Simple Pleasures: Homemade Butter

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I have a bi-weekly habit I’d like to pass on to you: making your own butter. It’s amazingly easy to do, and delivers a solid high of kitchen happiness.

So in this day and age, why would you make your own butter?

swirl of homemade butterHonestly- this butter tastes unlike anything you’ll buy in a grocery store. It has a fuller flavor of creamy butter that is much more aromatic than store bought butters. This heady fragrance means that you too need to be conscious of your own butter’s timeline- make your batches smaller and frequent and it will be fresher.

As good as all that sounds, this butter-maker will let you in on a secret… I do it for the buttermilk. This eponymous treat finally delivers the full understanding to its name with one small sip. I should warn you though. Once you’ve tasted this elixir, you’ll be hard pressed to leave enough leftover from your sip for making buttermilk pancakes!

Homemade Butter Process

I once made butter in elementary school, shaking a jar of cream that we passed around the classroom. Once it started to sound thumpy in the jar instead of splashy, our teacher took over and gave us all slices of bread with a smear of our butter.

Lucky to be a grown up now, you can use your stand mixer to whip this up instead of shaking a jar for 10 minutes. This method lets you witness an interesting set of transformations in your cream:

Remove the butter chunks to cheesecloth, and squeeze out the remaining buttermilk. Hey- look what you’ve got in your hands… it’s butter!

The remove every last bit of buttermilk, add the butter back to your mixing bowl with a cup of cold water. Beat together and again strain the butter from the liquid. Repeat until the liquid rinsed from the butter is clear.

How to store your fresh butter: topped with water

To keep your butter the freshest tasting, its going to be best served in an oxygen free environment.

I accomplish this by pressing walnut sized pieces of the fresh butter into a 1 cup sized wide mouthed glass mason jar. Press in the butter pieces so that there is no air trapped in the bottom of the jar, or around the butter.

If you choose to salt your butter, this would be a good time to massage your chosen salt into each butter piece, or butter layer.

When all the butter is smoothed into your jar, top it off with cold water and screw on the lid. This water layer will aid in keeping your butter air free- thus preserving its fresh taste longer (this is kind of like a French Butter Bell). Pour off the water each time you use your butter and top it off with a new cool layer when done.

How much butter will you get?

The yield of butter from cream is rather straightforward. One pint of cream yields 1 cup of butter and one cup of buttermilk. One cup of butter is 2 sticks, which is half a pound.

This homemade butter will be the perfect match to warm cornbread, steaming buckwheat pancakes, homemade bran muffins, cinnamon laced french toast…
I think you get my drift. I don’t need to convince you that butter is good!

More hot links for homemade butter

68 Comments

posted March 14th, 2008 at 6:32 am

Yum! I adore butter–and homemade is just lovely! I used to make a lot of butter back when I made a lot of bread… the two seem to go so beautifully together!

Sigh- don’t they though. We are lucky to have this culinary power!

We should make a special promise to ourselves to gift a non-culinary friend (you know what I mean), or one who’s simply time pressed, a loaf of fresh bread and a small jar of fresh butter.

I bet we could really make someone’s day.

–McAuliflower

posted March 14th, 2008 at 8:02 am

Thanks for the excellent tutorial! And a pint of cream is a whole lot cheaper than butter, too.

I have one question: do you refrigerate it? Because (I think) that the point of the butter bell is to have it at room temperature. I know lots of people leave their butter out with no ill effects.

On a side note, we have made peanut butter the same way! Shaking a container of cocktail peanuts in the can for a long enough time gives you peanut butter. Well, it was at a bar for a birthday party and being used as an impromptu musical instrument when we discovered this…but still.

HI Peggasus. You’re right I don’t refrigerate it.
Making peanut butter the shaker way sounds a bit long in process. But your version of doing it in a bar with friends sounds like fun!

cheers
McAuliflower

posted March 14th, 2008 at 8:52 am

Homemade butter is so delicious. There’s really nothing like it. I’d love to give this a try. How long do you think the butter will last (assuming we don’t eat it all), and assuming it is stored properly with the cold water on top)? Great post! I enjoy reading your blog!

Hi Cara,

Hmmm, good question- they usually get used up within a week, week and a half. I don’t know how long it will last at room temperature, unused. I’ll have to research how butter goes bad.

I tend to make this butter with a special occasion in mind: friends coming over, recipe that wants buttermilk and butter, fresh bread. Hence, how mine get used up quickly.

If I feel I won’t be using my butter in a timely manner, I do one of two things:

  • make ghee out of it (which has a long shelf life. Also- spiced ghee’s can be made: just add aromatics to the heating butter for special flavored batches.
  • pour off the water, over the top layer with wax paper and stick the jar in the freezer

I’m going to chew on this answer a bit longer too Cara.

Cheers
McAuliflower

- Cara
posted March 14th, 2008 at 11:42 am

This reminds me of my 6th grade trip to Springfield where we visited a cabin and someone was churning butter. I miss those days! And I love whipped butter. Nicely done.

posted March 14th, 2008 at 1:14 pm

How cool! I’m an addict so this is going on my to-do list. Can you use the non-fresh type (I don’t know what the proper word in English is)?

posted March 14th, 2008 at 8:41 pm

Oh my God, you just took me back 25 years…When I was a kid, we lived on a farm outside of Eugene and had a milk cow. We often had more milk than we could drink, so we soon learned to make yogurt and butter. But it has been a long time. Thanks for a nice trip down memory lane. :)

posted March 16th, 2008 at 8:39 am

Wow, this sounds absolutely delicious. I want to make some today! A question though: milkfat-percentage-wise, what kind of cream do you use?

Good and a bit tricky of a question Fiona,

Here in the United States, my grocery stores generally have only one type of cream available: “Heavy Whipping Cream”. I understand this means diddly squat in Canada, for example, where milk products are more clearly labeled by fat percentage.

The cream I used is ~36% milkfat. We’ve previously looked into American terminology for cream labels: heavy cream vs whipping cream. It proved to be a helpful discussion for making ice cream bases too.

–McAuliflower

- Fiona
posted March 16th, 2008 at 9:44 am

This is such a timely post…a great reminder of something I love. I can’t wait until the chives come up around here…I love mixing chives in and then rolling little butter balls in the purple flowers. Thanks!

Ooo- I can practically smell your idea!

–McAuliflower

posted March 16th, 2008 at 9:45 pm

WoW! This sounds wonderful and the buttermilk part perfect! So, is cooking with the butter acceptable or not? I can’t wait to try this =D

Of course it is. However, just like any other butter, this will have milk solids in it that burn with an application of high heat (unlike ghee).

cheers
–McAuliflower

posted March 17th, 2008 at 8:02 am

I made butter after I read your post about it and it was one of the most fun, satisfying things I’ve done in my kitchen ever! What a great idea.

- Jill
posted March 17th, 2008 at 9:01 am

Hmm, I’m a thinkin’ that I’m going to have to add this to my culinary adventures. Not that I don’t have lots already planned. My current project is mastering meringue cookies. I’m almost there. Of course, I have some fabulous whole-wheat millet bread setting next to the toaster. Jessica got me that Wild Fermentation book for our 2 yr anniversary …. and it’s got me thinking of a whole new set of projects.

Yea! I’m glad. I still haven’t attacked anything in that book yet (ginger beer any day now…). Well aside from making a keifer that didn’t work because I heated the milk too hot (mmm burnt flavored keifer). Now I’m thinking of making butter out of keifer’ed cream.

cheers
–McAuliflower

- Jeromy
posted March 17th, 2008 at 9:31 am

[...] Points posted a tutorial last week on how to make your own butter at home. Gavin and I tried it this weekend. It was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done in the [...]

posted March 17th, 2008 at 10:50 am

What a great idea! I’m going to make my first foray into bread-baking this week, and homemade butter sounds like the perfect complement.

posted March 18th, 2008 at 7:48 am

Hi. Just stumbled across your site and have added it to my bookmarks. Great place to be.

I am a retired chef/restaurant owner now living joyously in a small village in central Spain.

Making your own butter is a simple and satisfying experience. The only comment I can add is that your butter will as good as your cream. An Irish friend of mine says that Irish butter is so superior because of the way the cows graze and what they eat. Makes sense to me. So I guess that if you bring over a quart of Irish cream you will get Irish butter! :-)

Hi Richard,
Fresh cream would be great! I’ll take some :)
cheers,
McAuliflower

- Richard
posted March 18th, 2008 at 4:32 pm

Grew up making butter and my Mum sold it and was much sort out for the sweetness and freshness of her butter.
After we got to take off the buttermilk, we would add water and salt and wash the butter, and repeat until the water was clear. That way the butter stayed fresher and sweeter much longer as all the milk had been washed out..
I still have the butter pats ..two pieces of wood like rectangular bats, with lines on them. We would put the butter into a rough shape and then pat it into place with these and mark it attractively.

Thanks Jane
I’ll try washing my butter next time.

–McAuliflower

posted March 20th, 2008 at 5:18 pm

I love discovering that something such as this is so simple! Thank you!

posted March 23rd, 2008 at 8:50 pm

What if we’d like to make a salted batch; do we simply throw in table salt in the cream prior to beating?

Hi Eric,

I mention in the directions that salt is added at the end- kneaded into the butter when it is packed in storage containers. Adding salt to the cream doesn’t necessarily mean it will come out in the fat/butter, it may come out in the buttermilk.

–McAuliflower

- EricN
posted March 25th, 2008 at 7:30 am

I’ve made butter once before, although it was quite by accident. As I was in the middle of a dinner party, the thought was quickly waylaid, so thanks for jogging my memory.

posted March 29th, 2008 at 3:03 pm

MMMMM, I love butter as well! Thank you so much for this simple method of making butter.

posted April 6th, 2008 at 3:30 pm

I stumbled upon your page and thought it was a wonderful idea. After several days, I finally buckled down and did it. Super easy and delicious! I felt same giddy rush I felt in kindergarten shaking that little jar. My girlfriend has just put in an order for garlic butter, which I assume can be made just by adding garlic and garlic powder at the end. Thank a bunch.

So glad you got the butter rush Eric!

Garlic butter sounds great- we can use minced garlic, with shallots in there too. Another fine variation would be to roast the garlic first.
Looking at other garlic butter recipes online shows yet another version of including a touch of alcohol in the butter. I saw variations using vermouth or brandy with the garlic. Hmmmm.

I know what I’m off to explore…

–McAuliflower

- Eric
posted April 8th, 2008 at 8:59 pm

my friends would love this

posted April 8th, 2008 at 10:32 pm

I love you.

I made this and then baked chocolate chip cookies.
Best Cookies Ever.

- lizzie
posted April 9th, 2008 at 4:17 am

I”ve got to say I’ve never thought about making my own butter. I have let the whipping cream go into the first stage you mentioned, now I know just to let it keep on going and make the butter. More reasons to keep heavy cream in the fridge.
Great blog, by the way. So glad I found it.
Mary

posted April 11th, 2008 at 7:35 am

I’m going to make this this weekend, along with biscuits! I’ll be speedwalking the rest of the weekend to burn it all off, but I’m determined to have fun with it. Thank you for posting such great notes and tutorial!

- Lelo
posted May 6th, 2008 at 6:14 am

I have read your post about butter and it was one of the most fun, satisfying things I’ve done in my kitchen ever! What a great idea.

posted May 9th, 2008 at 6:53 pm

[...] made myself a treat last week after my visit to the PSU farmers’ market: homemade butter layered with thin slices of [...]

posted July 16th, 2008 at 8:48 pm

What is the difference between buttermilk and keifer? I have heard that both are good for you (talking health here) and just wondering what the differences are or similarities? Thank you

They have different flavors and consistencies. I too am exploring the health aspects to them. BTW- the book Nourishing Traditions is quite the eye opener! I just started it and its rocking my world.

Briefly
- cultured buttermilk is the liquid that comes out of the butter-making process. (This post up above doesn’t include the culturing step- but the blog Travelers Lunchbox does. Its an easy process- I recommend it. ). Cream is mixed with a yogurt culture and set out for a couple of hours at room temperature. The now cultured cream is churned into cultured butter and cultured buttermilk is the liquid that is left over.

- keifer is milk that is treated with keifer grains or freeze-dried keifer culture. The grains are reusable, the freeze dried culture isn’t- a new packet is used each time you make keifer. The keifer is made in a manner similar to making cultured cream for making butter- the keifer grains are added to milk that has been briefly heated. The milk with keifer grains is left at room temperature for several hours and becomes thick and takes on a yogurt-like flavor. It is then refrigerated when it achieves a good flavor and is thicker. Keifer will continue to ferment- and become more nutritious with age.

Keifer looks and tastes like a drinkable yogurt- however it contains beneficial bacteria that is slightly different than yogurt and more active. It’s flavor is also more nuanced than yogurt’s.

How are they good health wise? Eating food like keifer is considered beneficial as it contains healthy bacteria that are digestive system needs in our gut to help our own bodies with the digestive process. Food cultures worldwide have a tradition of supplementing their diet with “live” foods such as keifer, yogurt and other fermented foods.

Another good book to explain fermentation and its context in our food culture is Sandor Ellix Katz’s book Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods.

hope that helps!

–McAuliflower

- Lucille
posted July 17th, 2008 at 11:25 am

[...] – cultured buttermilk is the liquid that comes out of the butter-making process. (My post about butter making doesn’t include the culturing step- but the blog Travelers [...]

posted July 31st, 2008 at 2:01 am

I really don’t like your butter. Its like a little bit of yuck when i tasted it. And somehow it does not tastes very hygienic. Could we use ordinary cream instead of whipping cream? How to make salted butter that is hygienic?

Hmmm- I don’t remember seeing you in my kitchen tasting my butter.
Not tasting hygienic- do you mean you used moldy cream? Don’t do that- it doesn’t make any sense, we’re not making blue cheese here.
So what do you mean by ordinary cream? Do you have a fat percentage on that?

–McAuliflower

- xxx
posted November 5th, 2008 at 6:31 am

I’m a little late to read this post, but better late than never :)
Like “Jane aka Glenice” suggested, washing the butter produces great results. Once the butter forms, I add ice water and mash it around with a potato masher. I do this 5 or 6 times until the water is clear. I then press the butter between some paper towels and keep it in an airtight plastic container – it keeps very well!

Have you ever tried whipping your butter (once it’s made and finished) with whole milk? I read that it’s supposed to make the butter softer and easier to spread (I keep mine in the refrigerator and it gets quite hard), but I haven’t tried it yet.

posted November 24th, 2008 at 6:26 pm

How much salt do you recommend adding?

Up front: I like salty butter. The way I make it is I sprinkle a pinch over every layer of fresh butter I press into my storage jar.

Start experimenting with ~ 1/3 – 1/2 tsp per half pound of butter.

Or- just save the salt for when you put the butter into use.

–McAuliflower

- Eric L.
posted December 20th, 2008 at 7:34 pm

Have you done any experimentation with flavored butters, such as adding in garlic or oregano or other herbs and spices into the butter making process? I’m thinking of perhaps trying a chili butter.

- ndm
posted February 19th, 2009 at 6:40 pm

I have never had home made butter before tonight. I don’t have a stand mixer or anything so I used the jar method you mentioned.

I will never buy butter again.

Thanks!

- Beth
posted February 20th, 2009 at 10:21 am

[...] I have heard about this on all the food sites I visit as well as splendid table.  This is a good post, and also links to the Splendid Table recipe.  Sounds kind of cool…and you get lovely [...]

posted February 20th, 2009 at 10:36 am

[...] I have heard about this on all the food sites I visit as well as splendid table.  This is a good post, and also links to the Splendid Table recipe.  Sounds kind of cool…and you get lovely [...]

posted February 22nd, 2009 at 4:25 pm

We made this last night with a jar. It’s impressive how quick it went, and how high the yield was. We used the buttermilk this morning to make pancakes that, of course, were promptly slathered in fresh butter!

- xian
posted March 16th, 2009 at 7:38 pm

[...] One of the first blogs I read about this: Brownie Points’ butter. [...]

posted April 22nd, 2009 at 10:33 pm

I made butter by accident last week after overwhiiping cream meant for a black forrest cake .Talk about learning from your mistake, it was extremly delicious and will definately be repeated. Next time, i’ll try washing the butter and will also try your storage method.

Thanks

Corny

I think this is a great experience. I think everyone should go through those steps. It’s pretty amazing to see what cream will do.

cheers
–McAuliflower

- corny
posted April 27th, 2009 at 10:09 am

[...] cold water into the bowl and continue mixing to beat out the buttermilk, and drain out the water. This site also has some excellent tips on the process and storing (like covering the butter with cold water [...]

posted May 14th, 2009 at 4:48 am

Having eaten butter since i was born in England,Ive always loved it.Now living in the middle east,they all seen to eat Yogurt.Anyway,having brought a few cows,i thought i would look on the net,as to how to make butter,i thought it was going to be difficult,adding things that i have never heard of.
But its so easy,Ive been saving the cream from the milk that we get each day,store it in the freezer.Today i let it defrost a little,popped it in the mixer,which after a few minutes i thought, ‘whats this?,it looks like cream to me’ Anyway,i think it took about 5 to 7 minutes in the mixer,then i saw the yellow butter on its own and buttermilk on its own.
I got a sieve and caught the buttermilk(going to store that in freezer)then with butter in the sieve,i washed it with ice water,until the water was clean.
wow hoo!I made butter,or should i say,i made the most delicious butter in the middle east!
Thank you for your excellent tips

- Fatimah
posted June 6th, 2009 at 11:45 am

I made cultured butter this morning with my 2 mini dachshund helpers standing by (as always). I make a lot of kefir from both cow and goat milk. I decided to use cow milk kefir as my culture for my cow cream butter. I used about a half cup kefir to a quart heavy cream and let it sit out all night. Then i stuck the cream in the fridge for about 6 hours. I used one of those Cuisinart hand blenders with the whisk attachment. I swear it only took a couple of minutes to get to the butter stage. I had covered the bowl with plastic wrap from everyone’s warnings about buttermilk flying everywhere. However, dumb me hit the button when I lifted the blender out of the bowl. I had butter all over the counter, backsplash, etc. I got a lot of yummy butter and creamy buttermilk. Everything else went perfect. Until….I went to out the top on the container fo the buttermilk. It was one of those stupid Rubbermaid drink shakers. The top is too tight and as struggling with it, you guessed it, it fell over. My babies both got a buttermilk bath. They didn’y know whether to run off scared or stay and pig out! I lightly salted the butter with some pink himalayan salt and tried it out on some of my fresh homemade bread. Heavenly. It was as good as the cheeses I have been making. Homemade dairy is fun, easy, and yummy!

- Debi
posted September 28th, 2009 at 11:39 am

Wow! I have been on a decided kick for going green and homemade everything lately, and while talking with a friend about back in elementary school, she remembered making butter. So then of course I had to go look it up. This seems very easy, which is nice. There were a few questions, when placing the butter in the jar, you put it all in, but only a little at a time correct? It seemed a little unclear, though it may have just been me. Also, you used a stand mixer, which I don’t have but want. How would you use a hand mixer? Or would it be better to just make it in a jar? I can’t wait to try it, I know my grandmother will love it!

Sunni

- Sunni
posted November 28th, 2009 at 1:44 pm

I am planning to make homemade butter for the first time. What I wonder about is the bacteria. If you leave it out for 12 hours to cure it isn’t it possible it can develope some harmful bacteria. Or if you squeeze it with your hands to get the buttermilk out of it, even if your hands are very clean can’t it transport any lingering bacteria on your hands onto the butter. I’d like to make homemade butter for other family members but I don’t want to take a chance on getting anyone sick.

posted May 3rd, 2010 at 7:40 pm

I just made some home made butter with my stand mixer. This is my second batch. LOL. I’m gonna become addicted :) ~ Anyway this time I used pasteurized instead of ultra pasteurized which made a difference even though the first batch was still delicious. My suggestion is to use a good quality cream and you’ll be rewarded with some good butter. Cheers!

- James
posted June 18th, 2010 at 3:23 pm

Thanks so much for the recipe! One question–for how long do you beat the butter with the first round of cold water? I had what looked like perfect butter, I added the water, and in a few seconds it had all gone to mush, and I ended up with whipped butter. Still good, but not exactly what I had in mind. :-) Thanks!

- Kat
posted July 5th, 2010 at 1:07 pm

My grandmother makes all her butter homemade, and it makes such a difference! Your recipe sounds pretty simple, and I’m not allowed to have hers until she dies.. that’s so not fair!
-Sylvia
Cigar Ratings

- Sylvia
posted August 8th, 2010 at 3:03 pm

I was just telling everyone in my family about this “butter” we made in elementary school – there’s nothing like it! Cannot wait to try this at home. Thank you for the recipe!

- Ashley
posted August 13th, 2010 at 10:06 pm

[...] Oh em gee… homemade butter with bonus buttermilk. That sounds wonderful. I just don’t know how quickly we could use it. Of course, if it is [...]

posted December 2nd, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Great post. Waiting for you to continue the topic.

Joan Smith
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- Joan Smith
posted January 20th, 2011 at 6:33 pm

I have a stoneware butter tray and cover I bought in England. Do you suppose that would work in keeping out fridge odors?
I’ll try your recipe when I can get some cream at the store (I hate shopping so I’m going to have to force myself to go).

- PJ
posted October 26th, 2011 at 12:36 am

[...] Make butter [...]

posted May 4th, 2012 at 1:58 am

[...] butter Image by Jocelyn | McAuliflower Homemade butter married with thin slices of white [...]

posted November 24th, 2012 at 1:14 pm

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posted December 10th, 2012 at 1:43 am

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posted December 28th, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Hi! I made butter the other day and just found this page as a result of a google search re: refrigerating. I just put my butter in a container and refrigerated it as is, and as expected it’s quite hard. I wanted to know if it can be left unrefrigerated without the water?

- mandie
posted March 2nd, 2013 at 9:33 am

3/2/13
Made the butter today, so easy, and so good. I don’t think I will be buying it at the store anymore.
Thank you!!

- Corky
posted March 14th, 2013 at 11:13 am

Where’s the recipe?? All links direct me to another page with no directions etc…

- Dani
posted March 14th, 2013 at 11:15 am

(response to above comment) Ohh dear me… just didn’t read enough of the blog! Thanks.

- Dani
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