Make butter yourself

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 4, 2011

By Alison Ladman
For the Associated Press
Why go to the trouble of making butter at home? After all, that’s why they package it all up neat in little sticks for us at the grocery store… So we don’t have to.
And yet, it is so worth doing. Not every day, perhaps. But certainly for special days. Because homemade butter, simply put, is utterly and completely amazing. Plus, it’s neither difficult nor expensive. The process even can double as entertainment for the kids.
Butter is a pretty basic food, and so is the making of it. Cream is agitated until the liquid buttermilk separates from the solid fats. The fats are the butter. That’s it.
And there are plenty of ways to agitate cream. The most basic is to fill a jar about half full with cream. Tightly screw a lid onto the jar (canning jars are ideal), then shake vigorously. First it will slosh, then it will seem to turn solid (at which point it’s essentially whipped cream), then it will form a lump of butter in liquid.
While simple, this method is tiring. You’ll be shaking that jar for a solid 5 or more minutes. It’s a good project for the kids.
But to make butter to serve, it’s better to use either an electric mixer or food processor. It’s faster and far less tiring.
For the best tasting butter, buy the best quality cream you can find. Keep in mind that the amount of cream you use will make roughly half as much butter. So a quart of cream will make about 1 pound of butter. After you’ve made the butter, pour off the buttermilk and add it to your pancakes, muffins or other baked goods. It also makes a great base for salad dressings.
Homemade Butter
Start to finish: 20 minutes
Makes about 1 pound butter
1 quart heavy cream, left at
room temperature for
30 minutes
Salt, optional
To use the food processor, pour the cream into the bowl fitted with either the plastic or metal blade. Process on high.
To use an electric mixer, pour the cream into the bowl and beat with the wire whip attachment. Use a deep bowl with a splatter guard if available.
Regardless of the method used, the cream will go through the same stages. At first the cream will thicken and be whipped into soft peaks, then firm peaks. Then the cream will begin to get grainy. Finally a liquid will be released so that you have lumps of fat in a milky colored liquid. The entire process should take 5 to 20 minutes, depending on the method used.
Rest a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and strain out the buttermilk. Reserve for another recipe. Place the butter in a bowl and knead with your hand to squeeze out any more buttermilk. It may seem odd to knead butter, but it will hold together and kneads easily.
You can use the butter immediately or refrigerate it for later. If storing for later, you’ll want to “wash” the butter. This helps remove even more buttermilk from the butter so it doesn’t sour. Add 1/2 cup of ice water to the butter in the bowl. Continue kneading the butter in the ice water. Pour off the milky liquid. Repeat the ice water wash and kneading process until the liquid remains clear.
If you’d like to keep unsalted butter (such as for baking), wrap the butter in parchment paper and then plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 weeks or freeze for 6 months. Otherwise add salt, to taste, then wrap in parchment and plastic wrap. It also can be stored in an airtight container.
This is also a good point to add other flavorings, if desired, such as honey and cinnamon for toast and pancakes, or herbs and garlic for bread or meat.