If you don’t know how to make butter, you’re missing out on one of the easiest homesteading products. Follow this short tutorial to learn how to make butter using raw or pasteurized cream, cow or goat milk, cultured or quick, with or without electricity.
Old-fashioned butter churns were how pioneers processed large quantities of cream. But it can be made just as easily in a mason jar, freezer container, blender, or stand mixer. The process is ridiculously simple: Take cold cream and whip it. Then whip it some more. Keep at it until you look in your mixer and say, “Oh, butter!” It’s that obvious and that simple.
How to Make Butter: Raw or Pasteurized?
If you can’t acquire raw milk in your area, you can successfully make butter with pasteurized cream. And unlike with cheesemaking, ultra-pasteurized cream works as well.
Originally, all butter was made from raw milk. Among other goat milk benefits enjoyed by small homesteads, the cream could be skimmed off, collected for a day or so, then whipped into both butter and buttermilk. And it was made often because raw milk butter has a shelf life of about ten days. Bacteria, both good or bad, are alive and active within raw milk. Then, over 90 years before Louis Pasteur discovered that heating liquids to kill most bacteria kept it from going sour, European dairymen learned that scalding and straining cream made butter keep longer. Butter made from pasteurized cream can be stored up to several months.
If you own dairy animals or have access to raw milk, you can choose whether or not to scald your cream then chill it before making butter. But if you’re at the mercy of the grocery store, simply choose any carton of fresh heavy whipping cream. Don’t use half-and-half, whole milk, or coffee creamers.
How to Make Butter: Cultured or Fresh?
Just like how all butter was once raw, it also used to be cultured. That’s one of the raw milk benefits. Milk contains lactic acid bacteria. And, unless it’s immediately chilled then whipped, the bacteria will grow. This isn’t a bad thing, as long as milk was collected with sanitary methods. Lactic acid bacteria are one of the good guys. It’s the other culprits which put you in danger.
Now, butter made the old way is called European style or cultured butter. Raw milk is collected, allowed to sit at room temperature for a day or so, then chilled and whipped into butter. It has a sour, tangier flavor that most Americans haven’t experienced because our butter is pasteurized. Separation of butter from buttermilk also gives you “cultured buttermilk,” the kind you need for leavening batter breads and biscuits. The buttermilk from pasteurized cream doesn’t contain live, active cultures so it doesn’t have most of buttermilk’s health benefits. It also doesn’t have the acidity that makes it an important leavening ingredient.
If you only have access to pasteurized cream, you can still make cultured butter. First, you need to culture the cream. Bring it to room temperature (70-75° F) within a sterile container. Add a powdered culture such as mesophilic or direct-set sour cream or buttermilk cultures purchased from cheesemaking supply stores. After letting the cream sit for 12 to 24 hours, chill it thoroughly before moving on to the next step.
You can also inoculate with existing cultured buttermilk, but be sure the package states it “contains live, active cultures.” Using powdered cultures is a safer, surer way to ripen the cream because the bacteria is pure, healthy, and a guaranteed strength. Store-bought buttermilk doesn’t have those guarantees. Using a better culture means good bacteria will grow before the bad guys have a chance to invade.
How to Make Butter: Goat or Cow?
Both are tasty. But you’ll notice one distinct difference between goat milk butter and that of cow milk. Cow butter is often light yellow while goat butter is white. This is because cow milk contains more beta carotene from what the animal eats, though the color of both cow and goat butter can vary based on what the individual animal consumes. Commercial butter producers may augment color by adding annatto, carotene, or other food colorings during the manufacturing process.
One big advantage of cow milk is that the cream is extraordinarily cheaper to purchase. Two quarts of heavy whipping cream is less than $5 for non-organic. If you can find that price on goat cream, let me know where so I can gas up my truck and start driving.
Goats are less expensive to keep than cows. They also require less acreage. Goat butter is a treat enjoyed by homesteaders who can keep these feisty dairy animals and envied by those who must drool from afar, restrained by local laws and regulations.
Think only cow and goat milk can be used for butter? Nope. It’s manufactured from the milk of mammals, and cow is just the most common. People from different regions eat butter from sheep, buffalo, yak, and even llama and alpaca.
How to Make Butter: Electric or Mason Jar?
Here’s the fun part. It’s where I show you how to make butter using what’s already on your kitchen tools list.
First, let’s talk electric appliances. A stand mixer is the handiest because it has a deep bowl, adjustable speeds, and a paddle attachment. Though a balloon whisk or blender blades will also make butter, you then have to scrape the butter off the blades or from between the wires. Paddle attachments take more time but you make up for that time during cleanup.
You want any machine which agitates the butter and lets you retrieve it afterward. Single-serving blenders may be too small and you’ll just frustrate yourself trying to retrieve the delicious substance from inside.
Empty cold heavy whipping cream into the mixer bowl. Drape a towel over the mixer to prevent splashing. Start the machine on low, steadily increasing to medium so you don’t slosh all the cream out of the bowl. Don’t go above medium because, though it will turn to butter either way, a slow-and-steady pace makes a better product.
First, the paddle whips the cream. It thickens into a white, slightly sweet mass you long to put on pumpkin pie. Then, as you continue to churn, the whipped cream takes on a rough texture. Don’t stop now. You’re almost there. Within less than a minute, that rough white cream will separate into yellowish chunks and white liquid. Mix another minute so the chunks come together into a more workable mass. This entire process should take five to 15 minutes.
Stop the mixer. If you’re saving the buttermilk, strain it off and store in the refrigerator. The butter will be so solid you can probably scoop it right out with a slotted spoon. You can also pour the entire mixture through cheesecloth or butter muslin, collecting the buttermilk beneath.
You’re not done yet. That butter still has traces of buttermilk, which will reduce storage life. Rinse out the bowl, place the butter back in, and add ½ to one cup ice water. Press and work the butter in the water to break up pockets of buttermilk. Pour off the now-cloudy water and add more ice water. Keep doing this until the water is clear.
Remove the butter from the water and squeeze out any remaining moisture. If you like salted butter, knead in enough salt until it tastes just right. If you want butter unsalted, simply pack the butter into a covered container and place it in the refrigerator.
Now let’s make “Butter, the Unplugged Edition.” Knowing how to make butter in a jar gives you a couple advantages: You can make it without electricity, such as on a camping trip or at a renaissance fair. Or you can dump cold cream into a tightly closed and unbreakable container and hand it to your children to alleviate boredom. The process is simple: Put cold cream in a jar. Close the jar. Shake for at least 20 minutes. Take turns or prepare for a great workout. Once the yellow butter separates from the buttermilk, strain it then wash with ice water as described above.
How to Make Butter: Using Homemade Butter
Now that you’ve made delicious homemade butter, what do you do with it? Simple. Everything you’d do with store-bought butter. Top hot, fresh no-knead artisan bread or smother pancakes that you’ve made with reserved buttermilk. Dollop atop those potatoes you just dug from the garden. But be prepared for quicker spoilage than with store-bought butter. Keep it in the fridge, because there are no preservatives to let it sit for weeks on the counter. Use it up before it can become less-than-delicious and make some more. Now that you know how to make butter, churning up another batch is no problem.
Do you know how to make butter? How often do you make it? What’s your favorite food to eat with homemade butter? Let us know in the comments below.