Wednesday, April 20, 2011

DIY Butter (Y'all)

Butter. Amazing in sauces, or schmeared atop a slice of crusty baguette, it's delicious yet incredibly simple to make. You may have grown up hearing stories from your grandparents about churning butter (it's not just a dance move!), though now we all simply run to our nearest grocer to feed our butter fix. 

Butter is produced by agitating cream, which separates the milk from the fats by damaging the fragile membranes surrounding the milk fats. Once broken, the fat emulsifies into butter grains. With increased agitation, the fats continue to clump together, and leak a liquid known as buttermilk. The butter is then rinsed of any excess buttermilk and worked into its desired consistency. 

You can easily make your own butter with a food processor or blender, but, if you prefer to be more low-tech, all you need is a jar with a good lid. Bonus - you'll get a great arm workout (who needs a Shake Weight?).

First, get some heavy cream and let it come to room temperature. Chances are, you'll only be able to find the ultra-pasteurized stuff at the grocery store. Pour the cream into a large enough jar so that the cream only fills half of the container (if using a pint of cream, use a quart mason jar). Place a tight-fitting lid on top. To make the process easier, you can also add a marble or two to the jar (I didn't). 

Shake the jar up and down vigorously. After a few minutes, the jar will become more difficult to shake - at this point, the cream has become whipped cream...

Keep shaking vigorously; as the cream agitates, you won't be able to "feel" the liquid sloshing around as much. This is probably when your arm will begin to hate you and feel as if you're shaking a concrete block. 

Suddenly, out of nowhere (just when you're really wanting to give up), you will be able to feel liquid sloshing around in the jar again. This is simply the butter beginning to separate from the buttermilk. Keep shaking for about 5 minutes to wring as much of the buttermilk from the butter as possible.

No more shaking! Carefully pour off the buttermilk from the butter; you COULD save this liquid for cooking, but this buttermilk lacks the sour tang and thickness of the CULTURED buttermilk that most recipes call for.

Once drained, rinse the butter with COLD water. Simply fill the jar with cold water, slosh the butter around, and drain. Repeat several times until the water runs clear. 

Now you've got WET butter. Use a spatula to press the excess water out of the butter to keep it from going rancid. At this point, you can salt the butter if desired or add any herbs.

Spread the butter into a ramekin or bell crock, or simply roll the butter into a log with some plastic wrap. Chill until hardened, and store up to 5 days. 


  1. Just watching the news and thinking of you. I hope you and your family are OK Julia! Please let me know when you can.

  2. Dangit, was hoping you had posted...

  3. Patty, I'm ok. Just got power back on at my house today; still don't have internet access, so I'm posting from the BF's house. We are all ok, but still trying to get back to normal. Lots of damage here in Birmingham; the EF-2 that hit Cahaba Heights came through about a block from where I sit right now.

    Once I get the fridge emptied and clean (so gross after a week without power), I hope to start posting again!

  4. Whew! I know things must be a mess, but I am so glad to know you are OK!! And I know your readers and FB fans will be glad to know this too. I know this much change so much for you and those around you, at least for the near future and probably for much longer. That was a close call. If there is anything we can do, please let me know Julia. And thanks for letting me know that you are ok. :-)

  5. This is great, thanks for sharing. Definitely going to try this later.