Sunday, 1 May 2011

Homemade butter.

I am so excited!  I read a while back that you can make butter yourself fairly easily.  I don't like buying butter because either it isn't organic or it is REALLY expensive.  And I go through so much butter with all of the baking I do, so this has been a concern that I should have addressed before. To be honest, I didn't really believe butter would be easy to make by hand because it just seems like one of those things that can't possibly be easy to make, which is supported in my mind by the whole historical image of a maiden churning butter for hours on end.  Regardless, last weekend I decided to tempt fate and bought two half litre bottles of whipping cream, knowing full well that I would not be able to use it all in my baking for the week, so I would have lots leftover and have to use it somehow.  So I deliberately set myself up to have to deal with it this weekend.  So today was the day.

Thankfully, Tim helped me because I was actually a little nervous.  I had read extensively online about the process of making butter at home and knew that there is a bit of a sudden change that you have to be ready for, otherwise you may end up spraying chunks of butter everywhere.  I'll explain.

First of all, you use heavy cream to make butter.  The higher the fat content the better, but it at least has to be capable of making whipping cream.  The whipping cream I used was organic Avalon Dairy Whipping Cream, which has 33% milk fat.  Butter is made (I hate to ruin the magic at the outset) by making whipping cream and just continuing past the whipping cream stage.  In all, it takes about 15-20 minutes when using a hand blender.

I made the whipped cream (without adding any sugar or vanilla):
After the whipped cream stage happens, just carry on beating the whipping cream with your beaters on high.  The whipping cream will change color and consistency (it will become very yellow, like whipped butter):
After this happens, you still have about seven minutes before it will change into butter.  It will become more and more chunky, almost like a yellowish ricotta cheese:
When it gets to this stage, you want to pay very close attention.  All of the warnings that I read about were a bit overly dramatic.  I guess if you're totally not paying attention and you continue with your beaters on high you may spray some butter chunks once the butter changes, but I don't think it's worth worrying about, because once it changes, the butter should be fairly soft because it is warm from being beaten for so long.  What will happen, and what you need to pay attention for, is liquid will suddenly appear at the bottom of the bowl.  This is the buttermilk (and you can use it like milk in recipes, so don't throw it out!).  The solids are butter, with a bit of buttermilk mixed in.  When this happens, turn off the beaters and poor/scoop the contents of the bowl into a fine mesh strainer over top of another pan/bowl/container, which will catch the buttermilk (or you can let it go down the drain if you don't want to use it to cook with).
(The top is the solids in the strainer and the bottom is the buttermilk)

Take the solids and wash them under very cold water because there will be some buttermilk in the butter (if you use warm water you will just be melting the butter and it and it will wash down the drain).  Kneed the butter like dough under the water for a few minutes to make sure all the buttermilk is out.  Leaving the buttermilk in the butter will make it go bad.  This is how it looked after it was "washed":
Then, store the butter in the container of your choice and keep it in the refrigerator.  You can salt the butter if you would like, apparently the ratio is 1/4 tsp salt to 1 cup of butter, but you may want to check that first.  Just sprinkle the salt on when the butter hasn't been formed yet and kneed it into the butter.  Here was our final product:
I'm never buying butter again!

Follow up (May 15, 2011): I made more butter today, taking extra caution to rinse the buttermilk out of it.  I had let the whipping cream warm up almost to room temperature before proceeding to whip it and it turned into butter within five minutes, so I definitely think that if you're going to try making your own butter, you should allow it to warm up before proceeding.  Also take care to really wash the buttermilk out. After I made the butter the first time, about a week later it was fairly stinky.  I still used it for baking, but I wouldn't let Tim use it to butter his bread.  We have officially stopped buying butter from the store now that we know how easy it is for us to make it ourselves.


  1. How does it taste?
    And does it work just as well in your baking?
    Looks pretty awesome to me! Well done!

  2. I haven't had a chance to bake with it yet, but the only difference is the absence of coloring, preservatives and stabilizers, so I would expect that it would be fine, but can't be allowed to sit around at room temperature for extended periods of time, unlike store-bought butter. Tim made a grilled sandwich with it this afternoon and really enjoyed it. I'll definitely do a post once I officially bake something with it!