Churn It! How to Make Butter at Home

Although butter has been around since the time of the ancient Egyptians, when you think about making butter, odds are you’re picturing the wooden butter churns of the pioneers and an overworked farm wife cranking away at the paddle. It went that way for a long time, but eventually those labor-intensive churns faded away, replaced by large glass jars with mechanical paddles (think egg beater) which eased the process. But by the late 1800’s, commercial dairies were distributing affordable packaged butter and the age-old chore of churning butter at home faded away. Until now.

Homemade butter is back!

With a growing trend toward urban homesteading, artisanal food and general do-it-yourself-ness, home-churned butter is on the rise and we’re on board. Hand-crank churns are available and you can even produce a passable butter by putting heavy cream in a jar and shaking like the dickens for longer than is fun, but for those of us who like a little modern convenience in our homesteading, fresh, preservative-free butter can be made at home without the need for bulging biceps. Break out the stand mixer and let’s get started!

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Step 1

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A pint of heavy cream (organic preferred), a little salt and some serious agitation by way of a stand mixer are all it takes to make fresh butter, free of commercial additives.

Step 2

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Pour a pint of cream into the mixing bowl and mix at medium-high speed using the whisk attachment. Use a splash guard, if available.

Step 3

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Before long, the cream will reach whipped-cream state. Keep going!

Step 4

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After 5 or 6 minutes, the cream will begin to pill and look crumbly. Not there yet.

Step 5

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Once thoroughly agitated, the fat and liquid will separate, usually in a somewhat dramatic moment as the liquid is released.

Step 6

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Pour off the liquid. That milky stuff is buttermilk that can be used as one would use commercially purchased buttermilk. Perhaps to make buttermilk biscuits on which to spread your homemade butter?

Step 7

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Return drained butter to the mixer and whisk at medium speed until it becomes smooth.

Step 8

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Using a spatula, work the butter into a ball and transfer it into a bowl of ice-cold water. Knead gently to work remaining buttermilk out of the butter. The water will become grayish. This will extend the shelf life of the butter and prevent the development of a “sour milk” smell. If you plan to use the butter immediately, you can skip this step.

Step 9

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Pour off the water and repeat, if necessary, until the water drains clear.

Step 10

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Return butter to the mixer, add ¼ teaspoon of salt and whisk a minute to combine. At this step, you can also customize your homemade butter, depending on your planned use, by adding herbs, spices or sweeteners.

Step 11

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All done! Your homemade butter can be formed into a log and wrapped in plastic wrap or parchment paper or packed into crocks, jars or recycled butter containers for storage. Store in refrigerator up to 2 weeks.

Materials

  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Tools

  • Stand mixer with whisk attachment
About Mick Telkamp 

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A former Midwesterner living in North Carolina, I write about my adventures in backyard chicken-keeping and suburban homesteading over at HGTVGardens, and my exploits in the culture of Southern cooking ...

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6 Responses

  1. Martti says:

    I remember my grandmother making butter but it was from cultured milk, not fresh cream. The milk went into a churn, some cultured buttermilk was added, the churn was covered and allowed to rest for awhile (overnight? a couple of days?) in a cool corner. Then came the churning with the wooden paddle insert. The result was a very rich flavored butter and sour buttermilk. She passed decades ago and stopped making butter long before that. I've been looking for that rich almost cheese tasting flavor ever since. Anybody out there know how to make that kind of butter?

  2. Michelle says:

    I grew up on a farm in rural Australia, we made our own butter regularly – the old fashioned way – took "ages" as a kid – now looking back how did we ever survive – organic unpasteurised foods from the land – no govt intervention, GM crops…. So tasty. Motivated me to try this again – with technology to help of course – I'm older not crazy.

  3. Mary Ann Burns Bates says:

    I have a glass antique churn that I bought a year ago. It was hard work. About a month ago I deceided to try making butter with my big stand mixer and It turned out great! I kinda guessed my way thru it!!

  4. sushnk says:

    yes,I do make it the same way.The buttermilk and butter is separated.The buttermilk is used for different purposes and is a good appetiser.The butter is stored in a bowl of fresh water and can be used with jam or honey as a bread spread. Its yummmy.

  5. Mick Telkamp says:

    Hi, Marilyn. A pint of heavy cream will yield about half a pound of butter. I love that story! What a great way to teach kids about food.

  6. Marilyn Kaplan says:

    This is great! Way back in the 60's I had a third grade teacher who brought in some fresh cows milk and we shook the jar of it until we got butter.
    What I want to know is if I get a pint of heavy cream, how much butter will that become? (I love the idea of using herbs with it!)

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