Make Butter from Raw Milk

Making butter from raw, unpasteurized milk is a fulfilling process that much of modern society has forgotten how to do. Chances are your grandmother or great grandmother knew how to make butter; there's no excuse for you not to, as well. Luckily, making butter is a relatively simple matter, even if it takes a little bit of elbow grease.


  • Raw cow's milk
  • Yogurt or buttermilk (optional)
  • Salt


  1. Separate the cream from the milk. Let your raw milk set in a clear container for at least a day in the refrigerator until you can easily see a distinct cream line on the top. Two days should be enough for the cream to separate from the milk.
    • Depending on what kind of cow the milk came from, as well as the season during which the milk was harvested, the cream content of the milk will change. For example, during the winter, the cream content in the milk will increase, whereas it will generally decrease during the summer months.
  2. Using a dipper, skim the cream off the top. From one whole gallon of raw milk, you can expect about 2 - 4 cups of cream — sometimes more, sometimes less. Pour the cream into a glass jar with an accompanying lid.
  3. Let your cream ripen or culture (optional). You don't have to let your butter culture, but if you do, you'll get richer, more flavorful butter.[1] In days of yore, people use to culture butter to keep it from spoiling. Nowadays, aficionados culture butter because it makes the spread transcendent. There are two ways you can let your cream culture:
    • Set out on the counter for about 12 hours or until the cream is between 70° - 75° F (21° - 24° C) and smells slightly sour.[2] This is a natural way to let the cream culture and develop a slight acidity in the butter.
    • Hasten the process by adding some culture yourself. The live cultures inside yogurt or buttermilk work great for speeding up the process. For every 2 cups of cream, add one tablespoon of yogurt or buttermilk. Stir to incorporate. In a warm environment, the cream should be cultured in about 5 - 6 hours instead of 12.[3]
  4. Agitate the cream until butter solids separate from the buttermilk. If your butter is in a sealed mason jar, agitating is as simple as shaking the jar back and forth, for anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. You should feel the weight of the jar changing as the butter solids coagulate. When the cream starts sloshing against the jar and you feel the weight of the solids, start agitating slower.
    • A quick way of agitating is to use a mixer or blender. Fill it up to half full with cream. Mix on medium low to begin with, until either the motor pulls down or you see lumps floating on top, and then use the slowest setting to finish the churn.
  5. Pour off the buttermilk, which should have separated from the butter. You can save the buttermilk for use in cooking or baking.
  6. Wrap the butter in cheesecloth or butter muslin. When covered completely with cheesecloth, run the butter through a bowl of ice-water. This process will "clean" the butter, further separating any cream from the butter solids to achieve a richer butter.
    • When the ice-water bowl becomes milky, dump it out and fill it with more ice and water. Repeat the cleaning process until the water no longer becomes milky after running the butter through it.
  7. Knead the butter with a wooden spoon or another slightly rounded implement. Ditch the cheesecloth (you can re-use it if you want) and dump the butter into a bowl. With a wooden spoon, knead the butter. This process will again small amounts of water and/or cream from the butter, making the butter richer. Do this until the butter is free of liquid.
  8. Add salt, herbs, or other flavorings to the butter at this point (optional). While you're still kneading the butter, add salt if you like your butter salted (butter without salt is much sweeter). If salting, try 1/2 teaspoon of salt per 1/2 lb. of butter and work your way up from there. If you wish to add herbs or spices to your butter, try experimenting with any of the following for just the tip of the iceberg:
    • Chives
    • Orange, lemon, or lime rind
    • Rosemary or thyme
    • Garlic or ginger
    • Parsley
    • Honey
  9. Press the butter firmly into the container of your choice. A nice little butter mold will add a dainty touch to your butter while allowing you to serve the butter in individual portions. Refrigerate or freeze any butter you are not serving immediately.
  10. Enjoy!

Troubleshooting Common Problems

  1. Correct sour or not "fresh" butter. If your butter tastes a little sour or not fresh, there's a good chance that the milk was allowed to rest too long before the cream was skimmed. If you purchased the raw milk from a farmer, ask for extremely fresh milk.
  2. Correct butter that is either too soft or too warm. We're accustomed to butter that has just the right give when slightly cooled. Getting butter to this consistency is not too difficult, but problems do arise sometimes:
    • If butter is too soft: The cream may have been warmer than 75° F (24° C) when it was agitated or it wasn't agitated long enough.[4] It should take at least 5 - 10 minutes to agitate by hand, but no longer than 30 minutes. If you got butter before you hit 5 minutes of agitation, chances are you started off with cream that was too warm.
    • If butter is too hard: Either the cream was too cold when it was agitated or it was agitated for too long. Again, butter should be agitated when it's 70° - 75° F (21° - 24° C) and not take longer than 30 minutes to agitate by hand.
  3. Correct waxy butter that doesn't melt in your mouth. This kind of butter was usually overworked during the final stages of kneading.
  4. Correct butter that sweats too readily. If you see moisture forming a bit too easily on the surface of your butter after all is  said and done, it either means it wasn't rinsed properly or the salt wasn't incorporated evenly.


  • The buttermilk that you pour off can be used for baking cakes, cookies, pancakes etc. or can be used to make Ricotta cheese.

Things You'll Need

  • Bowl for washing
  • Food processor
  • Small custard dish or similar to put in finished product

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Sources and Citations