One of the best, and I mean THE best, flavors in the world is fresh, raw butter on bread straight from the oven. We teach you how to prepare the cream, which implements are easiest to use, and how to clean out all the buttermilk residue. Happily that artisan flavor can be yours for tonight’s dinner because butter is so easy to make!
How Long Does Homemade Butter Last?
The making of butter and cheese has always provided a way to preserve the health benefits of dairy in substances that don’t spoil as readily as milk. These products could them be placed in cold storage for several weeks (butter) or even months and years (cheese). Dairy has been preserved this way for centuries.
In our day, we can simply run to the store or local farm and buy butter. So why learn to make it?
For the same reason you make any food from scratch at home! Homemade butter is:
- Adaptable to your tastes.
- Made from cream you source yourself.
- Crafted in your kitchen so that you can retain and use the byproduct, buttermilk.
- Has no additives or preservatives.
- One less thing you have to buy from the store, and if you have a budget-friendly source for cream can be cheaper than store bought.
Steps – How to Make Butter at Home
I’ll briefly outline the steps to making butter (briefly only because it’s so quick to make), as well as a few different ways it can be made. I’ll also talk a bit about buttermilk.
Step One – The Cream is Key
The first thing you’re going to need is cream. Fresh, organic if you can, raw or pasteurized cream (try to avoid ULTRA pasteurized cream), in whatever amount you wish.
Whereas goat cream will be white, cow cream (the most readily available in the US) will be yellow.
What Contributes to Cream Color:
- Nutrient content of the cow’s food
- Health of the animal
- Time of year
- Lactation cycle
- Possibly, which way the wind is blowing – ha, ha, just kidding
The resulting butter should be yellow, even if the shade of yellow varies throughout the year.
To Collect the Cream
- If you’re using fresh cream, let your cream mellow in the fridge for a day or so to allow the cream to rise to the top.
- Carefully skim off the top layer of cream, trying not to include any milk in the skimmings. Place the cream in a container with a lid.
- If you end up with some milk, don’t worry, you’ll work it out in the butter making process.
- Before you make butter, bring the cream to room temperature. You do NOT want to try and make butter from cold cream.
Step Two – The Container
The container in which you make butter depends on how you plan to it. The most common options are to shake the cream in a canning jar, or to mix the cream in a stand mixer.
Both options have their pros and cons, so let’s discuss those.
In a Stand Mixer
- If you have the mixing collar for your stand mixer, this is probably the fastest option. To make butter in a stand mixer:
- Place the cream in the mixing bowl, affix the bowl in the stand, and place the paddle attachment.
- Put the mixing collar on WITH a kitchen towel over that to cover any open spaces that are left (or your eyebrows and backsplash will be creamy).
- Turn the mixer to high.
- Watch carefully as the cream goes from liquid to whipped cream to a cottage cheese looking substance to where it thunks against the side of your bowl, spewing white liquid and, if you’re using cow cream, turning an impossibly gorgeous color of yellow.
- Turn off you mixer, give thanks to God, and marvel at what you’ve just done (you did just make BUTTER, after all).
To clean the butter of the buttermilk (the white liquid), keep reading further on in the article.
But How Do You Make Butter By Hand Like in Old Times?
The second way to make butter is to do it without electricity. There have been several options for tools to help domestic engineers throughout history to make the family butter. (See below for a quick history of butter churns.)
However, in my house I use a half gallon or quart canning jar for small, quick batches. If I have larger quantities of cream, I use a tabletop crank butter churn.
To Use a Canning Jar:
- Fill the jar with cream, leave 2-3 inches clearance at the top. The clearance between the cream and the top of the jar will help build up some air pressure that will wallop that cream. The agitation of the cream is what makes the butter.
- Secure a lid to the jar very tightly because you don’t want to end up with cream down your front. I did that once. Only once.
- Now, here’s the hard part…shake it. Really hard.
- For 2 to 20 minutes, depending on your arm strength and the age of the cream, just keep shaking the jar.
- Watch for the same process as described for mixer butter makers – liquid, whipped, cottage cheese, butter (when it thunks against your lid and turns bright yellow).
For finishing the butter, keep reading!
A Quick History of Butter Churns
If you really want to impersonate Ma Ingalls or any other pioneer woman, you can use a wooden butter churn with wooden dowel (called a dasher) inserted inside to agitate the cream until it becomes butter.
However, along about the mid-1800’s table-top crank churns were developed that replaced the wooden churns. These easy to use churns enabled women to make the family butter without the back-breaking work of moving the dasher.
For a super fun, geeky butter making history, please visit Churncraft’s article on The History of Crank Churns.
Step Three – Strain out the Buttermilk
The white liquid that separated from the butter during processing needs to be removed from the butter. If left mixed in the butter, it will culture and alter the flavor of the butter. If you’re making butter with raw cream, this may be desirable to you because it will help the butter culture.
Remember, raw dairy doesn’t spoil, it cultures, or ferments. However, it may culture beyond what you consider palatable (tasty), so be mindful of the buttermilk.
To Clean out the Buttermilk:
Place a mesh strainer over a bowl and pour the contents of the jar into it. The buttermilk will drain into the bowl and the butter particles will stay in the strainer.
Remove the strainer from the bowl and remove the bowl from the sink. Set the buttermilk aside.
Under gentle, cold, running water, rinse the contents of the strainer (the bits of butter should look like fine, yellow bread crumbs) to get out the rest of the buttermilk-y whey. If you’re making butter with raw cream, this whey-type liquid will cause the butter to taste really ripe after a few days. If you’re making butter with pasteurized cream, it will most likely just taste rancid.
Step Four – Shape the Butter
- Working in the strainer over a bowl, whip the butter pieces together with a spoon. This process smashes the particles together and also pushes out more liquid.
- Alternatively, you can put the butter particles into a regular bowl and go through this process. Either way is fine.
- Press and press and reshape the butter ball. Always press it to work out more liquid. (This buttermilk you don’t need to save because it’s so watered down.)
- Once you’re satisfied the butter is dry enough, add 1/4 tsp salt (or to taste) per cup of butter and work it in thoroughly with your hands.
- Pack the butter into your preferred container. I like to find containers that have capacity I can measure evenly like a ½ cup to a cup, since those are the measurements we use most often when baking.
After processing, raw butter can be used right away, stored in the fridge, or frozen. Raw butter on the counter should be used within a day or two. Raw butter in the fridge should be used with a week or two, depending on your flavor preferences.
If you’ve used pasteurized cream to make butter, store in the fridge or freezer. If in the fridge, the butter should be used within a few weeks.
A Quick Note on Buttermilk
Be sure to place all that white liquid in a container with a lid to use later.
The “buttermilk” you’ll have leftover from butter making isn’t like the thicker, cultured stuff you buy in the store. This fresh buttermilk has the consistency of whey or non-fat milk and is slightly sweet.
You can leave it out on the counter overnight to culture on it’s own, but don’t expect it to thicken and taste like your grandma’s buttermilk. To learn to culture buttermilk, click here.
You can use this fresh buttermilk like you would whey in any recipe for pancakes and waffles, cookies, sweet breads, cinnamon rolls, sandwich bread, dips and dressings, etc. Here are 36 Ways to Use Whey by Don’t Waste the Crumbs.
Is Making Your Own Butter Worth the Effort?
Um, is that even a real question?! Of course it is!
Go eat the homemade butter on something hot and yummy – toast, oatmeal, popcorn. Oh, this makes the best popcorn butter!! To learn how to pop popcorn from dried ears of popcorn, just visit this post.
Or try mixing a cup of this butter with 3 TBLS (or to taste) of Grade A Maple Syrup and some raw hazelnuts in a really good blender and spoon that mixture into your oatmeal.
I love to include fresh herbs like basil and rosemary in my homemade herbal butter, of course. My husband says I should add bacon, but he says that about most things.
Just a rich spread of this butter on your homemade bread will work wonders in your mouth. Wow, am I hungry all of a sudden; I’ve got to stop writing these posts late at night!
Make it a Family Activity
There you go – that’s it. Now go read a few more people’s ideas and find yourself some cream this week. Just a little container, nothing too big. Gather your kids around and get your equipment out and go to town.
Decide first what you’re going to put make with this butter. Food is a great motivator, especially with children! Your great-great-great grandmother, pioneer or not, will be proud of you!
Do you have any handy tips to share from your butter making adventures? Feel free to post a comment – you’d be doing mankind a great service by improving the process for everyone!
A Word on Goat Cream for Butter
Goat milk has a very different make up than cow milk. Goat milk is naturally homogenized because the fat globules are much smaller and, therefore, disperse themselves throughout the milk. Incidentally, this is part of what makes goat milk easier for humans to digest. Some supposedly lactose intolerant people discover its only cow milk they can’t drink.
Goat cream does rise to the top of the goat milk after a few days but it does so slowly and not in great volume. You can use a cream separator to filter out the cream more quickly, though. Goat cream, like goat milk, is pristine white, so the butter will be the same color.
Goat butter is sweet and smooth and you’ll be glad you tried it.
If you’re currently debating between getting a goat or a cow for backyard dairy, you might our article Goat or Cow Milk Which Should You Produce?.
Or, better yet, read about it – and so many other homesteading topics – in our book, The Do It Yourself Homestead. With 400 pages of homesteading information, projects and plans presented on four different levels of experience, you’re bound to find something useful to you! Click below for more information.