Or, Butter in Under 5 Minutes...
We recently had our first calves born, which means we are now producing our own milk. Once all four of our calves are born this winter, we'll have enough milk for drinking as well as making butter, yogurt, and cheese.
For the general public there seems to be a lot of mystery surrounding the food in the dairy case. We know that butter and cheese and yogurt come from milk, but we think all the processes to make them must be difficult and complex. Now that we started down the path of farming and producing our own foods though, we've found that some of the dairy products are actaully quite simple to make.
We already make our own yogurt, since it's so much cheaper for us than buying it. Making yogurt is as simple as heating milk to 180 F (to sterlize it), cooling it to 110 F, mixing in some plain yogurt for the culture, and keeping it at 110 F for several hours.
So far we've only read about making cheese and done a couple little experiments, so we're not experts here by any means, but some of the cheeses are actually quite simple. We've succeeded in making an Indian paneer cheese, which is done by just cooking sour milk until it separates and then squeezing the extra liquid out of your newly created cheese. Mozzerella is supposedly quite easy to make, but if you do botch it, then you get ricotta cheese, so that doesn't sound too bad. (Of course I should add in here that many cheeses are challenging to make, especially the hard ones.)
What surprised us though, is that butter is actually the easiest to make of the dairy products. You don't need an antique churn or a dairy-maid dress or anything -- just a jar. In fact, making butter is so easy, I think everyone should do it once, just for the experience.
Just buy yourself a pint of heavy whipping cream (or of course you could skim the cream off of milk that hasn't been homogenized), find yourself a jar, and you're set.
Keep on shaking and in about another minute or so the buttermilk will start separating out from the butter.
Shake a little longer for good measure and you can pour off the buttermilk (to save for making pancakes of course!).
The only problem with making your own butter is that it somehow seems healthier, so beware!