Making your own delicious and healthy butter at home is really very simple. It can be done with the appliances available in your own kitchen. There is no need to purchase an expensive butter churn.
Before diving into the procedure, it is helpful first to understand the basics of butter-making. Making butter is nothing more than agitating (e.g. shaking) cream until the fat separates from the rest of the liquid. Many a kindergarten child has taken a hand at shaking a jar of cream his teacher brought and eaten of the fresh butter resulting from each child’s shaking. Making butter at home is really that simple. We just refine the process a bit, and also work out all the buttermilk so it doesn’t spoil.
If you are starting with whole milk (it must be un-homogenized), let it sit for about 24 hours in the fridge until the cream rises to the top. You then take a ladle and skim off the cream. You can’t get it all, and should generally stop when you start getting too much milk with your cream. Next, you want to let your cream “ripen” for a while, at least 24 hours. Some of the milk sugar must turn to lactic acid in order for the butter to “come” when churning the cream. After aging a day or so in the fridge, we usually let the cream sit out for several hours before we churn it. You want the cream to be about 60 to 70 degrees Farenheight when you churn it. Letting it sit out for a while not only warms the cream, but permits it to ripen some more. Traditionally, butter was made from cream which has ripened until it is sour. Americans usually prefer the taste of butter made from sweet cream versus soured cream. You may want to experiment to see which you prefer.
Now having procurred ripened cream at the right temperature, you then agitate or churn it. There are many ways to do so. Old fashioned ways simple sloshed the cream about in a container by either rocking the container or moving a plunger up and down through the cream. The most basic way would be to just pour the cream into a glass jar, put the lid on and shake it. You can also use a mixer or blender to agitate it. Any way you choose to churn the cream, the butter should come in about 5 to 10 minutes. It will thicken into whipped cream first before seperating into fat globules and buttermilk. That is the danger when trying to make your own “whipped cream”. If you whip it too long, you will get butter! If the butter doesn’t come, then the cream is likely too cold, too warm, or not sufficiently ripened. The easiest thing to do, is just let it sit for a few more hours and try again. If it still won’t come, you can shock it with ice cold water (about 1 cup per gallon of cream).
Once the butter comes, continue agitating a little which longer to make sure all of it has come. If using a mixer, don’t go to fast or too long as the buttermilk may mix back into the butter. Once the butter has come, pour off the buttermilk. If you soured the cream first, this is the genuine article. The stuff in the store is not actually buttermilk, but just cultured milk instead. If you used sweet cream, you would need to culture the buttermilk or else let it sour. In any event, don’t throw it away. It is a delicious beverage in its own right and is also great to make into pancakes.
After pouring off the buttermilk, rinse the butter repeatedly with cool water. Work the water out, and repeat the rinsing and working until the water runs perfectly clear. Then work all the water out of the butter. There are various tools and techniques to make this task easier, but you can use either a wooden spoon or a butter paddle. It is very important to thouroughly rinse the butter and to also work out all the buttermilk. If any buttermilk is left in the butter, it will cause it to spoil quickly. It takes some time to develop this skill, but it isn’t too terribly difficult.
The final step is to add salt. Use between 1 to 3 teaspoons per pound of butter, working it in well. We usually get about 1.5 lbs of butter for every gallon of hand skimmed cream.
After making your butter, you can press it into molds if you like. You want to wrap the butter with parchment paper or plastic wrap in order to exclude all air. It keeps well in the fridge if you got the buttermilk all out, and for long term storage, put it in your freezer. Of course, for spreading on your toast, just take out small amounts every few days and keep on the counter. Special crocks are even made for keeping the butter submerged in water which will keep it fresh almost as well as the fridge.
Butter made from exclusively grass-fed cows will be a rich, deep yellow. Store-bought butter will be a pale yellow unless they added food coloring to make it look like it is supposed to be. The naturally deep yellow butter is one of best foods you can eat for good health. Use it liberally – but then I shouldn’t have to tell you that.