Like buttah!
September 7, 2009 8:05 PM   Subscribe

I learned how to make butter today using just a glass jar, a pint of heavy cream and elbow grease! So I made some, but something strange happened along the way and I seemed to have accidentally made ricotta cheese....

I first poured the entirety of the pint into the glass jar (a clean, 16oz pickle jar). 2 minutes into the shaking, I wasn't feeling any movement in the jar, so I popped it open to find that the foam wasn't allowing for the proper amount of agitation, so I poured off half of the contents to be used later. I finished the shaking, and in 5 minutes, I had a nice amount of butter and buttermilk. Strain, rinse, strain again and butter!

I decided to use the 2nd half of the heavy cream to record a video (if you're interested, check the youtube link in my profile). Now, Since this was a half shaken batch, I was expecting some differences from the first batch. When I poured into the jar, there were some chunks (expected). After a few minutes of shaking, everything solidified! There was no buttermilk to be found. (this part isn't on the video). I opened it up, and the "butter" looked more like small, separated curds. Of course, I took a taste - not butter, but ricotta cheese!

In the end, for the sake of the video, I added buttermilk from the last batch, shook again and within a minute had buttermilk and butter again. I strained and it tasted exactly like the first batch.

I looked around, and every recipe for ricotta that I found involves cooking and an acid. There were no acids introduced to either batch. Everything was between fridge temperature and room temperature (about 68F). What happened? How the hell did I end up with cold fusion ricotta?
posted by Cat Pie Hurts to Food & Drink (9 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Is it possible you ended up with cottage cheese instead? (Note, I have no knowledge of how cottage cheese is made)
posted by kylej at 8:08 PM on September 7, 2009

When I've made butter in the food processor, it looks kind of curdled and grainy until I take it out and "work it" with a fork in a mixing bowl. The process of working it gets the buttermilk out. At least, that's what I remember from the butter recipe in The Home Creamery book.

So yea, I don't think you made ricotta. I think you made butter and it just took a little while to come together.
posted by cabingirl at 8:13 PM on September 7, 2009

After looking it up, it doesn't look like it's possible as cottage cheese is pretty similar to ricotta in how it's made.
posted by kylej at 8:14 PM on September 7, 2009

I used to make butter like this occasionally (ever since they taught us how in kindergarten), and I've always experienced a brief phase in the process where the butter is small and grainy little curds (which sort of look like ricotta, I guess). After a few more minutes of shaking, the grains smoosh together to form a bigger buttery chunk. This sounds like what happened with you, basically. Adding the extra buttermilk was probably unnecessary; more shaking of the ricotta-like substance would have brought it around to the usual butter stage, I think.

I have no idea why your batch tasted like ricotta briefly, but I don't really see how it could actually be cheese, what with the lack of acid and whatnot. Granted, I'm not too familiar with the taste of plain ricotta though.
posted by mesha steele at 8:15 PM on September 7, 2009

I know that on a blog I read once the writer was in Paris and was eating a piece of "cheese" and told everybody how good it was only to be told it was actually butter...

So it sounds like it's possible to mistake butter for cheese.
posted by kylej at 8:20 PM on September 7, 2009

Ricotta requires both acid/fermentation and heat. I don't think you made ricotta.

There's a description in one of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books about churning butter; at first, the butter appears in the churn as small grains, which gradually clump together as churning continues. The larger lumps of butter would be removed and mixed together - using a butter paddle - to remove excess liquid, and mixed with salt and/or coloring (winter milk doesn't make for yellow butter).
posted by rtha at 8:28 PM on September 7, 2009

marscapone cheese, which is similar to ricotta (but richer), is made by adding acid to cream - is it possible you had some lemon juice or vinegar in whatever container that started the process? or that the acid produced by separating the whey, when left to sit, began to curlde it?
posted by Jon_Evil at 8:53 PM on September 7, 2009

I don't suppose there was any remnant pickle juice in the jar that could have acted as the acid in this equation?
posted by pemberkins at 9:08 PM on September 7, 2009

Best answer: I made a fair amount of butter in my youth, both in jars and in churns. You didn't make cheese. Cheese requires either an acid or a live bacterial culture.

However, I can totally imagine what happened here:

You start churning the butter, and discover there's too much liquid in your jar. So you pour some off. However, you didn't pour off an equal amount of everything. In fact, you poured off more butterfat than you did milk. So you proceed to churn the leftovers, and get a batch of butter. Cool.

Now, you go back to the poured-off portion, and begin churning it. However, it has a much higher concentration of butterfat solids to milk. So you churn it, and it reaches a point where the solids are most of the volume of the jar, with buttermilk caught up in the matrix. That is, there was more butter solid than buttermilk in the jar to begin with, there was very little buttermilk to be shaken out, and so it all stayed together. You then sampled this butter + buttermilk gel/solution and decided it tasted like ricotta--which, in fairness, I absolutely believe that it did. Then you added more liquid, which aided the agitation process, and allowed you to remove the rest of the infused buttermilk. And you got another batch of butter.

But you didn't make cheese, I absolutely promise you. Especially if you then subsequently got butter out of it.
posted by Netzapper at 10:01 PM on September 7, 2009 [4 favorites]

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