Homemade Butter

Ever since the first time I whipped my own fresh whipped cream, I have kept my gaze obcessively glued to it, in dreaded fear of over-whipping and having it turn into butter.  The horror!  Imagine!  And so to this day I anxiously sweat that critical make or break, stiff peak to useless butter, moment.

But wait...I can turn cream into butter?  Thus making my own butter?  And that easily?

Well, yes, yes, and yes.  I finally gave it a try this week, gleefully letting my mixer plow right through from beautiful lofty whipped cream to deflated heavier looking cream-paste to cheerful little golden globules of butter separating from ivory buttermilk.  And all in about ten minutes.  The transformation was kind of thrilling, and the result revelatory.

A pint of heavy cream yielded about 6.5 ounces of butter and a cup and a half of buttermilk.  Pound for pound this is will end up being a bit more costly than store-bought.  However, I found the taste superior and just fresher all around, and it didn't have the "natural flavorings" that I just noticed on the ingredient list of my butter package.  I cannot wait to try it with the outstanding, abundantly flavorful, local cream from farmers at the markets.  There are also plenty of times when I have bought heavy cream for a recipe, or had extra whipped cream left over from a dinner, and wish I had used it to whip up some butter, rather than having it sit in my refrigerator waiting for another recipe to come up.

This is a remarkably easy process and tremendously satisfying.  Of all of the challenging and technical cooking projects I have attempted it is amazing that I haven't tried this before, as it is most definitely simpler than most.  Give it a try.  Slip some on the table at your next gathering.  "Oh that?  I just whipped that up."


Yields approximately 6.5 ounces of butter and one and a half cups of buttermilk.

1 pint heavy cream
salt (optional)
stand mixer or hand mixer
fine strainer or colander

Place cream in a clean mixing bowl and beat with the whisk of either a stand or hand mixer, until fluffy whipped cream has formed.

Continue beating through the point where you would usually stop for whipped cream, about five minutes in.  The cream will deflate considerably and start to get heavier, drier-looking, and a little darker in color.

Keep beating.  But keep an eye on it.  In a couple of minutes the butter globs will start to separate from the buttermilk, nearing the end of the process.  As this starts, the mixture will generally start to look a little wetter, and will begin to slosh around the bowl.  Gradually the butter pieces will become more evident, and the crumbly yellow mass will fully separate from the white buttermilk (about 7-10 minutes total of whipping).  Magic.

Set a strainer or colander lined with cheesecloth over a bowl.  (Note:  Rinse your cheesecloth first with cold water.  This will help wash out any lint, and saturate the cloth with water, so it will soak up less of the precious buttermilk.) Pour the butter and buttermilk into strainer.  Save buttermilk for breads, biscuits, soups and pancakes.  Gather the cheesecloth to squeeze out as much buttermilk as possible.

Using your hands (soaked briefly in ice water first to cool down), or butter paddles (also soaked for about 30 minutes in ice water), knead the butter to squeeze out as much buttermilk as possible.  Any buttermilk left in the butter will make it turn sour much quicker, decreasing its shelf life considerably.

Repeat the same kneading/squeezing process, but this time in a bowl of cold water.  The water will become cloudy as more buttermilk is expelled.  Empty out the water and repeat with fresh water a few times, until the water is no longer cloudy.

That's it!  You're finished!  If you want to make salted butter, spread the butter out on a cutting board, sprinkle lightly with salt, and then knead a bit more.

Roll the butter in portions in parchment paper or plastic wrap into logs, or press into an airtight container.  It will keep for several days in the refrigerator, or freeze, wrapped tightly for six months.

One response to “Homemade Butter”

  1. […] texture.  The addition of buttermilk (ah-hem, something to do with all that you have leftover from making your own butter) gives these a wonderful sour flavor, not unlike (a shortcut) sourdough.  The sourness, the sweet […]

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Catie Baumer Schwalb is a chef, food writer and photographer, who splits her life between the city and the country. Not too long ago Catie was a New York City based actress and playwright for more than a decade. She has her Master of Fine Arts from the National Theater Conservatory, and her Grand Diplôme in classic culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. ... Read More

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