Today’s Culinary Experiment

141210 Butter (1)

There are things I have never done.  Sometimes it takes being cooped up in the house for a couple of days to give me a little push.  There actually were a number of factors that contributed to the butter experiment today.

A couple of days ago, with the impending bad weather, I decided to find Side Hill Farm in Hawley.  It’s the closest dairy to me and they sell raw milk.  I was thinking cheese but went to stock up for the inclement weather.  This farm has a wonderful little store that is run on the honor system (something you don’t see much anymore).  There are freezers full of pastured pork and beef as well as the cooler full of dairy.  I got a half-gallon of milk and a half-gallon of cream (hey, it was cheap and I figured I’d just mix my own half and half).

This morning I mixed my half and half – the cream was as thick as sour cream, it was a feat getting it out of the bottle.  I then had a quart and a half left along with a slip of paper with instructions to make butter that I picked up at the farm next to the cash box.  I pulled out the food processor and the experiment began.

There’s something about the properties of milk.  Every time I make cheese, yogurt, pretty much anything I feel like a scientist.  Things all have to stay within certain parameters but it with any of these things the milk is transformed.  Butter is no different and it’s amazing to watch.  It churned for a good 3 to 4 minutes looking like cream whirling around in the bowl.  Suddenly it turned into butter and whey.  It was crazy to watch.  I made it in two batches, washing one while the other churned.  Once the whey was kneaded out I added salt and packed it into a container.  It made a little over a pound.

141210 Butter (2)Before putting this into the refrigerator I confess to slathering a good bit onto a piece of toast.  Mmmmm, definitely worth the trouble.  The bonus is how soft my hands were after playing with butter for a half an hour.


Caramel and Apple

130921 Caramel (1)Last week I was perusing the King Arthur Flour catalog (a guilty pleasure of mine) and they had a recipe for Apple Cider Caramels.  I thought, hmmmm, this might be a fun thing to try with the potential of being delicious, anything that contains heavy cream and butter has to be good. It also was something that I could make with ingredients I had on hand.  The recipe calls for boiled cider – a bottle of which is sitting in my refrigerator.  I’m always looking for ways of using it because the apple flavor is intense. The website Foodie with Family has a good description of boiled cider and the simple, albeit long process of making it.

The recipe for the caramels can be found at the King Arthur Flour website.  They are extraordinarily simple to make.  The biggest problem I had initially was the size of my pan.  I had to watch it for a bit to make sure it didn’t boil over (what a mess that would have been). Basically you put everything together and let it boil away for about a half hour until the mixture reaches 248 degrees on a candy thermometer.  The spices are mixed in and it is poured into a prepped 8×8 pan.  It then has to sit for 12 to 18 hours.

I was wondering about that a little – 12 to 18 hours?  When I took this off of the stove it looked like one foamy mess quite honestly.  I stirred and then poured it into the pan and let it sit the required time.  It was beautiful when I turned it out of the pan.

130921 Caramel (2)I learned a couple of things about making caramels – they don’t stick to anything.  When you are done cutting them your hands are sticky but they don’t stick to any surfaces.  They came right out of the pan and didn’t stick to the knife at all as I was cutting them.  They didn’t stick to each other.  I can only assume it has to do with the amount of fat that went into it in the beginning.

130921 Caramel (3)I cut them into 1 inch squares and wrapped them in parchment.  I also ate a couple during this process and fed them to people around me (even if it was 10:00 in the morning).  Apple pie is what you think of when you are eating this delightfully chewy confection.  The boiled cider shines in this recipe.

130921 Caramel (4)I made these to see how they would be for a Fall gathering we will be having at the house in a couple of weeks. I wanted to use as many of the fruits and veggies that are available for the food and the desserts are just begging to be apple and pumpkin – isn’t that what you think of when you are having a harvest party?  Meanwhile I will be passing these out to friends and family for the “taste test” but honestly, this is a winner.