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I have made butter. Behold my amazing powers.

Butter ©DPaul Brown

My friend Karen Solomon's latest work, Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It: And Other Cooking Projects, is the sort of book that keeps me in the kitchen far too much. It's chockablock with nifty, crafty food projects that are my idea of fun. A recent review on Eat Me Daily states that, "her book owes a
debt to depression-era canning pamphlets as much as to the punk
domesticity of the hipster DIY movement." Punk domesticity, indeed. In fact, Karen's apron has skulls

Count us in on the hipster DIYism. The day I brought home the book, I opened the fridge to note three kinds of housemade pickles plus another destined to become relish; preserved lemons; and a couple open jars of preserves (strawberry, apricot), to say nothing of the dozens of unopened jars in the pantry. There's our limoncello in the freezer, plus batches of Buddha's-handcello and pompelmocello in process. We make our own condiments and are obsessive canners. Two years ago we canned 80 pounds of tomatoes, and last year 100 pounds; next month we will take on 200 pounds. It's not uncommon for us to spend an entire Sunday in the kitchen, only to have to order a pizza for dinner because, though we have cooked for hours at a stretch, there is nothing that adds up to a meal.

And now, in our latest back-to-the-source obsession, we are making butter.

Now, how is it we can have been on this earth nearly 40 years and never knew that making butter is so utterly, totally easy? Why have we been suckered into shelling out major coin for highfalutin European or artisanal local butter? Why isn't everyone making it, all the time? I don't know, but I do know may well never buy butter again.

In point of fact, anyone who's ever made whipped cream may have gotten pretty close to making butter completely by accident. Butter is produced when the fat globules in cream are brought together by way of agitation, causing them to merge and separate from the thinner buttermilk.

Karen's book calls for the old-school method of shaking the cream until the butter comes. I am not such a patient man, nor do I have the tricep stamina to shake a jar of cream for 30-40 minutes. I prefer to let the stand mixer do the work, even though I am told it makes for an inferior product. Yeah, well, my five-minute Kitchenaid butter still kicks mass-market butter's butt, so I'll take it.

It all starts with cream, just cream; a quart will make a pound of butter. You'll want it cool, but not too much so. Too cold, and it will take quite a bit longer to come together; warmer cream will turn to butter much more quickly, but will be too soft and may make it hard to remove all the buttermilk. About 55ºF, cool to the touch,  should be fine.

Make sure you have the balloon whisk attachment on your stand mixer (but keep the paddle attachment handy), and pour the cream into the bowl. Tip: wrap plastic wrap around the mixer, covering the exposed space between the bowl and the appliance itself, lest you find yourself covered in spatters of cream. Your mixer thusly wrapped, turn it on to the highest setting.

Almost instantly, you'll have whipped cream. After a couple minutes, you'll have overwhipped cream. And so it will stay for what seems like too long. Finally, when you think it's never going to happen, the butter will start to separate from the buttermilk; you'll see chunks of butter floating in a pool of translucent liquid. Stop the mixer, and switch to the paddle attachment. Turn back on a medium-low setting until the butter fully separates from the buttermilk, just a minute or two.

Butter ©DPaul Brown

Pour off the buttermilk and reserve it; it'll keep a few days in the fridge, and can be used for biscuits, pie crusts, whatever you use buttermilk in. With a large spatula, knead the butter against the side of the bowl by pressing and folding it to squeeze out all the buttermilk; pour that off as you go.

When there is no more buttermilk oozing from the butter, it's ready to be turned out. Portion it as you like, perhaps in 1/4-pound blocks. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap to store in the fridge, or vacu-seal and freeze for longer storage. Be sure to keep some of the soft butter in your Butter Bell Crock for easy use. And if you don't have a Butter Bell, get one. 

Butter ©DPaul Brown


  • When the butter is kneaded, before turning out, add 1/4 teaspoon of salt to make salted butter. This will keep better, but may not be appropriate for all uses.
  • For cultured butter, mix your quart of cream with 1/3 cup plain yogurt (must have live cultures) and let stand on the counter, covered with a towel, overnight or until it thickens. Then proceed as normal. Cultured butter has a pleasant tang. 
  • For compound butter, mix in herbs, garlic or whatever you like during the kneading process.

I followed Drew's exquisitely drafted instructions for cultured butter.
The Wednesday Chef also finds it's better with (homemade) butter.
Don't forget to buy Karen's book!

This Post Has 31 Comments
  1. You are awesome! This has been on my list of things to try for quite a while now. And each time I read about someone else trying it, I’m more and more determined! But like you, I’m not going to stand around shaking a jar for half an hour 🙂

  2. this is a great project to do with kids, shaking in the jar. I remember doing it when I was in Girl Scouts.
    Are there any recommendations about what kind of cream to start with? I assume, as with most cooking projects, the better the initial ingredients the better the outcome. And suggestions here?

  3. Gudrun, thanks for such an awesome question, and shame on me for not being more explicit about that in the post. I generally subscribe to the life-is-like-a-sewer philosophy, and so would venture that the better the cream, the better the butter. That said, the first time we made it was with some caterer-grade manufacturing cream I inherited from a Twitter friend, and it was fabulous; in fact, the batch I made with Straus Creamery was somewhat milder and almost bland in comparison. I am sure this will vary from season to season, depending on what the cows are eating.
  4. I feel like I just discovered gold!
    Thank you! Now, I don’t have a stand mixer but I’ve been wanting to work the fat off my arms….

  5. Ooh, nice and smooth. I’d love to try it, but unfortunately cream is much more expensive than butter here! Comes from not having a dairy-producing country, sigh :/
    I just came from jarring some tomato sauce myself. I need special equipment– my hands aren’t quite thick enough to do the job!

  6. Wha- you mean, this is possible?! God I could’ve done with this yesterday when I (brace yourself) ran out of butter for baking. But this looks so good I think I’d want to savour it properly… genius!

  7. Weyn: You can also use a hand mixer, but it’ll probably be pretty messy.
    Manggy: Well, I wouldn’t say it’s a great cost savings to use good cream, but you do get the buttermilk as a bonus. And in freshness alone, it’s worth it.
    Indigo: I know, right? I was stingy with it at first until I realized I could JUST MAKE MORE. Awesome.
    TMM: OK … you’ve convinced me to give it a try.

  8. I made it this weekend; so easy (with kitchenaid at least) and so good. And the compound butter possibilities are endless! Next up is definitely cultured butter — does it make for a tangier buttermilk, I wonder?

  9. I would venture to say that it does, though I am chagrinned that we did not make good use of our buttermilk. It does spoil rather quickly.

  10. wow, you really do have super powers… you’ve almost got me mesmerized enough to try this at home

  11. Who’d a thunk it? What a great project — I love the idea of making small amount of butter, using it while it’s freshs, and never worrying about stick butter that’s been hiding in the fridge long enough to go rancid.

  12. foodhoe: Seriously, just do it. You’ll be amazed by how easy it is.
    Lydia: It really is all about the freshness here. Next spring I’ll try to nab some special local cream and make larger batches that I can freeze. I bet there’s a nice strong grassy/floral note at that time of year.

  13. This is wonderful…I too have those Sundays (particularly at this time of year) that involve hours sweating in the kitchen with no discernible meal to show for it. I’m so glad to hear I’m not the only one! I’m pretty excited about this butter recipe, although I am without a stand mixer. Any idea how it might work with one of those cheapo little hand mixers?

  14. Rhonda: You’re welcome!
    Becky: Ugh … one beast in the house is enough. 🙂
    EB: She is rather fabulous in real life.
    Laura: Yeah, if you can find a way to make the hand mixer work without covering the entire kitchen with cream, I’m all ears! 🙂

  15. Wonderful! Butter is an amazing thing! It happened to me quite by accident…I was making the crowning glory to my strawberry shortcake…thanks to my good ol’friend the KitchenAid mixer…and the telephone, I gots butta! But as, you know…it’s still wonderful!

  16. Oh goodness. This is really a problem. I don’t need to be making butter. I will eat it right out of the tub. If I end up weighing 500 pounds, I will blame you. At least I will be happy and chubby. 🙂

  17. I made this by accident when whipping cream for my vanilla scones. It was soooooo good. And made me feel fancy. (Even though it was entirely not planned.)

  18. I was inspired by your post to make butter this weekend – at a campout, by shaking. I had help. It worked! Didn’t get to taste the butter, but the buttermilk biscuits were delish!

  19. Pshaw! I have been doing this for ages. I “discovered” this one day when I was whipping cream and walked away. When I came back I almost had butter. My kids didn’t believe I could make butter until I showed them. One tip — drape a dishtowel over the bowl and mixer because when you get to butter, you may get butter splashing all over your kitchen.

  20. Yeah, that’s why I recommended wrapping the bowl and mixer with plastic wrap. My first attempt involved little spatters of white cream all over the walls and my face.

  21. I’m going to look for cream at the raw milk stand at my local farmer’s market this weekend. This sounds amazing, even if I dislocate both shoulders in the process.
    As for the buttermilk spoiling quickly, well, just another reason to make biscuits sooner rather than later! And I’ll have some lovely fresh butter to spread on them…
    Finally: I so, so get what you mean about cooking all day and then needing to order in for dinner. I’m glad I’m not the only one who has days like that!

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