Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Butter Me Up

Here we are, heading into the home stretch of January. While the days are hurringly hot, already the nights are cold enough for an extra duvet, and the early mornings are so cold that I can see my breath, and my feet go numb (that's what I get for wandering around the garden barefoot at 6.30 in the morning). 
Tomatoes, summer beans, and zucchini did very poorly this year and are already on their way out. I will be starting planting for the autumn garden this week - a month early, but already the self-sown seeds from last year's autumn plants are sprouting. The wind has picked up again this evening, but it was the first day for months that we didn't have roaring winds - which really ripped the spring/summer garden apart - and I was able to spend some quiet time just sitting out enjoying the garden.
The 3 year old self-sown peach tree - an heirloom variety (Blackboy), so it has bred true - has its very first peaches. This year I planted a Seville orange, for marmalade, a Blood orange, and a Key lime. A few years, and I should start getting some good citrus.

Heirloom variety of Aqualegia - First year to flower
The sock class got put on hold shortly after my last post, in favour of The Shetland Hap Shawl class, when the yarn for the shawl arrived. I finished the knitting on the weekend, and now only have the ends to weave in, the lace end-seam to sew, and the blocking to do. 
I ordered a set of blocking mats back at the beginning of December, and they are supposed to arrive on Thursday, so I will hopefully block it on the weekend. Once it is blocked, I will post photos, and give a review of the class. Meanwhile, I have started a pair of knee-high stirrup socks (no toe or heel) which are knitted flat, as my project for the next class - Knit Faster With Portuguese Knitting.

I've also been getting back into the kitchen. It is still way too hot in the day to do any bread baking - I'll wait until late autumn to get back into that full time. But I am doing butter again.
Our local 4 Square (small "corner store" grocery), often over orders on cream, and when the cream passes its printed "use by" date, they put it in the 99c area. There is nothing wrong with it. If you keep cream at around 2C (35.6F), it will keep for months (yes, really). It will eventually start to separate though (after about 6-8 weeks), then it really isn't any good for putting into coffee. But it is fantastic for making butter! It turns into butter a whole lot faster that 'fresh' cream does - under 5 minutes with a hand churner. And considering how expensive both cream and butter are ($5 - $6 per 500g/lb for standard butter, up to $10 for organic/free range/artisan butters), it's a real win. I always buy up large on the 99c cream if I have the money at the time.
A hand churner actually works better than a blender/food processor for making butter. I find with the blender/food processor, it happens so fast that by the time the cream has turned into butter and you stop it, the buttermilk has already been whipped back into the butter, then it is quite a chore getting the buttermilk out again. With a hand churner, once it separates, it stays separate, and you just pour the buttermilk off.
I had been looking for a hand churner for some time, but didn't have any luck, so pretty much gave up once I got sick. Last weekend I was at my friend Tui's place, and she mentioned that she had been looking at a little hand butter churn on the Fly Buys reward page. Being an expensive item, naturally it took a lot of Fly Buy points to get it, and none of the places I shop do Fly Buys rewards anymore - fewer and fewer places are staying with that rewards program. I only had 1/3 of the points needed, with basically no chance of getting more. Tui said she had a ton of points (petrol stations still do Fly Buys, and she does a lot of driving), and offered to do a swap - I would get something on her rewards wishlist for her to the value of the points I had, and she would get the hand churner for me. Woohoo! I was certainly happy with that! Thank you Tui!
So here is the wonderful little hand churner, and two jars of butter - the one on the left a honey cinnamon butter, and the one on the right is a Mediterranean butter (shredded fresh basil leaves from the garden, chopped sundried tomatoes, and grated parmesan cheese).
The churn does a manageable, 300 ml (1/2 pint) of cream, which makes a nice amount to mix with herbs or spices for spreading on toast or fresh bread, or enough (about 120g/4.2oz) for most smaller baking needs, in around 5 minutes (10 minutes if you are using 'fresh' fresh cream instead of older fresh cream). Love it! It is easy to use, easy to clean, and doesn't take up a lot of storage space. A definite must-have for any DIY kitchen.

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