How to Make Butter at Home

Making butter at home is a fast and easy project for kids — or adults — that lets you see for yourself where this basic and familiar food comes from.

| September/October 2007

Bestselling author Barbara Kingsolver frequently writes about food, and in her essay Lily's Chickens she writes that she has become captivated by the alchemy of making butter and cheese. But while cheese is an art, Kingsolver writes, butter is a sport.

It's hard to disagree. Not only does making butter involve a certain amount of physical effort (unless you use a blender) but the whole process is pretty straightforward. In fact, because making butter is so simple, it makes a great project for kids ? or adults. It's a fast and easy process that lets you see for yourself where this basic and familiar food comes from.

The Basic Process

To make butter, first start with a simple ingredient, heavy cream. You can buy whipping cream at the grocery store, although if you live in a part of the country where you can get fresh cream from a dairy, so much the better.

Next, stir up the cream so that the butterfat globules begin to separate from the liquid. One of the simplest ways to do this is to get a canning jar with a sturdy lid and fill it about one-third full of cream. Then simply shake the jar until you feel and see the butter separate. When that happens, there's a sudden and noticeable difference in the consistency. That's the time to stop shaking.

Now separate the butter from the buttermilk by straining it. A colander or piece of cheesecloth may be helpful for this task. Rinse the butter with cold water, gently turning the butter with a spoon while the cold water runs over it until the water runs clear. Then mix in a little bit of salt, to taste ? or leave the butter unsalted if you prefer. Put the butter in the refrigerator. Let it chill, and then it's ready to eat!

Stephen Rice
12/27/2008 4:52:07 AM

I think this method is lacking in one crucial area - yes the butter must be separated from the buttermilk but that doesn't mean you should wash it away. Buttermilk is a great addition to baking and is particularly useful in breakfast pancakes

11/4/2008 8:39:45 PM

I've just finished Kingsolver's book and was inspired to seek out local farms. I've discovered many places within an hour's drive to obtain grass-fed beef, free-range chickens, pasture-raised pigs, and a real-live dairy. I bought some lovely heavy cream and make my first batch of butter today, using my Kitchen Aid mixer. I was so surprised at how fast and easy it was, and how truly fantastic the resulting butter is.

10/26/2008 5:02:43 PM

(second part to below) In this highly urbanized world where people have never seen a milk cow, think that food comes from a can or freezer bag---the advertising folks get away with murder and misinformation such as 'fat free buttermilk". Is it any wonder that thousands of Chinese babies have been harmed by the addition of melamine and lord knows what else to what was otherwise wholesome milk? My introduction to this kind of urbanized world was when I was 5 years old and taken to the Natonal Zoo in Washington and saw farm animals there. I thought this was strange but did not know city kids (let alone adults) probably had never seen farm animals or knew their uses. Yes I know that too much fat is not good for anyone but buttermilk and butter are very healthy and necessary to life when used in moderate amounts. The French are heavy butter users but they also drink wine with their meals which helps to counteract any cholesterol problems. One can also counteract cholesterol effects with excercise and hard work instead of the cushy soft lifestyles of today's urbanization. High quality buttermilk and butter have in them symbiotic bacteria that make vitamin B complex vitamins for us in our intestines. They are therefore very healthy and necessary for good health in moderation. The world can not live without the farmer/rancher or the small home farm because on their shoulders rests the foundations of civilization. Urban folks forget this and buy up farmlands develop them into urban bedroom communities where the residents then complain about the smells, noise coming from what was there before they moved to the country while pushing the farmer/rancher to extinction and collecting their government subsideries to boot like the Louisiana physician who bought up a 2000 acre farm with rice subsidiaries. He did not farm but he still got his government subsidiary because the previous owners grew rice---a corruption that needs to cease.

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