Homemade Butter

November 19th, 2008 by megan · 17 Comments

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Yes, I know you can buy perfectly delicious butter in the grocery store. But really, making your own isn’t all that complicated, and it’s really fun to do. Making butter is a great project for kids, too – it’s an exercise in showing them where even our most elemental cooking products (e.g., butter) come from. All you really need is a stand mixer – I haven’t tried making butter with an electric hand mixer, although I’m sure it’s very possible to do – and really high-quality heavy cream (I use local grass-fed heavy cream). I used my homemade butter and the “traditional” buttermilk produced from the butter-making process to make the most delicious cheddar-sage biscuits. Have a dinner party and pull out this homemade butter with a loaf of great bread and watch your guests freak out.

A quick note about buttermilk – so called “traditional” buttermilk is the liquid that is extruded during the butter-making process (you can see it pretty clearly in the photos below). Modern buttermilk is simply cow’s milk to which various bacterial cultures have been added (like yogurt) that produce the characteristic tang and thickness of commercial buttermilk.

You’ll need:
One pint high-quality heavy cream
A stand mixer
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt (optional)


1. Pour the heavy cream into the bowl of the mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

2. Start the mixer out on low (position 2 on a KitchenAid Mixer) so you don’t spray heavy cream all over yourself.

3. Increase the mixer speed gradually to medium-high (position 6). After 2-3 minutes, the cream will start to thicken to the consistency of sour cream.

4. Keep going, and watch as the cream begins to turn into whipped cream. First, soft peaks (still sort of runny).

5. Then, hard peaks. It will take between 3-5 minutes for the cream to reach this stage.

6. At this point, if you were making whipped cream you’d probably shed a little tear, because the cream is starting to curdle. For our purposes – have no fear – keep going.

7. After another minute or two, you’ll see the cream really start to clump up. Another magical thing you’ll start to notice: the cream will start to get more yellow in color. Things happen really fast after this.

8. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. You’ll probably have scrape more than once.

9. You’ll start seeing the cream clump even more. Buttermilk will begin to extrude from the mixture and it will become even more butter-yellow.  At first, a tiny bit of buttermilk will come out:

10. Then, a huge amount! From one pint of heavy cream, I collected about a cup of buttermilk. Turn the mixer back down to low so you don’t spray buttermilk all over yourself.

11. Keep going on low – more and more buttermilk will be extracted. Stop when you see about a cup of buttermilk in your mixer bowl (you don’t have to measure – just estimate).

12. It’s a little strange – but now you have to wash the butter. This prolongs the butter’s life and actually extracts even more buttermilk. Pour off the buttermilk (you can use it in cooking just like you’d use regular buttermilk) and gather the butter bits together. Under cold running water, squish the butter between your fingers, taking care not to drop any in the sink (you should see additional buttermilk come out).

13. You can put your new butterball back into the mixer and beat in a bit of salt, if you like (this will preserve the butter even longer).

14. Roll up into a tube using a piece of wax paper, parchment, or plastic wrap and refrigerate or use immediately.

15. You have butter! The entire operation took maybe 20-25 minutes.


gwen Nov 19, 2008 at 10:38 am

Yum! I want some. And I want to know if you were able to avoid getting your camera all buttery whilst taking those lovely pics.

I think I’ll have to add a Kitchenaid to my Christmas list this year… although I have heard that you can churn your own butter in an ice cream maker, too.

Pierre Nov 19, 2008 at 11:44 am

Good blog, bata-kusai (Japanese for butter stinker or smells like butter).
Check out Magaret Visser’s thing on butter in Much Depends on Dinner.

Mike Nov 19, 2008 at 1:51 pm

great blog!

Luisa Nov 19, 2008 at 3:03 pm

Delicious yum yum!

Ryan Nov 19, 2008 at 8:51 pm

mmmmmm i want some of dat butta’

Cheddar-Sage Biscuits | Brooklyn Farmhouse Nov 20, 2008 at 10:16 pm

[...] Homemade Butter [...]

megan Nov 21, 2008 at 10:52 am

Gwen – I’ve definitely accidentally made butter in my ice cream maker (mmmmm raspberry butter gelato) having turned the speed up too high — so I think it’s entirely possible to make butter in an ice cream maker on purpose…very interesting….

Shaun Nov 24, 2008 at 5:07 pm

Huge Fan.

Question, Megan. How long would this keep? Could you freeze it?

megan Nov 24, 2008 at 5:14 pm

Thanks Shaun. It will keep for a couple of weeks in the ‘fridge, a little longer if you salt it. It definitely doesn’t keep as long as commercial butter. I haven’t tried freezing it, but I can’t see why that wouldn’t work.

gwatts Nov 26, 2008 at 8:16 pm

I have made butter for years just like this (for fun and when I can get really good cream) and yes, it freezes just fine as long as it’s well wrapped.

priscilla Jan 5, 2009 at 11:42 pm

hey megan, I just got kathy farrell-kingsley’s “the home creamery” and am dying to try making butter and some other goodies. where do you get your “local grass fed cream?” could you maybe point me in the right direction? thanks.

megan Jan 6, 2009 at 9:17 am

Hey P! I totally have my eye on that book – let me know how it is! I get my cream from my local food co-op – it’s from a dairy cooperative in PA. There are now a lot of dairies selling at the Farmer’s Markets around NYC, though – one I like is Milk Thistle farms (don’t know if they have cream yet, they were working on it last time I talked to them) but there are def. others. Good luck!

priscilla (a.k.a. aymagrup) Jan 21, 2009 at 11:27 am

hey, by the way I tried to butter recipes from “the home creamery” yesterday. For the sake of demonstrating how simple it is to make butter, she includes one recipe that simply entails shaking the heck out of a cup of cream in a pint jar, then washing the butter and kneading it with a wooden spoon – great for hyperactive kids because it takes about a half an hour to form butter this way. Her more practical method uses a food processor to churn the cream, then directs you to transfer the butter solids to a colander to knead and get the remaining liquid out, but I found that a lot of the butter was also going through the holes, so I just transferred it to a bowl instead. overall a good primer though, and i like that she includes multiple methods for making the same thing.

The Pioneer Cookerella Jan 15, 2011 at 6:09 pm

What a great post. I set out to make some buttermilk today because I was out and didn’t have any buttermilk powder either. The butter was a nice bonus! I didn’t know about the rinsing, but I am glad to have learned! I’ll be doing that next.

I’ve already been scouring amazon for a butter keeper now. Once you go fresh, its hard to go back!

:: from the kitchen :: « Malory Rebekah Jun 27, 2011 at 2:05 pm

[...] I am using this tutorial: Homemade Butter [...]

Lise Aug 23, 2011 at 3:38 pm

This is fantastic. I have my cream but without my old butter churn I was wondering how in the world I was going to make this happen. I have a kitchen Aid. Thank you so much for providing this information. Im tickled pink.

Kayleigh Sep 2, 2011 at 7:22 am

Its really easy and really quick just done it in my lunch break took me 10mins did it with my Kenwood Mixer! Used Jersey Double Cream from Fultons sooo tasty with a teaspoon of crushed sea salt mixed in! Tried it on a soft fresh cob yum yum yum :-)

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