Homemade Butter

Buttery biscuit
Photo Credit
Lauri Patterson/Getty Images
1/2 cup
Special Considerations
Preparation Method
The Old Farmer's Almanac for Kids
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Making butter is a forgotten skill. So many folks don’t know where butter comes from (one ingredient!) or how easy it is to make (no churning required!). Plus, homemade butter has a pure, creamy taste. Spread your homemade butter on biscuits or bagels or melt some on top of noodles. Learn more.

Ever made whipped cream and accidentally over-whipped it? You’re on your way to making butter. Butter is made from heavy cream. That’s it. Once heavy cream is agitated enough, it separates into clumps of butterfat versus buttermilk; then you strain out the buttermilk and knead the butterfat in ice cold water to remove every last drop of milk so you’re left with butter!

Today, all you need is a food mixer with a whisk attachment. Another option that simply requires time is to shake the heavy cream in a glass jar. This is a great way of teaching kids how butter is made. Do it on a walk, while you watch TV, or toss back and forth with a friend; this generally takes about 10 minutes, but depends on how fast you shake!

You can also customize your butter. For example:

  • Add a tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs; dill, parsely, fennel, chives, and thyme are all wonderful with fish; mint and rosemary are lovely with lamb. 
  • Make a flower butter with a few tablespoons of chopped nasturtium. 
  • How about a cheese powder? Or cinnamon sugar? 
  • Make a garlic butter and spread on bruschetta. Be creative!

If you make your own butter, tell us what you think. How is it different than grocery butter? Some people describe homemade as having a more grassy, buttery, creamy flavor versus a more greasy flavor. Others can’t tell the difference. It may depend on the quality of cream you buy, the grass the cows eat, and other factors. We just enjoying making our own gorgeous butter.

2 cups organic heavy cream at room temperature
Optional: 1/4-inch sea salt
  1. Pour the heavy cream into the bowl of a stand mixer or into a jar with a tight lid. (Make sure either bowl or jar are very clean and sterilized.) 
  2. Turn the mixer on low and up to medium. Or start shaking the jar up and down and side to side. 
  3. First, you watch the cream begin to thicken and stop sloshing around—at this point, you will have whipped cream! Keep going! After a few more minutes, you will hear liquid sloshing around again as the buttermilk separates from the butter that’s forming inside the jar. You see clumps forming in milky liquid. Keep going! Shake the jar for a few minutes longer, until your start to see the butter solidifying.
  4. If you are using a mixer, it helps to turn the mix into a sieve over a bowl. Strain out the buttermilk (which you can keep for other recipes or to drink) and return the butter to the mixer at medium speed and beat for another minute and repeat. If you’re shaking in a jar, drain off the buttermilk in a similar way and then shake for another minute and drain again.
  5. Fill a bowl with very cold (ice) water. Remove the butter and put in the icy water to “rinse” it.
  6. With clean, cool hands, knead the butter in the cold water and the water will turn cloudy. Change the water until the water stays clear. It’s very important to get to the clear stage. It may be challenging to keep your hands cold, which is why buttermakers use frozen “butter bats” to press the butter and extract the buttermilk liquid. However, do not use warm hands or the process won’t work.
  7. Optional: Mix in the sea salt if you want the butter to last longer.  Spread the butter out in a thin layer and sprinkle evenly with salt. Unsalted butter lasts a few days; salted butter lasts 2 to 3 weeks.
  8. Shape the butter into a flat pad with cold, wet hands (or bats). Line or wrap in waxed paper similar to store-bought butter; keep chilled in refrigerator. The butter also freezes well.

Storage Notes

  • As mentioned above, homemade salted butter will last 2 to 3 weeks, provided that you were able to extract all the buttermilk; otherwise, it will sour more quickly.
  • Butter should stay in the covered, especially in sunlight which will turn it sour.
  • If you want spreadable butter for a meal, simply leave it out of the fridge for a few hours in a covered container, but then return to the fridge when done.

Spread your homemade butter on biscuits or bagels or melt some on top of noodles. 

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann