My family always goes kind of overboard for the holidays. The meals, the gifts, the decorating; everything is done to excess. For us and for many, it’s a time to go above and beyond what you would normally do. This also makes it a very busy time, which is why making homemade butter for your holiday meal is a great trick.
It’s something that seems impressive to many. Those who don’t know how easy it is will gasp in amazement, “you MADE butter!?” They will conjure up images of you sitting in a straight-back chair in front of that wooden-barrel-with-the-stick-coming-out-of-the-top contraption, churning for hours on end, arms weary and worn. Little do they know that making butter is only slightly more difficult than boiling water.
And best of all, you can make it days or weeks ahead, and even freeze it. So when it comes time to cook your holiday meal and it feels like everything needs to be done at once, all you’ll need to do is pull it out of the fridge and set it on the counter to soften. And other than being a little messy, it’s fun to make, too!
It's delicious plain, or you can flavor it by stirring in some additions while it’s still soft. The possibilities are endless! I made three versions that I thought would be good for the holidays: An orange-pecan with a touch of maple, a pumpkin pie spice, and a mixed herb. I imagine the orange-pecan and pumpkin pie being served with sweet potatoes or baked squash. If you do a big breakfast during the holidays, like my family does for Christmas, it would work on pancakes, waffles, or biscuits. The herb butter would be delicious for sautéing mushrooms, on top of a steak, or rubbed on a Thanksgiving turkey before cooking. And of course, any of them would go well on a homemade dinner roll.
So go ahead and impress your family and friends. And remember, you don’t HAVE to tell them how easy it was. Just say something like “oh, it didn’t take that long,” or “well, it’s the least I can do for such wonderful guests.” Maybe they’ll offer to do the dishes for you!
Homemade Compound Butters
1 quart heavy whipping cream
1/4 -1/2 teaspoon salt, optional
Place the heavy cream in a food processor. Add salt, if desired. Turn on the food processor.
The cream will first start to thicken, then will look like whipped cream (well, really it WILL be whipped cream). Let it keep going. All of a sudden it will start sounding "sloshy". Let it go for 10 or 15 seconds after you hear this, then open up the processor. You will see blobs of butter floating in something that looks like skimmed milk. It's almost done!
Pour the contents of the food processor into a colander lined with cheesecloth. The liquid will drain through, leaving the butter behind.
This is the messy part. Gather the corners of the cheesecloth and gently squeeze out the excess liquid. When you think that all the liquid is out, put the butter into a large bowl, or split it into a couple of bowls to divide it up. Before adding your additions, mash the butter with a fork against the side of the bowl. You'll likely get more liquid out of the butter. Let the liquid drain to one side of the bowl and pour it out.
Stir in your additions, if desired, wrap in parchment paper, and refrigerate until ready to use.
NOTE: 1 quart of heavy cream made about 11 ounces of butter. I split this into three portions, about 3 1/2 ounces each. These are the add-ins I used for each:
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
2 Tablespoons finely chopped pecans
1 Tablespoon real maple syrup
Pumpkin Pie Butter:
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
Mixed Herb Butter:
1 teaspoon each finely chopped fresh sage, parsley, and thyme leaves