Butter is a key ingredient when making nourishing food. It’s good for you and so tasty. It’s also something you can easily make yourself, even if you get your cream from the store as we do. You can make butter with either sweet cream or cultured cream, here’s how.
Ready for the Real Deal?
Have you been cooking with margarine? I grew up on that stuff. I swore off butter when the doctor told my dad he couldn’t have any. Since then I only had margarine.
Then I got older and wiser. I started learning why butter had been marketed as bad for us. I began to use butter for cooking again. I read Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon (affiliate link) and it convinced me that butter and animal fats, in general, are actually really good for us. Today, I’m not entirely sure what I love most, lard or butter. But I know I love making butter the most because it doesn’t smell at all.
Real butter only has one or two ingredients and that’s cream and salt if you want salted butter. No oils, no added water to dilute the goodness, no stabilisers or anything else. Just cream. That’s why it pays off to be a bit of a cream snob. Don’t buy highly processed creams. Raw is best, but pasteurised will work. You can even make butter with lactose-free milk if you are intolerant.
Include Your Children
Butter is a very easy to make and a fun project to do with your children. It can be a great homeschool project, opening up the exploration of a wide range of subjects.
In butter making, you can explore turning liquids into solids and centrifugal force.
Reading and Comprehension
Reading a recipe is an art in itself that has to be learned. Even in public school, we had recipe reading as part of our reading and comprehension curriculum.
You can make it part of a history lesson and read how Ma Ingalls used to make butter in the Little House on the Prairie series (affiliate link).
As with anything you do in the kitchen, you can practise a good deal of math. You could focus on measuring things out, reading the measurements correctly and maybe adapting them to your measuring tools.
Use the Jar Method
If you have bigger children or just really determined children, let them try the jar method. It’s butter making in it’s simplest form, a good deal of fun and a workout. Who said you couldn’t have a PE class in the kitchen?!
Simply place your cream in a jar and shake it, shake it, shake it like a polaroid picture. Bonus points for fun dances and butter making songs made up on the spot.
Once you have butter, follow the steps outlined below.
Sweet Cream vs. Cultured Butter
Sweet cream is what you skim off the cow’s milk. It tastes sweet, which gives it its name. It’s basically cream as you know it. This cream is good for you, but if you want to up the anty or are working on including more fermented foods into your diet you can turn the sweet cream into cultured cream.
Making cultured cream is easy. You may have done it inadvertently before by leaving your cream too long in the fridge. It’s basically cream that has gone sour, but not so sour that your stomach turns.
Three Main Ways to Make Cultured Cream
1) On the table top.
Leave your raw cream on the table top for about 24 hours to turn lightly sour. It’s my experience that lactose-free cream needs at least 48 hours to even turn lightly sour.
Check on your cream every 12 hours or so. You want it to taste slightly sour. Just as in fermentation, let your senses guide you. If your nose isn’t happy and your stomach turns it’s gone too far. Toss it and try, try again.
2) Mix with Already Cultured Cream
If you’ve made yoghurt or sourdough or kombucha, you’re familiar with the concept of keeping some to start the next batch with. This is a longer process, it takes about a week in the fridge, but it’s free.
You also don’t risk your husband putting the cream back in the fridge because “You had left it out accidentally and it was going to turn”. Yes, that may have happened here. And yes, it may be why I now write SOUR in big letters on the cream I’m purposefully leaving out to turn sour. On second thought, you might want to mark it in the fridge too, so it doesn’t get used for other purposes on day five…
3) Inoculation with a Culture
I’ve not tried this method, because I’m frugal and don’t want to pay for something I don’t have to. Nonetheless, there may be arguments for this method that I just haven’t heard yet that makes it worth it.
This method uses a purchased mesophilic culture, which you mix with your cream and let sit for as long as the culture requires, often 24 hours at room temperature.
I believe you can also use buttermilk or kefir grains, which would be free if you have some on hand already.
For All Options
Once the cream has soured, put it in the fridge to cool. That will slow the process and it’s a lot easier to get butter to come from cool cream.
Cultured butter doesn’t taste as sweet but it is delicious and full of really beneficial bacteria.
The equipment you need to make butter
As we’ve already covered, you really don’t need much more than a jar and your hands to make butter. There is however a less labour intensive way.
Use a stand mixer if you have one. I like that I can put my Kenwood (affiliate link) to work and do other things while it whips the cream.
You can also use a hand mixer. It works well but beware of the splashing.
You’ll need a bowl to mix and rinse in. You can do this in the same bowl to minimize the dishes you need to do afterwards.
Butter paddles / Spoon
If you really enjoy making butter and want some wonderful tools to use, then opt for a pair of butter paddles (affiliate link). While I’d really enjoy working with a proper tool like these paddles, I’ve found that a spoon works just fine. I prefer working with wood. What you are looking for is something to press the butter with. A wooden spatula might work great too. I only use one and press against the side of the bowl.
A butter mold (affiliate link) is not a necessity but it can bring a lot of joy and beauty to the process. I’ve fallen completely in love with all the holiday molds available, like this beautiful Easter mold (affiliate link).
A Storage Option
We’ll cover storing your butter in detail further down, so read that part and decide what you need to store your butter.
How to Make Sweet Cream or Cultured Butter
Sweet Cream or Cultured Butter
- 250 ml Cream Sweet or Cultured
- Salt To taste
Pour cream into the bowl. Don't fill the bowl more than halfway as the cream expands as you churn it. Cover the bowl to avoid splashes.
Churn until fully separated into butter and buttermilk.
Pour off the buttermilk and save for other projects, like baking or fermenting.
Wash the butter with cold, clean water. Pressing it with butter paddles or using a spoon against the side of the bowl. Discard the cloudy water. You can give it to your animals if you wish.
Repeat the washing until the water says clear. Make sure to get as much water as possible out of the butter.
Salt the butter to taste, mixing the salt into the butter. The salt may drive out some more water so make sure to press it on last time.
Transfer the butter to a butter mold or press it into shape and put it in the desired container.
Storing Your Homemade Butter
Wait, what is this thing about storing the butter? Aren’t we just going to eat it right away? You can! If you are making butter from store bought cream as I do, then go ahead and store it on the countertop or in your fridge in an airtight container.
If, however, you are lucky enough to have access to cream straight from the cow, so to speak, then you know supply and quality vary throughout the year. Once you get that thick layer of delicious almost yellow cream, you had better take advantage of it and make as much butter as you can. This is also the case if you use the pantry principle and get a good deal on cream.
What Not to Do When Storing Butter
In the old days, they salted the heck out of their butter to make it last. It was very effective, but not necessarily tasty. While I always add some salt to taste, it’s not nearly enough to make it last for more than a week (by that time it’s usually gone anyway). That said, I don’t recommend salting your butter for storage unless you absolutely have to.
Another thing I don’t recommend is canning butter. There hasn’t been any testing of canning milk products of any kind, so we have no idea what happens to them. I know lots of people do can butter, but better safe than sorry.
What to Do When Storing Butter
Butter freezes really well. This makes it easy to store since most homesteaders have some kind of freezer capacity these days. Wrap the butter tightly, preferably using a zero waste material or put it in a reusable airtight container and place it in the fridge. I’ve been told that unsalted butter can be frozen for up to 6 months and salted butter up to 12 months. After that, it’s not inedible, just no longer as good as it has been.