Mmmmm, butter!!! As Julia Child once said, “With enough butter, anything is good.” I always thought she would have made an excellent Southern Belle on the basis of that one statement alone. And my southern upbringing agrees, but the honest fact remains: everything in moderation.
We need some fats, including a very little bit of saturated fat, in our diet to produce certain hormones, for certain biological reactions and tissue growth and repairs, as well as to absorb, use, and store certain vitamins and nutrients better. But too much (of anything) can cause serious health issues over time. It’s all about balance!
In all honesty, making homemade butter is not very economical in this day and age unless you happen to live on a farm with access to at least one or two dairy cows to obtain free cream. Well, free if you don’t count the cost of feeding and caring for your cows.
2 cups of cream yields approximately ½ cup (1 stick) of butter which costs more than an entire pound of butter purchased at the store.
HOWEVER, if you happen to have a carton of heavy whipping cream on hand whether full or just a partial carton that really needs to be used up, has reached its expiration date, or even gone just a day or two past (but not yet spoiled/rank) then this is a great way to put it to good use rather than throw it out. You’ll get a bit of butter no matter how little or how much cream you have on hand but, as I stated before, you need two cups to get just 1/2 cup or one stick of butter. Or you could just use it to make homemade sour cream instead!
There are also ways to use the left over whey (the liquid that separates from the milk fats when butter is made), if you are also a waste not then want not sort of person, such as using it in place of water or milk to make pancake or waffle batter — which can then be slathered in the yummy butter — or you can even use it when baking in your cake batters.
Whey is also referred to as “sweet buttermilk” or “traditional buttermilk”. It is nothing like what most think of as buttermilk which is actually “cultured buttermilk”. However, the whey can be used just like cultured buttermilk in baking. It is simply sweeter tasting and lacks that bit of a tangy cultured taste (as well as being much thinner).
It is also important to note that, because whey is fresh and has no bacterial culture, it will not work as a culture starter the way that cultured buttermilk is sometimes used such as in making homemade sour cream.
Whey can also be served as a drink just like milk or cultured buttermilk. My dad loves it!
Avoid the churn witch! For the butter to be able to separate properly, the cream must be around 60 F degrees to no more than about 78 F degrees. Certainly no more than 80 F degrees tops. In other words, about room temperature. Otherwise, no butter!
It is actually recommended that you leave cream sitting out at room temperature for about 12 hours to ensure the best results and supposedly the best tasting butter.
I find, however, that just leaving it out for six hours and adding a little cultured buttermilk (about 1 1/2 tablespoons for every 2 cups) makes the best tasting butter in just a small single batch to put on waffles made at the same time as the butter. But that’s just me!
You do not however want to use whey for this purpose! It is actually important to get the whey out of your butter because it will cause your butter to go rank (spoil) very quickly and not in a good way!
And I don’t add cultured buttermilk at all to butter I intend to use for any other purpose than waffles I’ve just made at same time.
You can salt your butter to make it last longer but freezing works just as well (better even). Or you can make seasoned or honey butter!
Oh, yes, in case you are wondering, the churn witch is an old wives tale and the belief that when churning failed to produce butter it was because of the churn witch. The churn witch was most active in the fall through early spring period, she was particularly the most troublesome in winter, but far less likely to be seen in summer because she despised the heat which weakened her and it could even kill her. In fact, to kill the witch they would put a red hot branding iron into the butter churn and the hissing sound produced was thought to be the witch struggling as she died an agonizing and horrible death. Of course, all they were really doing was warming up the cream so the butter would separate properly from the cream. I remember my great grandmother once heated up her clothes iron on the stove (a solid metal iron that had to be heated before the advent of electric irons), tied it to an apron string by the handle, and lowered it into the churn when the butter refused to form.
Making butter today is so much easier than days gone by, however.
As children, my sister and I would sit on our grandmother’s screened in back porch and take turns churning butter the very old fashioned way — with a wooden butter churn. Even taking turns we would often develop blisters. And it took a really long time.
Today, however, it takes hardly any time at all and certainly no effort — thanks to modern kitchen appliances! I LOVE kitchen appliances! Having become disabled, there are so many things I wouldn’t even be able to do at all in the kitchen now if not for my trusty kitchen appliances. They truly are my best friend these days!
My favorite appliance for making butter is my Kitchen Aid stand mixer. While it has a paddle attachment for churning I actually prefer just using the regular whisk attachment.
If you don’t have a stand mixer you can use an electric hand mixer with whisk attachment or regular beaters. Or you can use a food processor. For that matter, you can just put the ingredients into a large jar and vigorously shake it … for about 20 or more minutes … talk about an arm workout!
Once, while in college, so very long ago, I was at a study buddy’s apartment and she had one of those metal drink mixer thingies — “shaken, not stirred!” — and her boyfriend for some reason was playing with a couple of ball bearings he’d just purchased for some college assignment of his own. Then, when she was about to toss out a half used quart of cream only a day away from expiring, I got this really bright idea (or so I thought).
I soaked the ball bearings in a bleach water solution, washed them in hot soapy water, rinsed and dried them well. Yes, I’m a bit of a germ-o-phobe and stickler for sanitizing anything coming into contact with my food. You’ll here about food safety from me quite often if you follow my blog much. I’ve worked a bit in microbiology so I know quite a bit about germs. They can be friend or foe in the kitchen!
Then, I put them into her drink shaker with the cream and started shaking away. We passed it around shaking away and giggling like fools for awhile. Well, in the end, we made butter alright, however, the ball bearings dinged up her drink shaker a bit. Oh well, live and learn! And, just for the record, the ball bearings didn’t make any difference in the amount of time needed to create butter at all with the shake method. And we didn’t get as quite much studying done in the time we had allotted as we’d originally planned either.
Okay, enough chit chat! Now, whose up for making some butter?!
Pour your cream into your bowl and turn on your mixer. Start low so that it doesn’t splatter cream everywhere and carefully bring the speed up a little at a time to find the best fastest (usually a moderate) setting that doesn’t splatter. And now you wait until the butter forms.
NOTE: At first it is going to make whipped cream. At that point you can increase the speed of your mixer some more.
Eventually little tiny bits of milk fat will begin separating out — that is butter by the way. At this point, when the butter is first beginning to form, you’ll want to keep a very close eye on it the whole time. As soon as the milk fats have separated and are clumped and sitting in the whey (liquid) turn your mixer off.
NOTE: Leave it on any longer and you will head away from making butter — and will actually be on your way to making something else provided you add and do certain other things, but I’m not going to get into that here.
Now comes the fun part!
You need to separate your butter from the whey. (You can save the whey for other uses if you’d like). You can go about this in different ways.
One way is to simply wash your hands really, really well and scoop the butter out and just press any loose bits together into a mass or ball over your mixing bowl and squeeze as much whey out of the butter as you can before the next step.
Or you can use a large wire mesh strainer such as a tea strainer. Best to dump the butter out into a bowl and tap it than to try to scrape the butter out with your fingers or might get some stuck in wire mesh. If that happens, however, a simple hot water soak, spray, or hot water washing will melt the butter and rinse it away. Seems like a waste of good butter though especially when you’ve just made it yourself.
Or you can use a colander to drain away most of the whey and collect the butter — although you may lose some of the smaller bits of butter depending upon the size of holes in your colander.
Or, my favorite, you can use cheese cloth or a lint free tea/kitchen towel placed inside of a colander. This works well because then you can bring the ends of the cloth together, twist it up, and squeeze to get more whey out of the butter before moving on to the next step. I do this placing the colander over or inside another bowl in order to be able to save the whey.
Or some will place a cheesecloth over the top of a pitcher, push or tuck it down a bit in the center to form a collection pocket, and use a tie or rubber band to hold it in place unless they have a helper to keep it from falling in, then pour it through there. Then they’ll bundle it up, give it a good squeeze, and then some will tie it onto a wooden spoon handle and dangle it over the top of the pitcher to let it drain some more. Also, a good method used in cheese making, but I won’t get into that here. Butter making isn’t quite the same as cheese making though so you really don’t need to let it hang there draining for very long. A very few minutes should do; 5 to 10 minutes at most. (Hardly seems worth the effort to me).
Rinsing your butter is important to remove any remaining whey which can cause butter to become rancid quite quickly. Again, there are few ways to do this.
One way is to put it in a colander (you can do this while it is still in the colander from step 2) and use the sink sprayer or the faucet. Pick it up and squeeze it really well. Repeat two or three more times.
Another way (my favorite) way is to simply hold your ball of butter under a faucet of cold running water while you continually squeeze it at the same time.
Or you can use a bowl filled with cold tap water. Place your butter ball in the water for a few moments then take it out and squeeze really well. Repeat two or three more times.
Decide if you want to add anything to your butter.
For sweet butter, it just needs 1/4 to 1/2 tsp honey massaged into it for every 1/2 cup.
For longer lasting, 1/4 tsp to 1/2 tsp salt per pound of butter so just a little pinch for 1/2 cup. Or to taste if you prefer salted butter.
Or you can add seasonings and herbs to save steps later on with certain recipes. (A roasted chicken smeared with seasoned butter for example or garlic butter for making garlic toast).
Or you can leave it plain with absolutely nothing added at all.
Decide how you want to shape your butter:
into a stick of butter, a dome or upside down bowl shape for a saucer, freeze it little fun shapes ice trays, or just press into a tub or bowl with a lid. Whatever you decide be sure it is covered whether it is with plastic wrap, wrapped in waxed paper, or (my favorite) pressed and sealed into an airtight container.
If you want to make large quantities of butter it can be frozen to preserve it until you need it. Just take it out of the freezer the night before and put it in refrigerator to thaw by morning — unless you are going to be melting it, in which case it can remain in the freezer until ready to use.
To freeze place any plastic or waxed paper wrapped butter into a zippered freezer bag or seal in an air tight container.
If freezing in a fun shapes ice tray it should also be covered in plastic wrap to prevent the butter from absorbing a nasty taste or picking up an odd smell. Once your fun shaped ice tray butter has frozen pop them out and store in air tight container or freezer bag.
Otherwise, you can freeze it in the air tight tub or container that the butter was originally pressed into.
If you make lots of butter and often be sure to date with the date made before freezing so you can use the older butter up first.
- 2 cups cream (i.e. heavy whipping cream)
- a pinch of salt, optional (1/4 to 1/2 tsp per pound)
Churn, blend, food process, or shake in jar until milk fats (butter) separates from the whey (liquid, sweet or traditional buttermilk).
Separate butter from the whey. You may save the whey if desired for other uses.
Squeeze as much whey from the butter as possible.
Rinse in cold tap water and squeeze out as much additional whey as possible. Repeat two or three time until no longer able to remove whey from the butter.
You may season with herbs and spices if desired for seasoned butter. You may add 1/4 to 1/2 tsp honey (or to taste) for honey butter if desired. To give longer shelf life or for taste preference you may add 1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt per pound or more to taste if desired. ALL ARE OPTIONAL
Shape as desired.
Store in air tight container in refrigerator or may be frozen.
Unsalted butter lasts about 7 months in the refrigerator when stored in air tight container. It will easily keep up to a year in the freezer although best if used within 6 to 8 months.