Julia Child might be my spirit animal. The mere fact that she once said, “if you’re afraid of butter, use cream” is enough for me. Not to mention the myriad of other amazingly awesome things about her, she was a butter lover. I’m a butter lover too. I love butter like there’s no tomorrow. I love olive oil, don’t get me wrong. Big hunks of crusty bread dipped in a high quality olive oil is as close to heaven as it gets. But butter! There’s NOTHING like butter. And I find I can never have too much of it around. So I decided to try my hand at making my own, & it’s deceptively simple.
Like making homemade bread, making homemade butter has a kind of impressive nature. It practically screams either “AMISH!” or “HOMESTEADER!” Which I assure you I am neither; as best evidenced by my extreme lack of any religion, my nose ring & my obsession for going out to eat & looking in mirrors.
Even if it’s obscenely simple (like this is), it makes people gasp… or at the very least think, “Wow, (s)he makes her own butter.” Or bread. Or whatever. I get this ALL THE TIME. People nowadays have become so supermarket-reliant they think it’s totally unusual & bizarre that I’d make my own pickles, jams, etc; forget about bread. That just really blows them away. Especially if it’s not around the holidays, or if I’m not making a specialty bread… if it’s a plain white bread, a French or an Italian bread, I always hear: “Why not just buy it?”
Sometimes, these are the same people who bitch about chemicals in food & the whole Monsanto thing.
I should totally go buy everything I want to eat or need from the store! Because the stuff you buy there is all made by fairies & elves in magical kitchens in tree trunks of beautiful trees in a magical forest & they’re all natural & good for you. Or better yet, I should eat NOTHING but vegetables & fish, which have no “ingredient list” & require little preparation. Yeah, totally makes sense.
Back to reality: sometimes you want butter. Or bread. And sometimes, you just want to make something yourself. Instead of relying on mass-produced crap all the time shouldn’t we have a backup plan? Shouldn’t you know 100% of what goes into your food? I’m not one to preach about what you ought to eat- trust me, I’m a pizza fanatic who loves Coke Zero. But there are times when you just need to create something yourself. And not only need to- but should.
And you want to know something else about me? I don’t always buy organic fruits or vegetables *GASP* I know. It’s horrible. However… I love making my own food/baked goods/condiments & if given the choice (& if I have the time) I will. Sure, I’ll make my own ketchup once in a while- don’t we all need a break from high fructose corn syrup sometimes? I’ll totally make a few loaves of my own bread or a few jars of specialty homemade jam- don’t we all want to wean ourselves off of our dependency on “the store”? I make my own pickles every year so I never actually buy them. Same with fresh herbs. I don’t know about you, but its lovely to pick a tomato or bunch of basil when you need it instead of getting all dressed & going to buy it. It’s not about GMO’s or Monsanto or how Purdue treats it’s chickens all the time with me. It’s more about getting back to basics. Grow your own food if you can. Make your own food when you can. If it’s not every day… trust me, you’ll do just fine.*
So yes. I made my own butter, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Hell, I’d make it every week. But just an FIY… making your own butter is probably not cheaper than store-bought, unless you make your own cream or can obtain it from a local farm for free, or very cheap. It’s not really cost effective in most cases. But it’s fun, it’s delicious, & it definitely won’t go to waste. I mean, who doesn’t love butter?
We’ve all heard about the “butter in a jar” thing. It’s a great idea for kids with boundless energy & time. But I can’t be shaking a jar for 10-15 minutes, guys. I just can’t. But there’s another way. Here’s what you do:
- You get a stand mixer, some heavy whipping cream & some salt. Six cups of heavy cream will give you 1 lb. of butter (according to this page). I used the two cups that came in the container & I ended up with roughly 8 ounces, give or take.
- I mentioned a stand mixer. Well, hand mixers would make this really difficult (heres the thing, it’s a very lengthy process & while you might think it’ll be okay, once you get started you will regret it. Yes, it’s possible… women & men have churned butter by hand for centuries. But it’s not pleasant or easy). So beg, borrow or steal yourself a stand mixer if you wanna make homemade butter.
- Once you get your mixer hooked up with the whisk attachment, you’re gonna pour the cream into the bowl & whip away. You’re gonna be whipping it a while, so be patient. It’ll probably take around 10 minutes in total of medium-high speed whipping to get you where you want to be. The cream will go through stages- first it’ll be whipped cream with stiff peaks, then it’ll lose volume, then it’ll start to look curdle-y (and this is where it’ll start to splatter so use your splatter guard!), and finally it’ll begin to get pale yellow & grainy. At that point you’ll see the separation between the solid & liquid parts.
- Once you have buttermilk & a mass of yellow “butter”, you’re going to put a mesh strainer over a deep bowl and strain it. You want all (or most) of the liquid out. Pour it into the strainer, pushing down on it to release the liquid. Once it’s all in the strainer, then you’re going to knead & smoosh it to squeeze any remaining “milk” out of it. Be sure to get as much out as you can- leaving it in the butter can lead to premature spoilage.
- If you’re successful, you’ll have a ball of pale yellow butter! However, it’s unsalted butter. So if you’d like to add a bit of sodium flavor, just knead in about 1/4 teaspoon or 1/2 teaspoon of salt. I recommend Kosher salt but table salt will do. Start off small & add the salt to taste! If you do add too much just knead in a little bit of sugar at a time to balance it out, but keep in mind it won’t taste quite the same.
- Put it into jars or ramekins & refrigerate it. If you’ve got an old fashioned butter mold, now’s the time to use it! Or you can fill a pastry bag with it & pipe it with a star-shaped tip into the jars or ramekins for a party or holiday dinner.
I made mine into a softer consistency butter; more like Breakstone’s salted whipped butter than a regular stick. It has a paler color than stick butter & is more spreadable (once it comes to room temperature). If you want a firmer butter, keep whipping until it’s thicker in consistency & a brighter yellow, then proceed with the draining. I wanted this for eating on toast, bread, muffins, pancakes, waffles, etc. If you’re making it for other reasons, if you prefer a firmer butter or you’re making it for kids who might not like too much salt… then do as you will.
You can also split it in half & make half of it a seasoned herb butter. Use herbs like rosemary, or cilantro & some Old Bay seasoning or roasted chopped garlic & chopped sun dried tomatoes. That seasoned half can be used melted on corn on the cob, roasted meats or as a spread for bread.
Ugh. Butter is amazing.
And either way, no matter what you add or don’t add the flavor is great. Even if you make it with plain old supermarket whipping cream, you’ll be amazed at the taste. It doesn’t taste like store-bought butter but yet it does. It’s definitely butter, but it sort of redefines butter for you. Unless you’ve been eating homemade butter your whole life. In which case I’m preaching to the choir.
It doesn’t last as long as store-bought butter; you’ve gotta use it pretty quick. But i’s divine on some spent grain bread (you’ll hear more about that soon) or sourdough bread, let me tell you. Oh, if only I lived near a farm that would provide me with free (or cheap) fresh cream! I’d make homemade butter all the time.