Monday, June 13, 2005

Ol' Time Buttermilk

I made something today that I can't rightly explain.

I've been milking this cow for over a year, and I was no stranger to milking before then -- been milking goats on and off for pert near ten years. Been making cheese and this and that for that long too. I understand a whole lot about the bacteria that allows life to happen, whether in cheese, in sourdough bread, or in the garden soil (or the fish tank, but that's a different story). I've long kept cultures of yogurt and buttermilk (thermophilic and mesophilic cultures, respectively) going. I've made my own by buying fancy stuff and from culturing the stuff at the store. I understand about the acids that culturing creates (which is how you are preserving, for instance, cabbage in sour kraut -- that is lactic acid, common pickles preserved with vinegar, that is acetic acid, you usually have to add a little acid to your tomatoes to can them anymore because they've bred the darn acid, probably citric acid, out of them).

I digress as usual. I've been out a lot more than usual, what with having to run to the doc in town every day for daughter's knee. So things around the farm that I usually do have slid by the wayside. Like processing the cream into butter.

I like letting the cream I'm using to make butter for ourselves "ripen" a bit, that is, get old and smell a bit. It makes a richer, more interesting tasting butter. But I opened a jar of cream today, the oldest in the fridge, and it smelled WONDERFUL. Ripe, yes, but wonderful with no sour whang, no edge to it. This is what I've tried to culture but your cultures move on you, adapting to your environment and your milk and growing what they want to. That's where different types of cheeses come from mostly, there being various types of bacteria in different places.

I immediately tried to culture it. I hope it takes. But I made butter from the rest. And it smells wonderful. But the buttermilk off of that butter, oh, it is heavenly. I don't usually bother to save the buttermilk off the butter, it is bland and watery and I never could get it to culture consistently so I started culturing skimmed milk for "cultured buttermilk". But I am betting that whatever I got off that butter today is what my ancestors would recognize as "real" buttermilk. Oh gosh, it is good -- thick, rich, flavorful.

Now to see if I can repeat the mistake, propogate the culture. I added some of the buttermilk to the cream that will make tomorrow's butter. Here's hoping.

There is so much to life that you cannot learn but have to bumble on to and/or learn from experience (or experienced others). It is exciting to really try to live out, to walk out, this lifestyle and see where it leads sometimes.

Also, I could do a whole series of posts on providence -- like how we found the stow-away cat who escaped at the homeschool expo the other day because daughter's knee needed re-bandaging. There is no such thing as coincidence, just the universe speaking to you. I'm glad it decided to talk about buttermilk! My part, my responsibility, is that I am listening, learning, putting into action, having fun at the party.

oops, gotta go milk now.


Deb said...

That is so fascinating! And now I know who to turn to with questions if we ever get a cow or a supply of raw milk to work with.(wasn't that a wonderful, grammatically correct sentence! )

Joe Tornatore said...

you had to mention the fish tank again, huh?