How to Make Butter

Jen Hoffmeister is a 30-something foodie who thinks both food and life should be sweet and spicy. She shares recipes on her blog, Piccante Dolce — I’m a big fan of her Meatless Mondays recipes, in particular. Today she shares her technique for making butter at home, which, as it turns out, is surprisingly simple.

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Homemade Butter

Upon taking on this unprocessed challenge I decided to try something that has been on my list for quite some time. Butter. Now I’m sure when I talk about making my own butter the image of Amish women in aprons and large wooden churns come to mind. My friends initially had that image, anyway. Replace it with the image of your stand mixer and a liter of heavy cream. Seriously, that is all you need. And since your mixer will be doing all of the work, there is very little blood, sweat or tears — unless they are tears of joy.

Do you need a stand mixer to make butter? Not necessarily. But bear in mind this process takes between 20-30 minutes of beating. Doable, I’d imagine, with a hand mixer, though I didn’t try it so I can’t say for sure.

As for the cream you should have at least 35% heavy whipping cream, as it is sold here in Canada. Preferably you want one that is organic and comes from grass-fed cows. You’ll also need two containers for storage, one for the butter and one for the amazingly fresh and delish by product of butter, buttermilk. Yes you can buy buttermilk, and you can even make it from regular milk by adding a bit of lemon juice. But neither compare to freshly made buttermilk — it’s amazing. So good you can actually drink it. Go ahead and try. If you don’t drink it all after that first try, use it for any number of things: Pancakes, chicken, maybe even for a red velvet beet-colored cake with a honey cream cheese icing. I think I know what I’m doing with mine…

How to Make Butter - Step 1

Now how do we get said butter from cream? Quite simply. Pour the cream into the bowl of your stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment beat the cream on medium (around 4 or 6). As you beat it, you will pass through a number of stages.

How to Make Butter - Step 2

Thick and foamy cream. Not too much to do with this so we’ll let it keep going.

How to Make Butter - Step 3

Delicious whipped cream. All I ever want to do here is add some maple syrup and eat the whole bowl, I swear it will be worth it if you resist the temptation though. Just let it keep beating.

How to Make Butter - Step 4

Broken whipped cream, the kind you get when you lose track of the cream you’re whipping. A disaster in most cases but luckily not here. At this point you’ll want to stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl. We are so close, and you really want all of that cream to be part of the transformation when it happens.

How to Make Butter - Step 5

The, all of a sudden the magic happens. You see a splash of liquid and look into your mixing bowl and find these beautiful, solid, little globules of butter floating in buttermilk. It’s pretty amazing how it all of a sudden just happens.

How to Make Butter - Step 6

At this point you want to turn off the mixer and strain the buttermilk from the butter. I do this but pouring it all into a sieve and press the butter to extract any remaining buttermilk. Not only do you want as much as possible for any multitude of other uses, but you also want to get all of the buttermilk off of the fresh butter because it will spoil much quicker if you don’t. (If you are using it all right away it’s not as big of a deal.)

How to Make Butter - Step 7

After you’ve pressed out as much buttermilk as you can, you now need to rinse the butter. All you do is fill a large bowl with cold water, place the ball of butter into it a squeeze and massage it. Drain, then repeat this process until the water ends up clear — you’ll likely need 2-3 bowls of water. At this point you’ll want to mix in some salt if you choose; I leave mine pure and unsalted. Finally, press it into your container, like my perfect little mason jar, place it in the fridge and voila!

You don’t need to make butter to take part in the unprocessed challenge — you can find perfectly good organic and/or farm-fresh butter in most places. But I did it in the spirit of the challenge. The act of making butter just seems at the heart of it, showing something that we take for granted, buying that which you can make at home. It is so rustic and homey and so worth it. It is really amazing to watch the transformation from liquid cream into delicious butter. And I swear you’ll be a rockstar the next time people come over and you say you made the butter they are spreading on their homemade bread. Go ahead, try it.  Not only will you impress people but you will also be so satisfied in making something like this at home and knowing exactly what you are feeding yourself, your friends, and your family.

A photo of Andrew Wilder leaning into the frame and smiling, hovering over mixing bowls in the kitchen.

Welcome to Eating Rules!

Hi! My name is Andrew Wilder, and I think healthy eating doesn’t have to suck. With just three simple eating rules, we'll kickstart your journey into the delicious and vibrant world of unprocessed food.

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October 4, 2012 8:20 am

A liter of heavy cream makes how much butter?

Reply to  Naniboujou
October 4, 2012 12:56 pm

I just used 1 quart of heavy cream. It made about 18 tablespoons. So easy and delicious!

Reply to  Naniboujou
October 10, 2012 11:31 pm

I just made this, and a litre yielded around 480g of butter, and 500ml buttermilk which is delicious.

October 4, 2012 8:12 am

I make mine in my food processor. Fast and Easy!

August 8, 2012 7:22 pm

I just tried this at home with some leftover cream and it came out wonderful! It was heavy cream from Trader Joe’s, and when I opened it up, there was a thick plug of clotted cream on top (which is very sweet and tasty on muffins), so I figured it was time to do something before it soured as well.

I didn’t use a stand mixer, just a pint jar shaken vigorously. I was really surprised at the huge lump of butter that came out of that bit of cream. And it is so delicious and fresh!

Angelique Gertig
October 16, 2011 3:38 pm

I did it!! I made it today and it was soooo stinkin’ easy! I used regular old “heavy whipping cream” which had a 36% milkfat….but not an organic, and it turned out anyway!! it will just be one of my unprocessed “cheats”. Was loads of fun to watch the process, and the butter tastes REALLY good! thanks for sharing on eating rules!

October 7, 2011 1:04 pm

I found a little ceramic churn a couple of months ago at a flea market, which was great because I don’t have a stand mixer…until the second time I used it, when someone knocked it off the table and it shattered 🙁

October 16, 2010 9:26 am

I’ve made butter several times and it was an amazement to me. The first time was when I was in the middle of a recipe and realized I didn’t have enough of the stuff… but I DID have a pint of whipping cream. So, I gave it a shot, and came up with enough butter to finish my recipe and have a little leftover. It was such a crazy feeling of accomplishment, and I realized how simple it really is. And fresh buttermilk was a complete revelation! Who knew it was actually good! And, for a great recipe that uses that butter milk; check out the New York Times recipe archive; they’ve got a great Fresh buttermilk pea soup recipe, along with directions for making your own.

October 15, 2010 6:45 pm

“The act of making butter just seems at the heart of it, showing something that we take for granted, buying that which you can make at home.”

Yes, yes. Absolutely. That has been, for me, the greatest treasure in this little adventure we’re on.

October 15, 2010 5:08 pm

Pretty Cool! I learned how to make butter in a less sophisticated way at one of my cookbook potlucks. A farmhand from Straus Family Creamery has us vigorisly shake their organic cream in a plastic container for a few minutes until the cream became butter. Though, it was a lot of shaking.