ashley englishsmall measures

small measures with ashley: homemade butter

by Ashley

I don’t recall exactly when the switch occurred, but sometime in the mid- 80’s, our house went from being a butter-eating domain to a margarine-eating one. I can’t really blame my mom, as margarine was all the rage back then. Right along with and “,” consuming margarine was de rigueur health-wise at the time. Butter’s pleasures weren’t entirely gone from my life, though. Whenever I’d visit my dad and his wife, there would be sticks of the stuff chilling in the fridge, spread on hot toast, dolloped atop Pop’s “world famous” pancakes, and slathered over ears of steaming Jersey corn.

Perhaps owing to that period of buttery abstinence, I’m now a firm believer in the stuff. Butter is a mainstay chez English. And not just any butter, but homemade butter. Say it with me-homemade butter. You just swooned a little bit, didn’t you? For today’s “Small Measures with Ashley“, we’re making butter. It’s easier than you can imagine and delivers a product far superior in taste and considerably less costly than its wrapper-clad cousin.

CLICK HERE for the full post and how-to after the jump!

There are two simple means of rendering butter at home-with a food processor, or shaken in a glass jar. I’ll provide details for both processes. The ingredients for either method are consistent, though: two cups of heavy cream. And that is all. Salt is entirely optional. If you’ve got cream, you’re almost there. Introduce a means of aeration and it’s go time.

We’ll begin with making butter via a food processor. In days past, dashers, plungers, and churns toned biceps while beating cream into buttery submission. In today’s kitchen, though, the food processor takes care of the job for you.

Method #1: Homemade Butter, via food processor

Yield: Approximately 1 cup.

The Goods:

-2 cups heavy cream

-Cutting board

– ¼ tsp. salt (optional)

-Food processor

The Deal:

1) Let the cream first come to room temperature, or right around 72-74° F (22-23° C). Simply set the cream in a container on the kitchen counter, put a dairy thermometer into it, and check on it every 30 minutes or so until the temperature rises. This step lets the cream ripen a bit, raising its acidity, thereby making it easier to whip and full of flavor.

2) Put the cream inside of a food processor, secure the lid, and start running the machine.

3) The cream will begin to go through several butter-forming stages: first sloshy, then stiff, then finally dividing ranks and forming separately into butter and buttermilk. Machine times for achieving these stages will vary, but will generally take between 6-9 minutes (I average around 8).

4) Using a spatula, remove the butter from the machine. Place the buttery mass into a sieve put atop a medium-sized mi bowl. Leave for a few minutes, allowing the liquid (which is real-deal buttermilk!) to drain off.

5) Transfer butter to a medium-sized bowl. Standing at the sink, start running cold water into the bowl. Empty the water out, repeating several times until the water is clear in the bowl. Strain off any remaining water.

6) If you want to include salt, stir it in now with a metal spoon. Otherwise, put the butter mass on a cutting board.

7) Using either clean hands, a rubber spatula, or a wooden spoon, begin pressing the butter repeatedly, allowing any liquid inside of it to drain off. Continue pressing until no liquid is visibly coming out when pressed.

8) Storage depends on when you plan on using your butter. You can either store it at room temperature in a butter crock, chill or freeze it in wax or parchment paper, or a store it in a container in the refrigerator or the freezer.

Maybe you don’t own a food processor. Or perhaps you want to prove to yourself that muscle power alone is all that’s necessary to create butter. Whatever brought you here, here’s how to get the job done:

Method #2: Homemade Butter, via shaking

Yield: Approximately 1 cup.

The Goods:

-1 quart-sized jar & lid

-2 cups heavy cream

-1 glass marble

-Cutting board

– ¼ tsp. salt (optional)

The Deal:

1) Follow step #1 above.

2) Put the cream and marble inside of your jar, secure the lid firmly, and start shaking as vigorously as possible.

3) Continue shaking the jar until the cream starts to thicken. This change will be heralded by the sound of the “slosh” becoming more of a “thud.” The time it will take for this transformation to occur will vary widely based on how often and how intensely the jar is shaken. Anywhere between 5-30 minutes will do the job.

4) Using a spatula, remove the butter from the jar. Find the marble in the mass and set it aside. Place buttery mass into a sieve put atop a medium-sized mi bowl. Leave for a few minutes, allowing the liquid to drain off.

5) Follow steps #5-8 above.

And there you have it. Delicious, fresh, whipped butter from your own two hands! Ever made butter yourself? Ever wanted to? Well, there’s no time like the present! It’s so very easy, so very affordable, and so very minimal in the packaging arena (always a selling point for me!), which is what “Small Measures” are all about, anyways. –

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  • WOW! I grew up in a house hold that only used margarine – same generation. Now I wouldn’t touch it willingly with a 10 foot pole. Swooning over super simple homemade butter. Happy weekend!

  • Homemade butter is the best! I used a stand mixer to make mine, but I like your food processor method better. I wrote about my first butter-making attempt here: . (There’s a great bread recipe here, too!)

  • You can keep the liquid that separates out from the butter fat; it’s buttermilk, the original stuff, and makes the most amazing pancakes.

    Both butter and buttermilk are easily frozen so you can keep some for later.

  • I love this recipe. It looks deceivingly simple. I’m sure I’ll find some way to mess it up, but who cares? You’ll have some kind of butter when you finish, right?

    I wonder what other kinds of flavored butter we could make? Yummm…

  • we made butter in kindergarten and spread it on saltine crackers. it was one of the best tastes i’ve ever tasted! this has me drooling!! :)

  • When I was in primary school we made butter as a project… took us a couple weeks of saving the cream from the top of whole milk bottles then we spent ages shaking it in a jar. Of course it would’ve been far easier to just buy the cream but this was England: we rarely do anything the easy way! :)
    There’s nothing like eating toast with your own homemade butter on top… especially when you’re 7!

  • kathryn-it should last about a week in the fridge. try to keep from getting any breadcrumbs or jam in it, and it will keep quite well.

    alexandra-indeed it is! i think i picked it up at sur la table or williams sonoma a long time ago…can’t recall exactly…

    ban clothing-yes, a standing mixer will do the trick, as well. i’d actually use the paddle attachment instead of the whisk, though. and, if you have it, use the splash guard, as it can get messy pretty fast!

  • Try this recipe! I just made butter following Ashley’s “shake” method a few weeks ago and it really is delicious. It’s also incredibly satisfying when, after a LONG time of shaking that mason jar, it all of the sudden turns into butter. You don’t think it will ever happen and then BAM, you’ve got butter instead of cream!

  • This is exciting! I had no idea making butter is so simple. I was curious about the cost factor, though. At my local store at least, 4 sticks of butter is nearly half the cost of purchasing the equivalent amount of heavy cream. I was surprised to discover that.

  • Amazing. I’ve been looking at homemade cheese but am too afraid of both. Coming from Ireland, I’m biased on butter and have eaten it in every country I’ve been to. Nothing will ever beat Irish butter, the yellow shiny kind. I used to get my favourite from Wholefoods, Kerry Gold, by the block when I was in New York. Here in Ireland we store it out of the fridge so it’s spreadable.
    Go try Kerry Gold, you won’t be disappointed!

  • This is a neat idea, almost like making ice cream by shaking it in a bag within a bag of ice and salt!

    Kristina has some good recipes on her link for different flavor combos, that’s cool.

    I have a butter bell, too. But sometimes the butter goes bad all of a sudden, even with changing the water out often.

  • Homemade butter is delicious, but that is NOT the color butter should be. That very pale yellow color a sure sign of a cow that has spent its life indoors, outside of the sun. I buy our butter directly from a farmer that leaves his cows outside, eating grass in the sunshine. Here’s what real butter looks like (it’s a recipe for ghee, but you can see the raw butter before it’s transformed)

  • @Rachael: I’m an economic idiot — are you saying it’s less economical to make, rather than to buy, butter?

    @Ashley: Most awesome post ever! Two questions: Does the marble really help much? Also, isn’t a week a short shelf-life for butter?

  • My sister and I love making homemade butter together and I’m surprised that you’ve failed to mention the best bit- experimenting with flavor!

    I love to throw in a little rosemary, dill, chives, garlic, ANYTHING to add an interesting pop to the butter. If you’re throwing a party you can evenly divide your room temperature cream, toss in some herbs, and end up with a few pots of differently flavored butter to throw out on the table.

    I also love sprinkling the finished products with different salts or peppers I have floating around the house. Fleur de Sel is great but I’ve even tried alaea and smoked salt. Not all my experiments have turned out… the best, but it’s always exciting to play a little kitchen science when making butter at home.

  • allison, blayne & carlie: my post from last week has all kinds of ideas for additions to butter:

    rachael-i can’t speak for all pricing, but where i live, it’s considerably cheaper to buy a pint of organic heavy cream (about $3.50 or so) than it is to buy packaged organic butter (about $6.00 a box). even going the non-organic route, cream will put you back about $2 whereas boxed butter would be around $3-4.

    vanessa & laura: yes! save that buttermilk and use it in pancakes, biscuits, waffles, cornbread, or anywhere else calling for buttermilk. it’s delicious!

    zoe: indeed, kerry gold is delicious. all that gorgeous irish grass renders such a lovely yellow cream, doesn’t it?!

    laura: i’m not sure about making it in a blender, so i can’t truly vouch for that method. give it a try, though!

  • I wonder if adding a dollop of Greek yogurt or creme fraiche to the cream would yield something akin to the cultured butter found in Brittany? That is the best butter I’ve ever had in my life. Have you tried this Ashley? Off to experiment.

  • tara: the butter pictured was actually made from organic, grass-fed, pastured heavy cream, by cows who spend their entire lives foraging on grass. it’s the only kind of cream i ever use in making my butter. as a rule of thumb, butter is much paler in the winter than it is during warmer months, when cows are munching on different vegetation available that’s more pronounced in beta-carotene, which is responsible for the yellow tint.
    the butter in the photo above is also considerably more yellow in person than the photo appears to be. our house is really, really dark inside (great for keeping heat out in the summer, but not so ideal for taking photos!), so i photographed the butter outdoors on wednesday, on a super sunny day. the yellow hue was a bit lost, as a result.

    alix-i’ve found that the marble really does aid in aeration. you could certainly give it a go without it, though, and see if it still whips properly. as for the shelf life, if you don’t add salt, which acts as a preservative, it spoils more rapidly. with salt, though, it might last longer. i just wanted to give a conservative estimate.

  • I once stumbled on heavy cream on sale……quarts for only 50 cents each due to the expiration date being close! I bought 6 of them, took them home and made butter, then froze the butter I didn’t need immediately. It was delicious! So be sure to watch for sales, especially right after holidays like Thanksgiving.

  • My 9-yr old daughter has chosen butter making for her school’s science symposium here in Seattle. Imagine her delight when I showed her this post today. She will properly cite your article in her bibliography as one of her research sources. Thanks for the tip on the marble. Cheers!

  • Sorry if this was mentioned above (I only scanned the comments) but you can get excellent results with an everday handmixer with a regular beater attachment.

  • best memory from elementary school was making butter in 3rd grade. how easy- and how wonderful! thanks for reawakening the thought and inspiring the re-creation! i actually have a recipe right now that calls for garlic butter–guess where we’ll find it?

  • Be careful about substituting the leftover liquid in some recipes – unless you have really let it the milk clabber, it won’t rise properly in pancakes or biscuits for example.

    As for cost, I get a gallon of fresh milk for $7 at a local farm. I can make five cups of yogurt, a cup of cottage cheese, half a cup of butter and still have some half and half and whole milk in the fridge. Plus the whey that’s leftover after making cottage cheese is excellent in yeast breads.

    The part I always have trouble with is rinsing butter well enough that it will keep. If any of the liquid stays in it, it goes rancid pretty quick – like the next day. I haven’t tried smooshing it on a cutting board before so I’ll do that next time.

  • Wow, I had no idea how simple this would be! I’ll have to try it this weekend. I’m thinking it might be really good adding in some cinnamon and honey to put on biscuits!

  • I LOVE homemade butter and this post has my mouth watering! I have never heard of the “rinsing” step before. Does this help remove the excess buttermilk?

  • Tara, your claim that a paler yellow is a “sure sign” that a cow spent its life indoors just isn’t true. As a rule of thumb, grassfed cows produce yellower milk, but there are actually a number of factors that go into level of yellowness (which comes from oxidization of the beta-carotene) including time of year, breed of the cow, and the available vegetation. Typically, milk produced in the wintertime is much paler than in the warmer months. Some breeds, such as Jersey cows, produce a yellower color milk than others. And the level of beta-carotene can vary greatly in different vegetation. I’m sure you meant well, and I appreciate our shared passion for grassfed beef. By the way, I checked out your blog, and I am a huge fan of Allan Savory’s work with sustainable pasturing as well. I was thrilled that he won the Buckminster Fuller Challenge last year. Ashley actually did a post here on DS about Savory’s work and the Buckminster Fuller challenge after he won:

  • Ashley, great post. About the cost, though, I think your weights and measures might be off. A pint of cream is the same weight as a regular pound-size box of butter (“a pint’s a pound the world around!”), but since it takes about twice as much cream as the amount of butter you end up with, it makes sense that the same volume of butter would be about twice as expensive as that much cream. Making butter is super fun though. I worked on a farm for a little while that had a raw milk dairy…when I wanted to make a pie I’d first make butter from that day’s cream, then pick the fruit before making the dough. The freshest, best pie ever.

  • Thanks for sharing this, I’ve always wanted to do it – my mother in law use to make it by getting her children to roll a jar full of cream up and down the hallway, so I guess there’s no limit to how to do it.

  • So funny because I just started making my own butter recently, but I kinda did it by mistake. I was making whipped cream to go with berries, but I left it in the stand mixer a little too long. Once it gets past the whipped cream stage, it gets really thick, and then BAM, buttermilk starts pouring out and you start to see the solids. I didn’t use a dairy thermometer, just cream in my stand mixer, and then I poured the buttermilk/butter into a sieve over a bowl, pressed it through to get rid of the buttermilk, then scooped up the butter in my bare hands and kneaded it under cold running water to get rid of the buttermilk and to give it that shiny look. It looked gorgeous! It doesn’t have to be complicated! You can even continue whipping it after to get a whipped butter. I added some fancy sea salt to mine (a little goes a long way) and we ate it on fresh bread that night. It lasted about a week and then I tossed it.

    As far as cost goes, we frequently buy cream in larger quantities because for some mysterious reason, the larger containers are often not much more expensive than the smaller ones. We also buy non homogenized whole milk, with the fat/cream on top, so we have that constantly around too… coupled with the occasional sale on heavy cream around the holidays, it can be economical to make your own butter, you just have to plan it right :)

  • Also, cooking with this butter is a dream…somehow it melts so much better than the storebought stuff. It really is the little things!

  • I have been making fresh butter for a couple of years now. I started making it in the food processor, but have switched to my stand mixer. I think it is really just personal preference, both work well. If you use the stand mixer use the paddle attachment, unless you want whipped butter. I also do the first few washings in the mixer, after I pour off the buttermilk. I use the mixer bowl for everything, decreasing the amount of dished to wash!

  • So glad to see this post! Making butter is super easy and delicious – I grew up on a Guernsey dairy farm and making butter was a weekly chore. My mom used (and still uses) a hand cranked butter churn to make butter.
    To wash her butter she dumps it into a stainless steel bowl and runs cold water over it – while using a wooden spoon to squish the extra buttermilk out. She freezes it and uses it to bake – it’s no wonder her bread is fantastic!
    I’ll second what someone said earlier – the time of the year and the type of cow that produced the cream will affect the color and taste of the butter. Guernsey cattle (besides having fantastic personalities and being adorable) produce milk high in butterfat, protein and beta-carotene. The milk they (and other breeds such as Jerseys) produce will taste noticeably different than the milk you buy from large commercial farms. Support your local small dairy farms! *steps off soapbox*
    Thanks d*s!

  • So much can belost in a generation – I know this is the blogosphere, but really, making butter was an every day occurance only a generation or two ago. Let’s not make too much of it! Let’s not make too much of ourselves here. Oh look, I made butter!

  • I can’t believe no one has ever over beaten whipping cream before? Well when it starts to get grainy keep on going it will get thicker and separate!

  • Wonderful! I always imagined needing some sort of very old fashioned butter churn & a milk maid. This seems very simple & you get the added bonus of making buttermilk, too! Thank you for posting these instructions.

  • I did see one mention / question about a butter bell. A proper butter bell is the ONLY way to keep (and use) butter, however it may be made: butterbell.com The good, old-fashioned L. Tremain butter bell! Be changed and rejoice!

  • So inspiring. My favorite food memories have to do with fresh baguettes and “real” butter in Normandy. I’ve tried all sorts of imported butters, but this sounds exactly right — and do-able! Also, I still don’t have to go out and invest in a food processor; I can just use my stand mixer.

  • Yes! I’m obsessed with a certain kind of butter that I’ve only seen in France – it has large crystals of sea salt throughout, and it’s amazing on a fresh baguette. I made this last night and added some course sel gris instead of regular salt. France, you still have many unique pleasures… but now this butter is something I can have anytime!

  • I haven’t had homemade butter in such a long time. I remember making it but with a little block of wood. I might be wrong as my memory fails me often. Glad i have a stand mixer. Thanks for this!

  • if you use the shaking jar method, it helps to make sure the jar stays quite cold. I put it in the fridge for an hour or so, or even the freezer! It helps the butter mass solidify.

  • I really need to try this.
    The only prob is – not sure if it’s the same everywhere else – but good cream is more expensive and harder to get than good butter.

    My local store sells organic or Lurpak butter for around $4AUD yet there is only one good brand of cream (Elgar Farm from Tassie)…and normal cream is around the $2.50 mark for 300ml.
    So there’s not much of a cost benefit.
    I still want to give it a go though!

  • Made my butter this afternoon and slathered it on some homemade bread. Delicious! Thank you for this fun how-to!

  • Esz-As for price, I’ve found that issue to have raised a lot of questions with Design Droits-Humains readers. Perhaps I ought to have qualified my claim that homemade butter costs less by indicating that, the cheaper cost will be completely influenced by several factors, including:
    1) What type of cream you buy-organic/conventional/pint/quart/half-gallon, as well as by 2) What type of butter you typically purchase. I was completely speaking subjectively. My husband and I only buy pastured, grass-fed, organic butter when we buy packaged butter, and it doesn’t come cheap! We do it, though, because we’re committed to the idea of supporting grass-fed, pastured agriculture wherever possible. If one purchased more conventionally produced butter, however, such as a generic store brand, or even something like Land ‘O Lakes, than it might be cheaper to actually buy packaged butter that route than make one’s own. Does that make sense?

    Ultimately, though, it’s not really about price, from my perspective. It’s the same reason I raise my own chickens, can my own produce, and make a number of dairy products at home. It’s about getting closer to foods and food production methods, as well as being in better control over what goes into the foods my family consumes. Sometimes these things cost a bit more than buying ready made, sometimes they don’t. It’s ultimately entirely a matter of personal choice.

    Helen James-I’m sure you could, although I think it might take quite some time to achieve the desired consistency. You’d need to whip it well past the point of whipped cream. As with the reader who asked about using a blender, I’d say, why not? Give it a go and see if it works!

  • Love this. I used to work at a historic site where we made butter with a small hand churn. It was a quart glass jar with a hand crank egg beater through the lid. You put the cream in the jar and started to spin the beaters. Fresh butter in no time.

  • After going through every single comment to pick up extra tips, I finally took the plunge! Not sure if it turned out the way it should though – kind of soft, a whipped consistency, because I had to cut it short since the hubby couldn’t stand the piercing noise of the food processor. I stored some of the pale yellow butter in the fridge, some in the freezer and the rest in a 60-year-old butter crock I have lying around. Hope it doesn’t go bad tomorrow!

  • Deepshadegarden – that cracks me up! It’s so true! I love how excited people get when they try something “new” that’s been done for millenia. DIY was a lifestyle, guys! Not a trend!
    I’ve made my own butter a few times, but I didn’t go to all the trouble of rinsing and rinsing and rinsing, I just shook it, ate it, drank the buttermilk (even though my mom told me not to). I’ve got herbs growing right now, so I think I’ll try some combinations! I wish I was lucky enough to get cream straight from the cow (hey, someday). “All Things Bright And Beautiful”, anyone?

  • Actually, if you make it in a jar you should leave out the marble. Every time I have attempted that I find that the marble breaks risking shards of glass… The marble is really unnecessary so just leave it out.

  • When I was a kid we bought raw milk for a time (before people decided it was ‘bad’ for you) and it usually had several inches of cream on top. We made butter using the mason jar method (shaking for what seemed like forever to a kid – no marble – never heard of that before).

    It is super easy. In fact, the cream that we buy has such a high butter fat content that we can whip it up pretty quickly with an immersion blender attachment. lol

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