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):
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":
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.