Make Butter with Your Backyard Herbs: Shelly Vie of Nourished Spills Secrets

Did you know you can make butter? Really delicious butter compounded with herbs from your garden? Yes, you can. Though it's slightly more complicated than simply mixing a stick of butter and some herbs, it's a fun process that yields tasty outcomes.

Nourished is a company run by Shelly Vie. She and her business partner craft nine flavors of grass-fed compound butters, ghee, and bone broths. They've been a hit at farmers market around town and they make beautiful use of seasonal ingredients. The best part? Shelly's spilled her secrets on how to use your own herbs and pantry leftovers to make butter at home.

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First, begin with a small mason jar filled roughly a quarter of the way with cream. About four ounces. What kind of cream? "I would say what's important to me is just good quality cream," says Vie. "Organic? Grass-fed? What's important to you?" She recommends Strauss creamery available at Whole Foods. If that's too pricey, there are good options from Trader Joe's as well. Vie uses a private source of pasture-raised dairy for her butter (the closest to local she can get) but says, "Any cream will make butter, find best quality within your budget." Alternatively, you can buy local un-homogenized milk and skim the cream.

A note here about fat. Legally, butter with 84 percent butterfat can be called "European butter." European-style butter is usually churned longer than other, traditional butters. This decreases the moisture content and increases the butterfat content. Why would you want more fat? It has more flavor and less moisture, which makes it perform well in most recipes.

Now that you have your cream and your jar, you need to plan ahead on how to flavor your butter. The short list? Fresh herbs like rosemary, basil, oregano, mint and lavender, honey, spices, capers, peppers, dried peppers, liquors, bitters, dried fruits, nuts, oils, garlic, vermouth, shallot, onion . . . pretty much anything!

Vie typically starts with the fresh ingredients, as they dictate what else to add in. For example, if you're making a butter with fresh basil and strawberry preserves, start with the basil. If you're planning on cooking with the butter, overdo the flavors; in other words, make it strong! If you're simply wanting to put a little on toast and don't want something too different from regular butter, make sure it tastes good off the spoon. Yep, lick the butter from a spoon. Our demo group came up with such flavor profiles as: basil with strawberries and chocolate liquor, rosemary with honey and fig preserves, jalapeño with grapefruit and rose, and butter with sardines and capers. Ensure that any hard ingredients, like rosemary, are finely chopped. It's time for the real work: Put the lid tightly on your jar and begin shaking it fiercely, mostly up and down. (There's a video you can view here.) First, it will clump, and then it will make a small popping noise (like the one you make with your cheek) and finally you'll begin to see it congeal. At this point, drain a little bit of the liquid. Keep this liquid, buttermilk is also great for pancakes and such. Then, keep shaking. It takes about 15 minutes total.

Once you're satisfied with the butter's texture, add your ingredients and use a small spoon to mix them in. Taste and make adjustments. Add a bit of salt -- it helps to preserve things and bring out flavor. Shake again, taste again, drain again if need be and -- voila -- butter!

Since we began with about four ounces of cream, we're left with about two ounces of butter. If you do several flavors. you'll have some left over. How to store it? A compound butter will stay fresh for about four months in a freezer and two to three in a fridge. "Unflavored butter often won't have an expiration date, and the FDA doesn't even require refrigeration instructions on it -- because it will really be okay. But when you mix in herbs, cheese, stuff with sugars, and other perishables, it'll get fuzzy in the fridge after a few month," Vie says.

That's it! If you decide you'd rather not shake your way to flavored butter, you can always stop in a market where Nourished is sold or check out the year-round selection at Tom's Thumb Fresh Market. Follow Chow Bella on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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