small measures with ashley: homemade butter


I don’t recall exactly when the switch occurred, but sometime in the mid- 80’s, our house went from being a butter-eating domain to a margarine-eating one. I can’t really blame my mom, as margarine was all the rage back then. Right along with Jazzercise and “Just Say No,” consuming margarine was de rigueur health-wise at the time. Butter’s pleasures weren’t entirely gone from my life, though. Whenever I’d visit my dad and his wife, there would be sticks of the stuff chilling in the fridge, spread on hot toast, dolloped atop Pop’s “world famous” pancakes, and slathered over ears of steaming Jersey corn.

Perhaps owing to that period of buttery abstinence, I’m now a firm believer in the stuff. Butter is a mainstay chez English. And not just any butter, but homemade butter. Say it with me-homemade butter. You just swooned a little bit, didn’t you? For today’s “Small Measures with Ashley“, we’re making butter. It’s easier than you can imagine and delivers a product far superior in taste and considerably less costly than its wrapper-clad cousin.

CLICK HERE for the full post and how-to after the jump!

There are two simple means of rendering butter at home-with a food processor, or shaken in a glass jar. I’ll provide details for both processes. The ingredients for either method are consistent, though: two cups of heavy cream. And that is all. Salt is entirely optional. If you’ve got cream, you’re almost there. Introduce a means of aeration and it’s go time.

We’ll begin with making butter via a food processor. In days past, dashers, plungers, and churns toned biceps while beating cream into buttery submission. In today’s kitchen, though, the food processor takes care of the job for you.

Method #1: Homemade Butter, via food processor

Yield: Approximately 1 cup.

The Goods:

-2 cups heavy cream

-Cutting board

– ¼ tsp. salt (optional)

-Food processor

The Deal:

1) Let the cream first come to room temperature, or right around 72-74° F (22-23° C). Simply set the cream in a container on the kitchen counter, put a dairy thermometer into it, and check on it every 30 minutes or so until the temperature rises. This step lets the cream ripen a bit, raising its acidity, thereby making it easier to whip and full of flavor.

2) Put the cream inside of a food processor, secure the lid, and start running the machine.

3) The cream will begin to go through several butter-forming stages: first sloshy, then stiff, then finally dividing ranks and forming separately into butter and buttermilk. Machine times for achieving these stages will vary, but will generally take between 6-9 minutes (I average around 8).

4) Using a spatula, remove the butter from the machine. Place the buttery mass into a sieve put atop a medium-sized mixing bowl. Leave for a few minutes, allowing the liquid (which is real-deal buttermilk!) to drain off.

5) Transfer butter to a medium-sized bowl. Standing at the sink, start running cold water into the bowl. Empty the water out, repeating several times until the water is clear in the bowl. Strain off any remaining water.

6) If you want to include salt, stir it in now with a metal spoon. Otherwise, put the butter mass on a cutting board.

7) Using either clean hands, a rubber spatula, or a wooden spoon, begin pressing the butter repeatedly, allowing any liquid inside of it to drain off. Continue pressing until no liquid is visibly coming out when pressed.

8) Storage depends on when you plan on using your butter. You can either store it at room temperature in a butter crock, chill or freeze it in wax or parchment paper, or a store it in a container in the refrigerator or the freezer.

Maybe you don’t own a food processor. Or perhaps you want to prove to yourself that muscle power alone is all that’s necessary to create butter. Whatever brought you here, here’s how to get the job done:

Method #2: Homemade Butter, via shaking

Yield: Approximately 1 cup.

The Goods:

-1 quart-sized jar & lid

-2 cups heavy cream

-1 glass marble

-Cutting board

– ¼ tsp. salt (optional)

The Deal:

1) Follow step #1 above.

2) Put the cream and marble inside of your jar, secure the lid firmly, and start shaking as vigorously as possible.

3) Continue shaking the jar until the cream starts to thicken. This change will be heralded by the sound of the “slosh” becoming more of a “thud.” The time it will take for this transformation to occur will vary widely based on how often and how intensely the jar is shaken. Anywhere between 5-30 minutes will do the job.

4) Using a spatula, remove the butter from the jar. Find the marble in the mass and set it aside. Place buttery mass into a sieve put atop a medium-sized mixing bowl. Leave for a few minutes, allowing the liquid to drain off.

5) Follow steps #5-8 above.

And there you have it. Delicious, fresh, whipped butter from your own two hands! Ever made butter yourself? Ever wanted to? Well, there’s no time like the present! It’s so very easy, so very affordable, and so very minimal in the packaging arena (always a selling point for me!), which is what “Small Measures” are all about, anyways. -Ashley

  1. Catherine says:

    This is just fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing. I’m going to try this out this weekend for sure.

  2. Thanks for sharing this, I’ve always wanted to do it – my mother in law use to make it by getting her children to roll a jar full of cream up and down the hallway, so I guess there’s no limit to how to do it.

  3. Nicole says:

    So funny because I just started making my own butter recently, but I kinda did it by mistake. I was making whipped cream to go with berries, but I left it in the stand mixer a little too long. Once it gets past the whipped cream stage, it gets really thick, and then BAM, buttermilk starts pouring out and you start to see the solids. I didn’t use a dairy thermometer, just cream in my stand mixer, and then I poured the buttermilk/butter into a sieve over a bowl, pressed it through to get rid of the buttermilk, then scooped up the butter in my bare hands and kneaded it under cold running water to get rid of the buttermilk and to give it that shiny look. It looked gorgeous! It doesn’t have to be complicated! You can even continue whipping it after to get a whipped butter. I added some fancy sea salt to mine (a little goes a long way) and we ate it on fresh bread that night. It lasted about a week and then I tossed it.

    As far as cost goes, we frequently buy cream in larger quantities because for some mysterious reason, the larger containers are often not much more expensive than the smaller ones. We also buy non homogenized whole milk, with the fat/cream on top, so we have that constantly around too… coupled with the occasional sale on heavy cream around the holidays, it can be economical to make your own butter, you just have to plan it right :)

  4. Nicole says:

    Also, cooking with this butter is a dream…somehow it melts so much better than the storebought stuff. It really is the little things!

  5. Butter/buttermilk have been on my list of things to try at home for months now…I think I finally need to do it! There’s nothing like freshly-whipped and salted butter. Yum!

  6. goat hill farm says:

    I have been making fresh butter for a couple of years now. I started making it in the food processor, but have switched to my stand mixer. I think it is really just personal preference, both work well. If you use the stand mixer use the paddle attachment, unless you want whipped butter. I also do the first few washings in the mixer, after I pour off the buttermilk. I use the mixer bowl for everything, decreasing the amount of dished to wash!

  7. LollyK says:

    So glad to see this post! Making butter is super easy and delicious – I grew up on a Guernsey dairy farm and making butter was a weekly chore. My mom used (and still uses) a hand cranked butter churn to make butter.
    To wash her butter she dumps it into a stainless steel bowl and runs cold water over it – while using a wooden spoon to squish the extra buttermilk out. She freezes it and uses it to bake – it’s no wonder her bread is fantastic!
    I’ll second what someone said earlier – the time of the year and the type of cow that produced the cream will affect the color and taste of the butter. Guernsey cattle (besides having fantastic personalities and being adorable) produce milk high in butterfat, protein and beta-carotene. The milk they (and other breeds such as Jerseys) produce will taste noticeably different than the milk you buy from large commercial farms. Support your local small dairy farms! *steps off soapbox*
    Thanks d*s!

  8. deepshadegarden says:

    So much can belost in a generation – I know this is the blogosphere, but really, making butter was an every day occurance only a generation or two ago. Let’s not make too much of it! Let’s not make too much of ourselves here. Oh look, I made butter!

  9. Belly B says:

    I had no idea that you could make butter yourself. It look SO delicious I think I can just eat it plain.

  10. Lisa says:

    I can’t believe no one has ever over beaten whipping cream before? Well when it starts to get grainy keep on going it will get thicker and separate!

  11. Yes yes oh yes! Been waiting for this post. :^)

    Was wondering how you do it ‘the modern way’ (ie: without a churn), I shall try this! Thanks!

    Heidi

  12. Shelley says:

    Wonderful! I always imagined needing some sort of very old fashioned butter churn & a milk maid. This seems very simple & you get the added bonus of making buttermilk, too! Thank you for posting these instructions.

  13. BL MILES says:

    I did see one mention / question about a butter bell. A proper butter bell is the ONLY way to keep (and use) butter, however it may be made: butterbell.com The good, old-fashioned L. Tremain butter bell! Be changed and rejoice!

  14. That looks amazing! I love good old fashion ways of doing things. Can’t wait to try this in Egypt. :)

  15. Tinabobina99 says:

    So inspiring. My favorite food memories have to do with fresh baguettes and “real” butter in Normandy. I’ve tried all sorts of imported butters, but this sounds exactly right — and do-able! Also, I still don’t have to go out and invest in a food processor; I can just use my stand mixer.

  16. Dani.Dan says:

    There’s just something so LUXURIOUS about homemade butter…Scone, please!

  17. Briouc says:

    Yes! I’m obsessed with a certain kind of butter that I’ve only seen in France – it has large crystals of sea salt throughout, and it’s amazing on a fresh baguette. I made this last night and added some course sel gris instead of regular salt. France, you still have many unique pleasures… but now this butter is something I can have anytime!

  18. Phrag E says:

    I haven’t had homemade butter in such a long time. I remember making it but with a little block of wood. I might be wrong as my memory fails me often. Glad i have a stand mixer. Thanks for this!

  19. Shelly says:

    if you use the shaking jar method, it helps to make sure the jar stays quite cold. I put it in the fridge for an hour or so, or even the freezer! It helps the butter mass solidify.

  20. Esz says:

    I really need to try this.
    The only prob is – not sure if it’s the same everywhere else – but good cream is more expensive and harder to get than good butter.

    My local store sells organic or Lurpak butter for around $4AUD yet there is only one good brand of cream (Elgar Farm from Tassie)…and normal cream is around the $2.50 mark for 300ml.
    So there’s not much of a cost benefit.
    I still want to give it a go though!

  21. helen james says:

    could you use a hand held whisk?

  22. Liz says:

    Made my butter this afternoon and slathered it on some homemade bread. Delicious! Thank you for this fun how-to!

  23. Esz-As for price, I’ve found that issue to have raised a lot of questions with Design Sponge readers. Perhaps I ought to have qualified my claim that homemade butter costs less by indicating that, the cheaper cost will be completely influenced by several factors, including:
    1) What type of cream you buy-organic/conventional/pint/quart/half-gallon, as well as by 2) What type of butter you typically purchase. I was completely speaking subjectively. My husband and I only buy pastured, grass-fed, organic butter when we buy packaged butter, and it doesn’t come cheap! We do it, though, because we’re committed to the idea of supporting grass-fed, pastured agriculture wherever possible. If one purchased more conventionally produced butter, however, such as a generic store brand, or even something like Land ‘O Lakes, than it might be cheaper to actually buy packaged butter that route than make one’s own. Does that make sense?

    Ultimately, though, it’s not really about price, from my perspective. It’s the same reason I raise my own chickens, can my own produce, and make a number of dairy products at home. It’s about getting closer to foods and food production methods, as well as being in better control over what goes into the foods my family consumes. Sometimes these things cost a bit more than buying ready made, sometimes they don’t. It’s ultimately entirely a matter of personal choice.

    Helen James-I’m sure you could, although I think it might take quite some time to achieve the desired consistency. You’d need to whip it well past the point of whipped cream. As with the reader who asked about using a blender, I’d say, why not? Give it a go and see if it works!

  24. Erika says:

    Oh my goodness! I did it! I made butter!!!

    1. grace says:

      that’s awesome- good work, erika!

      grace

  25. Anita says:

    Love this. I used to work at a historic site where we made butter with a small hand churn. It was a quart glass jar with a hand crank egg beater through the lid. You put the cream in the jar and started to spin the beaters. Fresh butter in no time.

  26. charlene says:

    thanks for this post Ashley and for your kind, thoughtful and patient responses. :)

  27. Elm says:

    After going through every single comment to pick up extra tips, I finally took the plunge! Not sure if it turned out the way it should though – kind of soft, a whipped consistency, because I had to cut it short since the hubby couldn’t stand the piercing noise of the food processor. I stored some of the pale yellow butter in the fridge, some in the freezer and the rest in a 60-year-old butter crock I have lying around. Hope it doesn’t go bad tomorrow!

  28. Carlita says:

    Deepshadegarden – that cracks me up! It’s so true! I love how excited people get when they try something “new” that’s been done for millenia. DIY was a lifestyle, guys! Not a trend!
    I’ve made my own butter a few times, but I didn’t go to all the trouble of rinsing and rinsing and rinsing, I just shook it, ate it, drank the buttermilk (even though my mom told me not to). I’ve got herbs growing right now, so I think I’ll try some combinations! I wish I was lucky enough to get cream straight from the cow (hey, someday). “All Things Bright And Beautiful”, anyone?

  29. Ashley says:

    Actually, if you make it in a jar you should leave out the marble. Every time I have attempted that I find that the marble breaks risking shards of glass… The marble is really unnecessary so just leave it out.

  30. Carole says:

    When I was a kid we bought raw milk for a time (before people decided it was ‘bad’ for you) and it usually had several inches of cream on top. We made butter using the mason jar method (shaking for what seemed like forever to a kid – no marble – never heard of that before).

    It is super easy. In fact, the cream that we buy has such a high butter fat content that we can whip it up pretty quickly with an immersion blender attachment. lol

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