How to Make Butter

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how to make butter

Care for some water in your butter?

As you know, I have a serious obsession with turning raw milk into all sort of fascinating things. A jar of white liquid turning into a delicious, golden-yellow solid. It’s darn close to being miraculous if you ask me. Making homemade butter from scratch is magical, ya’ll.

I officially ditched margarine several years ago, and it’s no longer allowed across the threshold in my home. I’m really glad that more and more folks are starting to understand the health benefits of real butter and healthy fats, because eating yellow-colored wanna-be-butter out of a tub is a travesty.

Commercial butter makers often add water to their butter to dilute it to the legal minimum fat content (80% in the USA). I’ve always wondered why homemade butter is so much harder than store bought butter, and now it totally makes sense…

Thankfully, you can totally learn how to make butter at home, even if you don’t keep your own dairy animals.

(Full disclosure: I still do purchase store bought butter on occasion. I don’t always have enough cream from my cow to keep my family in butter all year long. So, if you are buying butter from the store, don’t lose heart-it’s still better than margarine!)

Want to see just how easy it is to make homemade butter? Watch me make butter in this video (you can also scroll passed the video and read my instructions, too…your choice!).

Sweet Cream vs. Cultured Butter

There are two main varieties of butter: sweet cream and cultured.

Sweet cream butter is simply butter made from fresh cream. This is the slightly easier option-although cultured butter really isn’t that much harder. If you use raw cream (here’s why we personally believe raw dairy products are healthier for our family), then the butter ends up not only being a scrumptious vehicle for ingesting healthy fats, but it also contains all the good bacteria and enzymes from the raw milk too. Win win.

Cultured butter is made from cream that has been allowed to ripen first. This can be accomplished simply by ignoring raw cream in your fridge for a while until it starts to sour, or you can speed up the process by inoculating the cream with a bit of yummy bacteria and allowing it to ferment at room temperature

Both options yield delicious results, but many butter connoisseurs prefer the slightly tangy depth of flavor that cultured butter brings to the table. Plus, you get the added bonus of good bacteria and cultures when you eat it-Think probiotic butter. Oh yeah baby…

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how to make butter

Be a Cream Snob

Since we have a milk cow, I usually have raw cream available. (Well sorta… When I share milk with the calf, Oakley tends to save back the cream for her baby, so I don’t get much. Understandable, but tragic, when you are craving homemade cream cheese…)

As you know, I’m a huge fan of raw dairy, so naturally, I’m going to use raw cream for my butter whenever possible.

However, if you don’t have access to raw milk, you can learn how to make butter from pasteurized cream instead. Just try to select regular pasteurized cream if you can-avoid ultra-pasteurized (UHT) cream, since it has been heated severely, ruining much of the flavor. If it’s your only option, it’s doable, but not optimal.

Regular pasteurized cream, or vat-pasteurized cream, will suit you better if you can find it.

Butter Making Equipment

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You don’t have to have any sort of special equipment to make butter-cream can be transformed simply by putting it in a mason jar with a lid and shaking the dickens out of it.

BUT.

If you plan on making butter on a regular basis AND you want to maintain your sanity, you definitely want to use some sort of kitchen appliance to help you out.

My weapon of choice is a food processor. I have this one, and I like it because I haven’t been able to kill it yet… I had a cheaper model for a while, but it died… Death by butter-making. Yeah, it was brutal.

Other options are a stand mixer (I have this one and adore it) or even a blender. My biggest beef with my stand mixer is that it has the tendency to fling cream all over my kitchen when I make butter… So you may want to cover it with a towel or a piece of plastic wrap.

There are plenty of different styles of butter churns available as well, including electric models. But due to the space constraints in my tiny kitchen, I have to have appliances that serve more than one purpose. And my food processor fits the bill.

how to make cultured butter

How to Make Butter – Sweet Cream Version

  • 1 quart heavy cream (Or more. Heck, use a gallon of cream if ya want!)
  • Sea salt (optional, but I love this one)
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Pull the cream out of the fridge a couple hours before you plan on making butter. Room temperature cream seems to turn into butter much faster for me than cold cream.

Place the cream into the processor or blender and turn it on. It’s important not to fill it past the “full” line. Otherwise, it’ll slosh and you’ll have a huge mess. Trust me, I pushed the limits of the full line once, and the full line won.

how to make butter

The cream will go through several different stages before finally turning into butter.

First it thickens.

And then it turns into whipped cream.

Making butter in a food processor

And then into chunky whipped cream.

And finally, it will “break.” This is when the yellow butterfat separates from the buttermilk. It looks like this.

how to make cultured butter

Strain the buttermilk from the butterfat, and save it back for making delicious pancakes, waffles, or buttermilk biscuits.

how to make butter

You now need to wash the butter to remove as much of the buttermilk as possible-this will help it to not spoil as quickly.

how to make butter

Place the butter into a bowl, and add in several cups of cold water. (I just usually run it under my tap.)

Use a wooden spoon to gently press the butter particles together and encourage them to stick together.

As the butter gets colder, it will firm up.

Dump off the cloudy water, and add fresh.

Continue to knead and press the butter to remove more and more buttermilk.

Repeat this process as many times as you need to in order to remove as much of the buttermilk as possible. (It usually takes me 3 or 4 times)

how to make cultured butter

Mix in salt, to taste, if desired.

How to Make Butter – Cultured Version

  • 1 quart of cream, raw or pasteurized (see notes below)
  • 1/8 teaspoon mesophilic culture-this can be optional if you are using raw milk
  • Sea salt (optional-I use this one to salt my butter)

This process is almost identical to the sweet cream butter process, BUT we are going to culture the cream first. Cultured cream will have even more probiotic goodness in it, plus many folks prefer its richer depth of flavor.

**If your cultured cream smells offensive or grow mold during any point of this process, toss it. This means the culturing process didn’t work for whatever reason.**

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For raw cream: If you have raw cream, you don’t actually even need a starter culture. The raw milk contains all the good bacteria it needs to culture on its own-it just requires a bit of time. If you leave it on the counter for a 24-48 hours, you’ll find that the raw cream has thickened and developed a pleasantly sour smell. It’s ready to go.

However, I actually like to use a bit of starter culture even when I’m using raw cream, since I like the consistent flavor it produces.

For pasteurized cream: If you are using pasteurized cream, you must add some sort of starter culture, since the beneficial bacteria were killed when the cream was heated.

I use a bit of mesophilic culture to culture my cream before making it into butter. Other culturing options would be buttermilk culture, or even yogurt, sour cream, or cultured buttermilk, as long as they contain live, active cultures.

Sprinkle the culture on top of the cream and gently stir in. Cover it with a breathable lid (like a paper towel or cloth napkin) and allow it to ferment at room temperature for 24 hours, or until the cream is thickened and pleasantly tangy and sour smelling.

Proceed to turn your cultured cream into lovely cultured butter by following the directions for sweet cream butter above.

Storing Your Homemade Butter:

Your gorgeous homemade butter can be enjoyed fresh, placed in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days, or wrapped tightly and frozen.

Sometimes I use my antique butter mold to form a brick, but usually it’s easier to just plop it on a piece of plastic wrap, and form a log shape. Not as charming as butter from a cute little mold like this or THIS, but it tastes just as good.

And now you need to go make a my my homemade French bread recipe so you can savor the experience of hot, homemade bread slathered with homemade butter. And that, my friends, is homesteader-heaven on earth. 😉

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Listen to the Old Fashioned On Purpose podcast episode #42 on this topic HERE.

More From-Scratch Tips & Recipes:

  • Easy Bread Dough Recipe (super versatile for rolls, bread, pizza, and more)
  • Your Ultimate Guide to Canning Safety
  • Tips for Cooking from Scratch with Limited Time
  • How to Make Buttermilk
  • How to Make Ricotta Cheese

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>