Saturday, June 18, 2011

Project Lunch: Buttered Up! (or: Losing My Marbles)

First off, let me tell you how surprisingly hard it is to find marbles. I knew I could probably find some at a pet store, but after a friend told me about their highly efficient fish-execution system new tank and unwashed marbles in the bottom, I decided to try for the ones designed for kids to touch. I tried Dollar Tree. I tried Winco. Safeway. Rite-Aid. Finally, at Fred Meyer I found a promising selection of the kinds of toys you'd expect to find near a bag of marbles... but no marbles. I pounced upon flagged down a passing employee and they used their walkie-talkie to verify that they did, in fact, carry marbles, and to pinpoint their exact location... right where I had been looking. Aha! She shows me the peg right under a sign saying everything in that section is $2. An empty peg. Arrrrgh!
I snag my child back from the play area (where she actually not only wanted to go, but also was willing to stay without me standing right outside! Boo-yaw!) and con her into going to another Fred Meyer with me. At this point, I am just beat, and my husband should be home from work, so I call him and make him come meet us and take us to dinner nearby. And pay for my marbles.

What do marbles have to do with lunch, you ask? Well so did Little Z, and the kids at the Cooking Class. Since in the Summer I like to do the classes in the park, I have to choose no-cook options. And I had just heard a friend rave about this activity she did with her preschooler that she read about in Click Magazine. Making butter!

What you need:
Small jar, screw-top is best. And really, the smaller the better. A medium to large baby-food jar is perfect for little kids. You can go bigger if you want to make more.
Heavy cream (can experiment with different kinds. We used heavy whipping cream)
A marble (washed)
Cheesecloth (although in our case it wasn't really needed)
Optional: Something to pour the buttermilk into after (again, wasn't needed in our case)

Step 1: Place marble into jar
Step 2: Fill jar halfway with heavy whipping cream
Step 3: Shake jar until you can no longer hear the marble moving around.
Step 4: Pour out any buttermilk.
Step 5: Scoop butter out into cheesecloth. Squeeze out excess buttermilk, or rinse with water.
 ...Or not.
Oh, yeah! And be sure to remove the marble. Eventually.
Step 6: Enjoy!

I had found a multi-grain French bread baguette, and sliced it into roughly 1/2" slices and it tasted fabulous! I had also been conned into bought some sourdough rolls, so I sliced a few up (into 3 slices lengthwise) and brought them as well. And a loaf of our normal wheat sandwich bread.

Since the jars I brought were 8-ounces, I only filled them around a third of the way, which may have been our downfall. The mom who brought a short, squat 4-oz jar got a nice creamy butter. The other mom and I got a runny butter. None of us had any excess buttermilk, and the creamy-butter mom made the mistake of trying to squeeze the buttermilk out via the cheesecloth and just squelched butter out. Which made a handy way to spread it onto the bread, but that hadn't been the plan. We may also have just quit shaking a little too soon. But it took longer than 15 minutes. Chilling it may help too.
But our runny-ish butter tasted great. Very creamy. Not very flavorful (ie: tasted more like milk than butter,) and I wasn't a fan of it plain, but I loved it on the multi-grain baguette! The boys, who took turns (plus with me and their mom) to make the "best" butter of the bunch, weren't actually interested in eating it. But they were fiends with the various types of plain bread! Z had 3 slices (a whole roll) of buttered sourdough, and the other girl her age had a butter sandwich. I ate a lunch worth of buttered baguette!
Another boy came later, and wasn't interested in participating, and gave his jar one cursory shake before running off to play. But the jar exploded (I'm still not sure if it bumped the table or the bench while being shaken, or what happened) and promising-looking clots of cream splattered everywhere!

Since I didn't have the magazine when I first planned to do this, I found a recipe online, and it has a bunch of tips, ways to experiment and the science facts behind how this works, so you can teach the kids while they slave away. I highly recommend that you check it out and then you can feel all smart when they ask how you are going to make butter with a marble! Plus make the whole thing more edjumacational.
Z tried convincing me that marbles weren't for eating and wouldn't become something delicious. True. The older boy kept asking me how we were going to use the marbles, and how could a marble make butter, anyway? So I trotted out my science facts ("Blah blah blah fat in the cream blah blah marble knocks the fat bits together blah blah into butter!") Bored them senseless Quieted them right down!


  1. LOL :) ... you are 'loved'.... I need some love too (and followers!)

    The International Laundress :)

  2. lol so cute, well you have such successfull cooking classes one had to be a bust sometime lol but sounds like you guys made the best of it :)


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