Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Making Butter

I recently joined the Bushwick Food Coop, which gives me access to raw, organic, grass fed dairy from an Amish farm in Pennsylvania. I was strangely craving ice cream last week despite the cold weather, so I ordered heavy cream in addition to my usual milk. However, feeling lazier this week and having run out of butter, I decided to give a whirl at turning my cream into butter instead. You can theoretically do so by shaking a mason jar of cream over a half hour, but I don't have an empty jar to spare right now (all are housing bulk goods), and butter can be made in just a few minutes in a food processor or stand mixer.

I followed Kelly's lead over at eat make read. Sure enough, the transformation went through all the proper phases as I paused the food processor every minute or so to check on progress: cream turned into thick white whipped cream and then into yellower crumbly soft butter. Next, liquid began to spray the sides of the food processor as the buttermilk separated from a mass of solid butter.

I strained the buttermilk to save for baking. The final step was to rinse the butter in extremely cold water while kneading it a bit until the water ran clear and then to dry it in a paper towel or cheesecloth. A pint of cream will give you about one cup of butter, good in the fridge for roughly one week.

I'm going to a potluck this weekend. What should I make to highlight this tasty butter? Bread to serve with herbed butter? Buttermilk scones or biscuits? Empanadas? Any other ideas? Help me decide!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Bike Commuting Take 2

I've tried to bike commute in the past, but quickly fell off the wagon. I was all gung-ho in May 2009, but life had other plans that summer. It rained almost every day in June, my life went crazy in a bad way, and when I moved to Park Slope, my potential bike commute went from 5.5 miles to 9 miles, a task far too daunting for someone like me who is decidedly not a morning person.

Now I am happily back in Williamsburg, and my new bike commute is a much more manageable 3.5 miles, so I am recommitting for real. To force myself to bike regularly, I signed up for a metrocard (through my work transit check program) with only enough money to travel by subway half the month. I'll see how this goes and hopefully adjust to an even cheaper metrocard in the warmer months. I'm also hoping that because the ride is relatively short, I won't get sweaty enough in the summer to need a gym membership just to shower before work.

To prepare, I bought a basic fender for my back tire (something like this) to protect me from slush and rain spraying up my back, and got my bike tuned up. My bike is over 10 years old and I'd never taken it for a tune up before. I'd always wondered if the creaky gears and weird noises were a sign it might fall apart at any minute, so it's good to feel confident in its working condition now.

So this morning, I rode my bike to work for the first time this year. I've been getting around Williamsburg and Bushwick by bike all winter, so the 30 degree weather didn't faze me. I don't wear any special gear for biking in the cold - just my usual clothes, winter coat, gloves, scarf, a ski headband underneath my helmet, and a backpack. For now, I'm bringing a clean shirt to change into when I get to work.

It was 30 minutes door to door, the same as taking the subway. The route had me safely on bike lanes most of the way. Bike lanes have come under a lot of controversy lately in New York, but they are necessary for bicycling to become a viable form of transportation as we move away from reliance on cars and oil, and I am personally grateful for the Department of Transportation's work to create an extensive bike lane network in this city. And I didn't encounter any ticket-happy police. Here we go...

Have you ever tried or thought about commuting by bike?