See that dreamy yellow stuff up there? Well, it’s butter! And I made that! It didn’t even occur to me that I could make it myself, but it’s actually pretty simple. The only ingredient is cream. Unless you salt your butter, in which case, you also need salt.
The difference between fresh, homemade butter and store-bought is amazing. This stuff just tastes fresh and buttery! I don’t know how else to describe it. Of course, any butter is good butter, but homemade is the best butter.
A note about cream: you don’t want to use ultra-pasteurized, which is heated to a higher temperature than “regular” pasteurized cream to get rid of harmful bacteria. It tends to have a more chemical and cooked flavor and it’s harder to whip up. I used an organic, pasteurized cream from Whole Foods. They also had raw milk (not pasteurized) from grass-fed cows, but a quart was $14! I wasn’t ready to pay that kind of money, but I would love to try it some day. There’s a great article at Chow comparing flavors of different kinds of milk if you want to learn more.
Anyway, butter is made by beating cream until it separates. You need either a hand mixer or a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. If you are going to salt it, try about 1/3 to 1/2 teaspoon per half pound of butter. I like to keep mine unsalted. Read the rest of the post for a step-by-step photo tutorial on how to make butter from scratch.
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Let us know in the comments below if you have any success making your own butter!
Step 1: Buy some pasteurized or raw cream. Make sure it has at least 36% fat content. How much cream is up to you. I used a quart. Let it sit at room temperature for about an hour.
Step 2: Put your cream into a large bowl.
Step 3: Start beating the cream on high with your whisk attachment. Realize cream is splashing everywhere and get a larger bowl. Ok, maybe that part was just me. You will reach soft peaks. Alas, I passed this stage without photographing it. Let me explain: when you beat cream, first it will thicken into the soft peaks stage. This means that when you lift your beaters out of the cream, it will softly droop downward.
Step 4: If you continue beating, your cream will reach the stiff peaks stage. This means that when you lift your beaters, the cream will stand stiffly and point straight out, like so:
Step 5: Continue beating and the cream becomes very thick and starts to take on texture. This is how I like whipped cream on my desserts, even though most people stop at the stiff peaks stage.
Step 6: Keep whipping and now your cream will become, for lack of a better word, chunky. Watch closely at this stage, because you’re almost there!
Step 7: Now, all of a sudden, your cream will break and your beaters will start splashing liquid all over the place. That means it’s time to stop beating!
You can see that the butter curds here turned a very rich shade of yellow. And that white liquid? It’s buttermilk!
Step 8: Drain the butter using a sieve set over a small bowl. You could also just pour off the liquid and save yourself a step.
Put the buttermilk in the fridge, but remember that it’s fresh, not cultured. (More info on cultured vs. uncultured buttermilk) You can add a little bit of vinegar or lemon juice to approximate cultured buttermilk and then use it to make raspberry buttermilk cake or some homemade ranch dressing. Here’s the buttermilk I drained off:
Step 9: While still in the sieve, work the butter with a rubber spatula. That buttermilk is hiding in pockets inside the butter. Look at these little white droplets of buttermilk coming out of the woodwork. The dreamy, delicious woodwork.
Step 10: Put the butter into a bowl and add some cold water. Then work it with your rubber spatula. You want to get all the buttermilk out to lengthen your butter’s shelf life. The water will get cloudy. Drain and add some more fresh water. Continue draining, working with a spatula, and adding fresh water until the water is clear. Drain.
Step 10a (optional): After you’ve drained the clear water, you can salt your butter. I like to keep mine unsalted, which is why I don’t have a picture. But if you want, use about 1/3 to 1/2 teaspoon per 1/2 pound of butter and work it in with the spatula. You can also embellish here. Add some chopped basil and parsley to make herb butter. Or add some honey and orange zest for a sweet citrus butter. Be creative! The sky’s the limit.
Step 11: Enjoy your fresh and delicious butter on a toasted English muffin with a drizzle of honey. It’s the best way.
Step 12: Even though it looks pretty set out on a plate, you should keep the butter in an airtight container in the fridge. Butter’s really good at absorbing all those funky refrigerator smells, so make sure it’s sealed tightly.
Out of a quart of cream, I got 1 cup of buttermilk and about 7 ounces of butter. I’d recommend making smaller batches than that, since the fresh taste will only stay for so long.
I’ve heard about people making butter by just shaking cream in a jar. Does that method actually work? Seems like it would take hours…