Once again, our sizzling hot chef Rochelle has come up with a dish you can make to impress a lady despite knowing nothing about cooking other than to not touch the flame. Her latest treat takes a few simple steps, and will be nothing your girl has ever tasted before…unless she’s a chef. But if you’re dating a chef, why are you trying to impress her at her own game?
Sometimes at the farm where I work we have what I call “silent plantings:” a half-hour or hour of transplanting vegetables into the ground without talking. There’s usually a crew of us doing the work, and heaven knows we–okay, I–can get a little chatty. The time to work and be quiet and reflect can be a nice change every once in a while.
In the middle of May we spent a warm afternoon burying strawberry plants in the ground. It had been a stressful morning and when one of the guys suggested a silent planting, we heartily agreed. I sat in the dirt without socks or barn boots, moving forward a few feet every couple of minutes, placing the plants root-end first into the ground and then pinching the stem as I gathered dirt around it.
I tend to use silent plantings as a time to reflect on my work and place on the farm–as a former full-time food and wine writer and promoter, I’ve undergone a pretty big lifestyle change. On this particular day, I wasn’t pondering anything major–just whether I’d made the right choice, and if I was actually any good at this whole “farming” thing.
After 2 hours, we had gotten three full rows in the ground. I was focused on the plants in my hand when I felt a presence next to me: the vegetable manager was at my side, holding a strawberry plant I’d just inserted into the ground. He held it at its stem, moving it back to show me the exposed roots: I hadn’t buried them deep enough. I pulled my best “oops!” face, and he shook his head firmly.
“If the roots are exposed,” he said quietly, “they will all die.”
I did what anyone in that situation who was sleep-deprived from 4:40 AM wake-up calls and a week out from their period (can I say period on a dude blog?) would: I cried. I cried a lot, silently at first into the plants, and then louder, into my palms.
The vegetable manager was perplexed: he had merely been trying to teach me the proper way to plant–no ill will meant–but there I was, checking over every plant, shoving the roots into the ground and sniffing snot back into my nose like a seriously wounded party.
Everything turned out fine: I recovered most of my pride and the strawberry plants are doing all right, despite some nibbles from wily deer. Time went on and I all but forgot about the incident: there was plenty else to occupy my mind, including a new program I’d started, using extra cream to make a gallon of butter each week.
I love making butter. It is one of the best parts about my life on the farm, and not just because I like slathering a quarter-cup of the stuff on toast each morning, then more once it all melts into the bread. Each week I ladle the cream off the top of the milk jars then bring the remaining milk out to the pigs who are much more excited about the fat-free stuff than I am. I pour all of the cream–gallons and gallons of it–into a milk can and then affix a paint mixing attachment to a cordless power drill. (This is entirely true.)
I then stick the attachment into the cream and stand over the can, running the drill until the cream whips, then separates into milk solids and buttermilk. It’s a pretty badass way of making butter, and I’ve got to say, there’s something intensely satisfying about the sound of a fresh battery being clicked into the drill.
The butter this time of year is especially delicious because the cows are eating their hearts’ content of fresh grass–it’s distinctly sweet. The other morning as I spread some on a bagel, I remembered the great strawberry incident of May and thought about how great it would be with some of the tender red berries folded in: their tart flavor profile would be a perfect foil for the rich butter.
Eager to forge a new association and connection to strawberries, I presented the idea to the vegetable manager who looked at me with a quizzically amused look. “Strawberry butter … what would you call that? Strutter?” he asked. I started to open my mouth in protest when he had an even better idea on how to combine the two words. “Butt berries!” he said, chuckling to himself.
I smacked the back of his head and groaned–there was no question about it, I definitely worked with a bunch of dudes. But I couldn’t help but laugh myself–and the more I thought about it, the more I kind of liked the name. So here it is, from my farm to your table: seasonal, fresh and delicious butt berries.
Makes about one cup
I strongly recommend you not wimp out and stir strawberries into store-bought butter. But if you must, at least use organic, local berries. If you do make your own butter, you don’t have to use a paint mixer and power tools though I personally think they add to the appeal. I suggest making a big batch if you’re going to go that route. If not, a food processor works great.
- 1 quart heavy cream
- 1/3 cup fresh strawberries, stems removed and chopped finely
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Let the cream sit out on the counter until it reaches 63-65 degrees. If using a food processor, add it to the bowl, no more than halfway up the basin. If you have more cream than that, consider putting it in a bucket or large bowl and using a paint mixer and a cordless drill.
Turn on the food processor or drill and let it run until the cream whips thickly, then separates into yellow milk solids (butter) and pale white liquid (buttermilk.)
Strain out the butter into a cheesecloth-lined sieve set over a bowl. You can save the buttermilk for pancakes. Place the butter back into the food processor or bowl and add cold water. Run the motor or drill again, then strain. Repeat this process at least two more times: you’re rinsing the butter from excess buttermilk which can impart a funky taste and make it spoil quicker.
Finally, knead the butter in your hands until no more liquid remains. Place it in a mixing bowl and use a rubber spatula to fold in the strawberries, honey and salt. Slather on bagels or toast in the morning.
Rochelle Bilow is a freelance food and wine writer who lives and works on a farm. To read more of her recipes and thoughts on eating and drinking, visit her website at rochellebilow.com or follow her on Twitter @RochelleBilow.