Churning Butter

You’ll need heavy whipping cream and a clean jar with tight fitting lid. I like to use a cup of cream in a quart (4-cup) sized canning jar.

Some important things to remember:

  1. Let cream sit out on the counter to warm up to room temperature.
  2. Use a large enough jar. Fill a container only 1/3 full, so there is space to agitate the cream.
  3. Hold on to the jar with TWO HANDS. Why do you think two hands works best? (So you don’t drop the jar! And the heat from your hands helps warm the cream. Remember that body temperature is about 98’F.)
  4. Shake. And shake. And shake. [It will take about 15 minutes of vigorous shaking to churn cream into butter.] Listen to the sound the liquid makes when you first start…and then as you shake it will get quiet and seem to be very thick and not moving. When the cream seems thick and barely moving, you have successfully whipped your cream, but it is not butter yet. Keep shaking!
  5. …and shake. Then, almost as if by magic, the butterfat clings together and falls out of suspension, as the buttermilk liquid sloshes in the jar. Does it sound different than when you started?
  6. Pour out the buttermilk…save this for making buttermilk biscuits or pancakes. Use the back of a spoon to press and turn the lump of butter in a bowl – this is called working the butter – squeezing it to release tiny pockets of buttermilk.
  7. Rinse the butter in cold water. Change the water a few times until it no longer gets cloudy from the buttermilk. This is an important step to ensure that that your butter does not spoil if it isn’t eaten right away.
  8. You can add salt if you like, just a sprinkle, and work it into the butter. Historically, salt was added as a preservative. Today we have grown accustomed to the flavor of salted butter. What other flavors might you try? Add a spoonful of honey or jam, or for a savory taste try dried or fresh chopped herbs.
  9. Then if there is any left after tasting it, you can store it in a lidded container in the refrigerator. Homemade butter should be consumed within a few days.

Something to Chew On: You can make your own butter from heavy whipping cream in about 15 minutes. A pint (16 ounces) of cream will make about 8 ounces of butter plus a cup of buttermilk. The next time you are in the grocery store, compare the price of butter and the price of cream. Can you calculate what each type of butter (home made or store-bought) costs per ounce? Does this change at different times of the year? Why do you think so?

I Remember When…Ask a grown up if they remember what butter was like when they were growing up. Was it packaged like butter we buy in the store today? Was it portioned in neat and tidy blocks, or wrapped as one-pound lumps? Did it come from the grocery store, or perhaps the local dairy? Do they prefer salted or sweet butter? Make some butter together!