One of my earliest memories is of making butter with my grandma in an old-fashioned butter churn. Looking back, I’m not sure if she wanted to share butter-making techniques with her grandson, or if her hands just needed a break from cranking the handle in continuous circles. Either way, making butter at home is a fantastic way to get the whole family involved in the kitchen, and the perfect way to tucker out any overzealous grandkids.
Butter Making Traditions
I wanted to revisit this tradition, so I reached out to Lucy Vaserfirer, author of Flavored Butters, to get an expert opinion on making butter at home, and advice on how to take it to the next level. “Making butter is so much fun! You take heavy cream, and you whip it until it breaks,” Vaserfirer said. Excited to give butter-making another try, I got the stainless steel butter churner from the Mother Earth News Store and a large container of heavy cream from my local grocery store.
The stainless steel butter churner worked wonderfully, and with a little churning help from my roommates, we had homemade butter in no time. Taking that fresh butter and forming it into a log was simple: “To make a log of butter, you simply pour off the liquid, and you rinse off the butter in some chilled water, until the water runs clear,” Vaserfirer said. “The reason you do that is to enhance the keeping time.”
And now, for the really fun part: flavoring your homemade butter! Vaserfirer’s book is filled with sweet and savory recipes that will take your homemade butter into uncharted territories of flavor.
Using my homemade butter, I tested three of her recipes for flavored butters, also known as “compound butters,” and I was impressed with the results. I felt a little adventurous, so I tried the recipe for Kimchi Butter, and I smeared hefty tabs of the butter into beef patties. I then grilled the beef patties on our charcoal grill in the backyard and created juicy cheeseburgers that definitely made the neighbors a little jealous.
“My favorite use [for compound butter] is to throw anything onto the grill … and then use the compound butter as a sauce,” said Vaserfirer. “Basically, it just melts, and it’s so luscious as it melts.”
In addition to the Kimchi Butter, I made the Caramelized Onion Butter and folded a generous portion into my mashed potatoes for a creamy, decadent side dish. For the finale, I made the surprisingly easy recipe for Whipped Chocolate Butter and spread it on top of vanilla cupcakes. “The chocolate butter is like a super easy buttercream,” Vaserfirer said. “It’s not as light and fluffy as a true buttercream, but really that’s what it is at its heart.”
Our household had a fantastic time churning the homemade butter, and all the food we made with the flavored butters was quickly gobbled up. Churning butter is a fun, wholesome activity for the entire family. “I’m a firm believer that being in the kitchen is a joy, really fun and not a chore,” Vaserfirer said. “What could be better than instilling those values in kids?”
Kimchi Butter Recipe
The national pickle of Korea, kimchi is fermented napa cabbage with plenty of red chile. It’s pungent and spicy, making this butter a great topping for grilled beef. Yield: 8 servings.
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 ounces (about 1-1/4 cup) kimchi
- 2 tablespoons sliced scallions (white and green parts)
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
Combine the butter, kimchi, scallions, and soy sauce in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Form into a log, and refrigerate until firm before slicing and serving.
Caramelized Onion Butter Recipe
Slow and low is the key to caramelizing onions. Gently cooking transforms onions from positively pungent to golden-brown, sweet, and mellow. They make a delicious stand-alone topping for burgers or steak, but blending them into butter makes them even better.
Serve this butter atop steak, stuff it into burger patties, toss it with steamed or roasted vegetables, or stir it into mashed potatoes and grain dishes. Yield: 8 servings.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, julienned
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
- Heat a medium-sized, heavy sauté pan over medium-low heat.
- Add the oil and the onion and cook, stirring frequently, for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the onion is caramelized. Let cool to room temperature.
- Combine the caramelized onions, butter, and salt in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Form into a log, and refrigerate until firm before slicing and serving.
Whipped Chocolate Butter Recipe
Not only is this an indulgent topping for pancakes, waffles, toast and muffins, it can also be used as a simple buttercream for frosting cakes and cupcakes and for filling sandwich cookies. Yield: 12 servings, or enough frosting for a 9-inch single-layer cake or a dozen cupcakes.
- 5 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped, or 2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 12 tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Melt the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring frequently. Let cool slightly.
- In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until light and creamy. Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth, stopping the mixer once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- To use as a butter, pack into ramekins, pipe, or simply serve by the dollop.
- To use as a buttercream frosting, spread onto cooled baked goods, swirling decoratively. Soften and re-whip this butter before using or serving if it’s been chilled or frozen.
Want to churn butter at home and try flavoring it? The Stainless Steel Butter Churner and Lucy Vaserfirer’s Flavored Butters are available for purchase in the Mother Earth News Store! For more information visit the Mother Earth News bookstore or call 800-234-3368.
Reece Rogers graduated from the University of Kansas and currently lives in Lawrence.