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Make it Yourself: Butter

We receive 1 1/2 gallons of un-homogenized whole milk every week from a local farmer.  Every week we skim the cream.  A few nips are used in coffee, but the rest is dedicated to butter. While at first I thought making butter might be a chore, I remain amazed every week at the transformation of liquid to solid.  I feel like the 15 minutes of shaking is a bit of exercise that burns some of the calories of the delicious butter.  It's actually kinda fun!

First, start with fresh skimmed cream.  We fill jars 1/3 of the way and allow to warm to room temperature.  Cold cream takes much more time to separate and makes less creamy butter in our experience.  For a different (yummier, in my opinion) flavor, make cultured cream by adding a Tbsp of yogurt and allow to culture in a warm place for 24 hours.

cream warming

Next, start shaking.  After about 5 minutes the cream will fill most of the jar.

agitated cream

Now keep shaking until your arms feel like they might fall off.  They won't.

Alex the butter man

Soon magical yellow lumps form from the mass of white and you have butter!

butter floating in buttermilk

Pour off the buttermilk and reserve for use in baking.  (Note: this is not the tangy buttermilk you might buy in the store for making biscuits.  The tangy kind is cultured.  You can make cultured buttermilk by adding starter.) This buttermilk is high in protein and low in fat, making it a great addition to pancakes, waffles, or muffins.

butter and buttermilk

Now shake a minute or two more.  This helps get the last bit of buttermilk out of the butter and forms your butter into a neat pyramidal log.

butter pyramid

Take the butter pyramid out of the jar and rinse under cold water until the water runs clear.  You may want to press the butter a few times and make sure all the buttermilk is out.  Butterfat will last for weeks unspoiled, but if buttermilk remains spoilage will occur much sooner.

The butter is warm now, so if you are interested in compound butter, now is the time to add herbs and spices.  Add a pinch of salt or leave plain unsalted for baking.  Spread into a bowl, butter dish or butter bell and there you have it!  Delicious butter!

Butter is not necessarily a healthy fat, but it is remarkably delicious.  Butter made at home from a healthy grass fed free range cow is arguably healthier than butter from the store because it has no hormones, no chemical residues, no colorants, and only the salt we add.  It still has plenty of saturated fat and calories which is why we use it sparingly.

Other than a slight health advantage, our favorite reason to make butter at home is to play with the flavors of cultured cream and salt.  When you start from cream, you can control the degree of cultured flavor and adjust seasonings as you need.

While not everyone faces our situation of receiving whole unhomogenized milk weekly, I encourage you to try making butter at least once.  You may find yourself adding homemade butter into your regular routine.