instructions in my own kitchen, I’ve been experimenting with adding flavor to the (admittedly already flavorful) cultured butter. I like to keep some of the batch plain (only slightly salted), while making small rounds of flavored butter to freeze and bring out for special occasions.
Making flavored butters is not a scientific process; it’s based more on personal taste, intuition and experimentation. Luckily, it’s hard to go wrong with added flavors to butter. In terms of measurements, I suggest starting with very small amounts and tasting as you go, as it’s possible to overdo it. Make sure any ingredients you add to your butter are finely ground and as fresh as you can find them.
As I’ve mentioned before, I run a small herb farm with my partner, so herbed butter is my go-to. We’re created a dried herb blend called “Herbes de Vermont,” which contains oregano, rosemary, thyme, lemon thyme and basil. When I combine this blend with butter, it creates a spread that’s delicious on freshly baked bread served as an accompaniment to soups and hearty winter meals. There’s something about the vibrancy of herbs that helps lift me out of the starchiness of winter.
Another tantalizing herb combination is lavender and rosemary. I have come to love lavender, but if you add too much, it can make any dish taste more like soap than food. To avoid this, I combine one part lavender with three parts rosemary, and make sure to grind them finely in a mortar and pestle. This butter is a great accompaniment to a tea-and-toast snack, as the lingering sweetness of the lavender complements a cup of honey-sweetened black tea.
Butter is salted not only for flavor, but for preservation purposes. After the light salting that the finished butter receives, I sometimes like to create saltier butters, using coarse Himalayan pink salt, a beautiful crystal salt I was given as a present. Recently, gourmet flavored salts have become increasingly popular, and I imagine a black truffle salted or beet and tarragon salted butter would taste divine (salt flavor inspiration comes from Salt Farm, a San Diego salt company).
A flavored butter often served at restaurants is anchovy butter, which involves blending anchovies in a food processor first before kneading it into the butter. The great thing about anchovies is that they’re often preserved in salt, so the savory flavor really comes through.
If you’re interested in a sweeter butter, you can’t go wrong with maple butter. It’s delicious on cinnamon bread, English muffins and cornbread.
Homemade butter is a treat in itself, and a great canvas for your culinary creativity. I think I may whip some up today!