Homemade butter tastes much better than industrially produced store-bought butter, and only takes about 20 minutes of work to make. For a flavor no longer widely available in many regions, add bacterial cultures to make the cream more acidic.
- Heavy cream
- Buttermilk, yogurt, or mesophilic cultures (optional)
- Salt (optional)
- Chopped herbs, garlic, or honey (optional)
Preparing the Cream
- Start with fresh, heavy cream. Heavy whipping cream has the highest fat percentage, making it easier and more productive to turn into butter. For a more unique flavor not available in stores, try buying raw cream from a local dairy. If this is not available, vat-pasteurized cream will produce the best flavor, followed by ordinary pasteurized cream, with ultra-pasteurized (UHT) cream a last choice option.
- Avoid cream that contains added sugar.
- The fat percentage listed on the cream tells you how much of the cream will end up turning into butter. A minimum of 35% is recommended.
- In the US, you can search Real Milk Finder for local sources of raw milk.
- If using an electric mixer, chill a large bowl and a container of water. A colder bowl will prevent the butter from melting. Chilling a second container of water may also be useful at this stage, especially if your tap water tends to be on the warm side.
- Pour the cream into the bowl. Don't fill it to the brim, since the cream will expand with air before it turns into butter.
- Add cultures for a stronger flavor and easier churning (optional). If you skip this step, you'll be making sweet cream butter, a mildly flavored variety that includes almost all commercial butter sold in the United States and the United Kingdom.
If you want a more complex flavor, similar to butter sold in continental Europe, introduce a slight, acidic fermentation to make "cultured butter" instead. This acid also speeds up the breakdown of fat and liquid, shortening the churning time.
- One easy option is to add either buttermilk or plain yogurt with added cultures. Use one tablespoon (15 mL) of the sour addition for each cup (240 mL) cream.
- Alternatively, buy mesophilic cheese culture online. Mix in ⅛ tsp (0.6 mL) for every quart (liter) cream.
- Let cultured cream stand at room temperature. If you added cultures, leave the cream out for between 12 and 72 hours, checking every few hours. The cream is cultured once it is slightly thick, foamy, and smells sour or tangy.
- For sweet cream butter without culturing additives, just leave out the cream until it reaches about 50–60ºF (10–16ºC). This will make it easier to churn, but is still cold enough that the butter should be firm and easy to handle during the later stages.
Turning the Cream into Butter
- Churn or shake the cream. If you have a butter churn, churn the handle for approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Churning is very easy and efficient with a well-built butter churn. If you have an electric mixer, use the whisk attachment and start it on low to prevent spatter. Otherwise, seal the cream in a Mason jar and shake it. Mixing typically takes 3 to 10 minutes, while shaking takes roughly 10 to 20 minutes.
- To speed up the shaking method, drop a small, clean, glass marble into the jar before shaking.
- If your mixer only has one speed setting, cover the bowl with plastic wrap to catch spray.
- Watch the cream change consistency. The cream will go through several stages as you mix it:
- Frothy or slightly thick cream.
- Soft peaks. Raising the mixer will leave a standing peak with a drooping tip. You can now increase the speed of the mixer.
- Whipped cream, forming stiff peaks.
- The cream will start to look granular, and become very pale yellow. Reduce speed again before liquid appears, to prevent spatter.
- Break down: Finally, the cream will suddenly separate into butter and buttermilk.
- Pour the buttermilk into a separate container, and save it for use in other recipes. Continue to mix the butter and pour off more liquid as it appears. Stop churning once the solid looks and tastes like butter, or when almost no more liquid is coming out.
- Wash the butter in cold water. If any buttermilk remains with the butter, it will spoil very quickly, so this needs to be done unless you eat the butter within 24 hours.
- Pour ice water or chilled water into the butter.
- Knead it with a clean hand, or use a wooden spoon to press the butter.
- Pour out the ice water through a strainer.
- Repeat until the water is mostly clear. This takes at least three washings, and sometimes several more.
- Press out the remaining liquid. Use your hands and the back of the spoon to press any water remaining in the butter. Strain this out of the butter.
- Mix in salt or other ingredients (optional). Add sea salt to taste if you prefer salted butter; try ¼ tsp (1.25 mL) per ½ cup (120 mL) butter.
Homemade butter is delicious by itself, but you can try all kinds of additions for variety. Consider dried herbs or finely minced garlic. You can even make a sweet spread by mixing in honey until smooth.
- Be aware that the added flavors may taste significantly stronger after freezing and thawing the butter.
- Store in the refrigerator or freezer. Homemade butter typically stays good in the fridge for at least a week, and up to three weeks if you thoroughly pressed out all the buttermilk.
In the freezer, unsalted butter will stay top-quality for about five or six months, while salted butter can last as long as nine months before taste is affected.
- Unlike many foods, tightly wrapped butter will not suffer in texture when frozen.
- If you use a stand mixer, don't use more than a quart of cream. With practice, you'll be able to hear the change in the mixer motor when the butter is done.
- Make sure to shake vigorously. It is also fun if you have some friends to do it with.
- Put salt into the butter for a different taste.
- You can speed up the washing step by combining the butter and water in a blender, but this risks melting your butter.
- If you have access to raw milk, you can leave it out for about a week, checking daily to skim the cream off the top. This will be slightly soured cream with active cultures, and can be made into cultured butter without having to add any other ingredients.
Things You'll Need
- large bowl
- rubber spatula or wooden spoon (optional)
- either butter churn (recommended)
- or electric mixer
- or Mason jar
Sources and Citations