13 August 2008

making your own butter: a tutorial

A month or so ago I learned that you can make your own butter, without needing a 3-foot butter churn or a trip to Hancock Shaker Village. You don't even need to wear a bonnet, though I would look the other way if you wanted to. I've been fascinated with this Make Your Own Butter thing and finally mustered up the courage to do it this past weekend. And what do you know, it was awesome. No mess-ups, no foul language, no tears. Just good old-fashioned homemade butter.
Get your ingredients and supplies ready. You will need heavy cream (not necessarily a whole quart, a little pint will do fine for your first try), a jar with a tight lid, and an optional pinch of salt. That's it. Honestly. I know, so simple!

Pour some of that heavy cream into that jar. I used about a cup or so. Now SHAKE IT. Shake shake shake. Shake shake shake. Shake that butter. Shake that butter. For like 20-30 minutes, depending on how many breaks you take and how much you can normally curl at the gym. I was nervous that I wouldn't know when to stop shaking and that I would somehow mess it up. Keep shaking past the whipped cream stage, past the creme fraiche stage and past the point where you don't hear anything sloshing around. You'll enter radio silence as the cream is whipped into a solid frenzy, but fear not. After 20 or 30 minutes, you will take a quick break to massage your bicep and all of the sudden you will realize that it isn't just heavy cream in that jar anymore; nope, it's a big glob of butter surrounded by buttermilk. You'll hear it and see it. At that point, you can stop. Drain the remaining buttermilk and save it for use in another recipe if you'd like (see below). Now rinse that butter glob off with cold water. Just fill up your mason jar with cold water, swish it around, drain and repeat until the water runs mostly clear. For best results, you will want to press out any excess liquid from the butter glob. I like to put it on a cutting board and smush it with a rubber spatula, letting the liquid run off into the sink. This usually takes a few extra minutes, but I think it helps the butter keep longer.

Oh what's that now? Butter. It's freakin' butter. Put it in the fridge to harden it up. Since I was feeling particularly precious and had some time on my hands, I used the leftover buttermilk to make a batch of corn bread. Buttermilk is used in lots of recipes including some very delicious coffee cake treats, so you may want to set it aside instead of pouring it down the drain.

Mmmhmm, homemade butter and homemade cornbread. Can't beat it.
And yes, of course, I will be experimenting with herbed butter in the future. Rosemary + garlic? Lemon basil? The options are limitless. If you are adding herbs or flavoring to your butter, add it in at the last minute: after you've drained the buttermilk, rinsed it and squeezed out the excess liquid. Butter keeps fairly well in the fridge (put it in a tupperware or wrap it up in parchment paper) or in a cute little butter crock, but if you won't be using it right away, wrap it up tight and keep it in the freezer.


  1. Wow, that's pretty goshdarned domestic goddessy of you!

    My grandmother used to make her own butter than way and would do it as you described, except that she would also put a clean wooden clothespin in the jar (the older-fashioned kind, with no metal springs holding two pieces together).

    I think it just served as a beater and made the butter clog/clot/harden quicker . . . though I could be wrong about that.

    Maybe it was what gave the butter that freshly scrubbed flavor . . .

  2. Oh, I totally remember doing this in grade school. I remember passing the jar around a circle of kids. And buttermilk makes the best biscuits ever.

    Yay you!

  3. Okay. That is awesome. Never even considered making my own butter, but now I am intrigued!


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