- Associated Press - Thursday, October 6, 2011

Why go to the trouble of making butter at home? After all, they package it in neat in little sticks for us at the grocery store so we don’t have to.

And yet, it is so worth doing. Not every day, perhaps, but certainly for special days. Because homemade butter, simply put, is utterly and completely amazing. Plus, it’s neither difficult nor expensive. The process even can double as entertainment for the kids.

Butter is a pretty basic food, and so is the making of it. Cream is agitated until the liquid buttermilk separates from the solid fats. The fats are the butter. That’s it.

There are plenty of ways to agitate cream. The most basic is to fill a jar about half full with cream. Tightly screw a lid onto the jar (canning jars are ideal), then shake vigorously. First it will slosh, then it will seem to turn solid (at which point it’s essentially whipped cream) and then it will form a lump of butter in liquid.

Though simple, this method is tiring. You’ll be shaking that jar for a solid five minutes or more. It’s a good project for the kids.

To make butter to serve, however, it’s faster and far less tiring to use either an electric mixer or a food processor.

For the best-tasting butter, buy the best quality cream you can find. Keep in mind that the amount of cream you use will make roughly half as much butter. So a quart of cream will make about 1 pound of butter. After you’ve made the butter, pour off the buttermilk and add it to your pancakes, muffins or other baked goods. It also makes a great base for salad dressings.


Start to finish: 20 minutes

Makes about 1 pound of butter


1 quart heavy cream, left at room temperature for 30 minutes

Salt, optional

To use the food processor, pour the cream into the bowl fitted with either the plastic or metal blade. Process on high.

To use an electric mixer, pour the cream into the bowl and beat with the wire whip attachment. Use a deep bowl with a splatter guard, if available.

Regardless of the method used, the cream will go through the same stages. At first, the cream will thicken and be whipped into soft peaks, then firm peaks. Then the cream will begin to get grainy. Finally, a liquid will be released, so you’ll have lumps of fat in a milky-colored liquid. The entire process should take 5 to 20 minutes, depending on the method used.

Rest a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and strain out the buttermilk, reserving it for another recipe. Place the butter in a bowl and knead with your hand to squeeze out any more buttermilk. It may seem odd to knead butter, but it will hold together and knead easily.

You can use the butter immediately or refrigerate it for later. If storing for later, you’ll want to “wash” the butter. This helps remove even more buttermilk from the butter so it doesn’t sour. Add 1/2 cup of ice water to the butter in the bowl. Continue kneading the butter in the ice water. Pour off the milky liquid. Repeat the ice-water wash and kneading process until the liquid remains clear.

If you’d like to keep unsalted butter (such as for baking), wrap the butter in parchment paper and then plastic wrap and refrigerate for two weeks or freeze for six months. Otherwise, add salt to taste, then wrap in parchment and plastic wrap. The butter also can be stored in an airtight container.

This is also a good time to add other flavorings, if desired, such as honey and cinnamon for toast and pancakes or herbs and garlic for bread or meat.

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