How (not) To Make Butter

Deena Wachtel is a Stay At Home Foodie, obsessed with food and intent on changing her finicky family into a foodie family. She lives by a set of FOODosophies and has pledged to get her kids into the kitchen to teach them how to cook and love good-tasting food. It’s not always pretty and there are nights when the kids go hungry. But, for her, it’s all for the greater good. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.

This is a guest post for October Unprocessed. If this is your first time here, welcome! …and it’s not too late to join in!

I am so excited to be participating in this year’s October Unprocessed. I remember coming across last year’s challenge and being in awe of the commitment. To be part of it this year is unreal. Thank you, Andrew for giving me this opportunity. And I’m sorry for completely blowing my task.

You see, homemade food is sort of a passion of mine. Or… more like an obsession. Ever since I became a mom, I’ve become one of those crazy label readers and “fake” food (i.e., processed food) haters.

I’ve been known to make my own ice cream, granola, cheese, bread, crackers … well, you get the picture.

I’m also a bit over-zealous about getting my girls involved. And am determined to teach them where food comes from.

When you put these personality traits together you get me rolling jars of cream around the house for what seemed like FOREVER in a futile attempt to teach my kids the very cool lesson of how cream turns into butter.

Well, at least I think it’s pretty cool.

The science experiment itself is pretty simple… fill a glass jar half-way with cream, add a marble, and shake.

And shake. And shake. And shake. Oh – and did I mention that you have to SHAKE?

The process is simple. The labor involved is, well, laborious.

The cream first turns into a soft whipped cream and then – all of a sudden – it miraculously clumps into butter and releases the buttermilk. It really is food magic.

And I wanted my girls to participate in the magic.

My oldest – who is only seven – refused to help. She had made butter in camp this year and knew what was involved. She scoffed at me and walked out of the room.

My youngest, always mommy’s little helper, joined for about two minutes.

She had fun shaking her tush – insisting that one’s bum needed to me moving in order to make BUTT-er. After about 90 seconds of butt butter shaking, she cooled off by placing the two jars of cold cream on her cheeks.

And then she got bored and left.

It took me another 35 minutes of shaking, rolling, and rocking that damn cream in order to get the butter to separate. Everyone in the house kept walking past me, shaking their heads in wonder – or amazement – that I took on this project.

But when the butter finally separated I felt AMAZING! I felt accomplished and totally inspired by the magic of food! I actually ran through the whole house screaming “I did it! I MADE butter!”

Nobody even looked up.

Not even my youngest.

I MADE butter!

Butter, people.

Without electricity!

Without help.

Butter, people. Butter!

Nope. Nobody cared.

My husband made an offhand remark about how I would be a good Amish wife.


The most devastating part – aside from the total lack of enthusiasm about my super cool food magic – was how little butter was actually produced. I – like a total idiot – poured the buttermilk down the drain and was left with a little over a tablespoon of butter.

Will I make butter again? Yes. Because I can, and because I am forever in awe of the remarkable changes that happen to simple ingredients. But next time, I’m using THIS method.

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33 Responses to How (not) To Make Butter

  1. Stephanie October 5, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

    Amazing how people use to do this regularly back in a day! I totally have to make my own butter now.

  2. Charul @ Tadka Masala October 5, 2012 at 2:23 am #

    Hi Deena,
    Well, in India (esp the rural parts) we always make our own butter. I have seen my mom making that endless times. Yes, it is a tedious and time consuming task. But, homemade butter tastes so much better, it is fresh, it is more creamy and definitely more delicious.
    The buttermilk which is left behind can be used it is the perfect skimmed buttermilk with almost zero fat. Here, in India we add some salt and roasted cumin powder and have it as a drink.

    • Deena @ stay at home FOODIE October 5, 2012 at 5:20 pm #

      Charul – I’ve never heard of drinking the buttermilk. It’s probably delicious.

      • Charul @ Tadka Masala October 6, 2012 at 9:48 am #

        Well, I guess it would also depend on the milk we are using. I guess my mom used to use normal milk without any processing or anything. Directly from the dairy.

  3. Rachel (Hounds in the Kitchen) October 4, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

    I’ve found that temperature is key too. I use a half gallon jar with a quart of cream and make a cup or more of butter with about five minutes of shaking IF the cream has come to room temperature first. I like doing it by hand – I figure the arm exercise offsets that calories in the finished product by a little bit.

  4. Dorothy at ShockinglyDelicious October 4, 2012 at 11:18 am #

    Deena, Deena, Deena, first off, well done on making butter! Secondly, don’t throw away the buttermilk! You will use it in baking, or making pancakes, or muffins. Divine!

    • Deena October 4, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

      Dorothy. I realized my mistake as I was pouring it down the sink. I guess I was too wrapped up in the actual butter. Oops.

  5. Cathy @ She Paused 4 Thought October 4, 2012 at 11:02 am #

    I was as excited and proud of myself as you when I first made butter… in the kitchen-aid mixer. I didn’t know you could make it in a jar by shaking. You never know when that bit of information will come in handy! Great post.

  6. Christina October 4, 2012 at 10:34 am #

    Using a bread machine works great too!

  7. Lp johnson October 4, 2012 at 10:02 am #

    Hahahaha! Use a stick blender in a pint jar next time, takes a couple minutes. Throw in herbs or garlic, too. You can slightly under-do & get a spreadable butter.

  8. Liz October 4, 2012 at 9:53 am #

    I did the jar method in elementary school, and knew I didn’t want to do that again. I found a ceramic churn at a swap meet for about $10 and it made some amazing butter…until someone knocked it off the table. While it was full and waiting for the cream to come to room temperature. Now I just use my stand mixer.

  9. Stephanie, The Recipe Renovator October 4, 2012 at 8:53 am #

    When all the power goes out, we will all the the tribal elders.

  10. Sarah October 4, 2012 at 8:26 am #

    Nothing wrong with living like it is 1912 on a farm 😉 How about I cheer you on “WWWOOOOOO! You made butter!!” Hehheh!

  11. Destiney Yates October 4, 2012 at 8:20 am #

    lmao yeah we did this once after my son found it in a book needles to say we never actually got everyone to finish there butter oh and i cheated >.> <.< i put my jars on the washer and left them to shake over a few rinse cycles. lol and then my youngest got mad because daddy ate her butter!

    • Deena @ stay at home FOODIE October 4, 2012 at 9:32 am #

      Great story! I get why the kids continue to learn this in science, but maybe they should update the methodology to include a stand mixer or food processor.

  12. Erika Kerekes October 4, 2012 at 8:15 am #

    Well, I may not make a good Amish wife, but I do have a much easier way of making butter. Less mess, too. Put a pint of cream in your food processor. Turn on the button. Walk away. Come back in about 5 minutes. Butter.

  13. Reverend Greenhat October 4, 2012 at 6:21 am #

    I’ve made butter like that a few times, and it is a lot easier to cleanup than the stand mixer method. A few tips:

    1) Use a larger jar. I will usually use a quart size mason jar. This allows you to create more butter at a time, and the jar is large enough to give you enough agitation that you can omit the marble.

    2) Let you cream set out for a few hours and come to room temperature, this will make the fat in it softer and easier to clump together, meaning less shaking to make butter.

    3) If you want, add a little natural oil (like olive oil) and mix it in with your finished butter if you keep it in the fridge. This will prevent it from turning into a brink when it gets cold. It doesn’t take a lot, and can give it a nice flavor.

    • Deena October 4, 2012 at 9:18 am #

      Ugggg…. I should havr consulted you BEFORE I tried it. To be fair, though, I used small jars to make it easier for small hands.

    • Deena October 4, 2012 at 9:19 am #

      Ugggg…. I should have consulted you BEFORE I tried it. FYI, I used small jars to make it easier for small hands.

  14. Heather October 4, 2012 at 4:17 am #

    I have never done the jar and marble method for butter. Eventually, if we all have to turn amish, I am sure I can do it, but for now I am going to keep using my kitchenaid :-)

    • Deena October 4, 2012 at 9:15 am #

      Heather – good choice. Doing it in a jar is a ton of work.

    • Deena October 4, 2012 at 9:16 am #

      Heather – good choice.


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