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Lockdown Firsts: Making Butter

Butter is getting more and more expensive – that’s something that everyone has noticed over the last few years. Globally, the price of butter rose by around 60% during 2017, and it has never really recovered. There are lots of reasons behind this: turns out you can’t simply put it down to the success of shows such as Bake Off.

During lockdown, we like many others tried our hand at home baking, and we got through lots and lots of butter. Then one morning last week, Yeshi finally got the hump. Or maybe it was the cut-price double cream. On a really busy day with a hundred other more pressing jobs to get to, he set about making butter.

It turns out that making your own is really easy: you simply over whip double cream until it has separated, then squeeze out the excess liquid, and put it into the fridge. As I watched, I also got an education in the making of skimmed milk – that’s the liquid that you are draining off when you squeeze the butter.

When Yeshi first arrived in the UK he thought it was very strange that shoppers would spend the same amount on full fat milk as semi-skimmed or skimmed. He said that if you were popping a packet of butter into your basket at the same time then you were paying twice for the same item, as skimmed or semi-skimmed milk is just a byproduct of butter.

The dairy manufacturers have done nicely out of the notion that fat is unhealthy. Essentially, what was once an industrial waste product is now a desirable “health food.” By marketing skimmed milk as being a positive choice for consumers, the industry is able to profit off both products. Meanwhile, people are still enjoying large amounts of butter and cream.

Tibetans consume dairy in large quantities, and butter in particular. Instances of heart disease and diabetes are rare in Tibet, and Yeshi – like others – argues that full fat milk and other dairy products are best for our general health. Besides, the so-called “healthier” alternatives make him feel cheated, so green and red tops have no place in our house.

This is the first time that he’s made butter in the UK! Relatives in Tibet are busy making it out on the plateau during this summer season, and putting aside all his other jobs that day certainly brought Yeshi some energy. He says it’s been years since he’s had a go, but it would seem that he hasn’t lost his touch. I can confirm that making butter isn’t rocket science, and that it tastes delicious. A recipe is upcoming! More on that another time…

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