I have been making homemade butter from our farm fresh cream at least once a week for around five months now, so clearly this makes me an expert. OK, so maybe not an expert, but I definitely have made some observations that I wish someone would have pointed out to me when I started making butter.
You see, that prized cream will pass through many stages on its way to becoming glorious butter. Some of those stages make you swoon and others will make you cringe in horror. I have documented each of these stages for you and will provide my own running commentary on the process.
Stage 1: Selecting your cream. In my case, I am choosing to use farm fresh, home pasteurized heavy cream. In my experience, you must wait at overnight after pasteurizing your cream in order for it to turn into butter. The colder it is the better, but even after just 12 hours, I have failed to make butter and ended up with some strange hybrid of butter and whipped cream that never deflates. It’s interesting to be sure, but not what we are going for here. Raw cream works just fine if that is your preference and store bought cream should work well too if farm fresh isn’t available to you.
Stage 2: Preparing to whip. I typically whip a quarts worth of cream at a time, this produces around eight ounces of delicious butter. Because this is a rather large amount of cream to work with I use my Kitchen Aid mixer to do the work for me. My preference is the paddle attachment, but the whisk attachment also works. Your bowl and paddle need to be as clean, dry and cool as possible.
Stage 3: The slow mix: Pour the heavy cream into your bowl and begin to mix/whip at a slow speed. You are dealing with a liquid here and it will splash everywhere if you turn your speed on too high right away. Don’t worry this stage takes forever when making a quart of cream, have a cup of coffee or unload the dishwasher.
Stage 4: Bubbles: After about 5-10 minutes or so of mixing at a slower speed you will notice some bubbles starting to foam up around the edges of the bowl and an ever so faint thickening of the cream, feel free to start gradually increasing the speed of the mixer.
Stage 5: Thicker slop: Now you have what appears to be a sloppy thick mess of cream, it moves together like a semi-solid but is still clearly a liquid… does it really take this long to make whipped cream?
Stage 6: Soft Whipped Cream: Aha! A change! Maybe it will work after all! This looks familiar, sort of like whipped cream left sitting on top of hot fudge sauce a little too long. Progress.
Stage 7: Heaven: You will want to stop here. Your bowl is now full of soft pillowy clouds of whipped cream goodness. You will want to run for the nearest strawberry to swipe through this beautiful fluff. But alas, to make butter we must keep going.
Stage 8: GAH! This will be the sound you make moments after you check on that gorgeous whipping cream you saw only a minute ago. Now a lumpy mess there is no turning back.
Stage 9: It’s hideous: That lumpy mess now looks like curdled milk, you know the stuff that has been floating around in a sippy cup for the last week under the couch? That’s where we are, don’t worry you haven’t messed anything up. Press on.
Stage 10: Starting to show promise: Now that we have passed through the truly awful stages, and if you’re like me, you cranked up the mixer to speed through the nightmare, we are entering a stage that maybe looks a little like butter. We aren’t quite there yet, but the cream if definitely thick and more yellow and buttery looking, although not quite right. Stay close, it’s going to get intense.
Stage 11: Coming together: Now you will see that not quite butter that was crumbled all over the bowl start to stick together and form into a mass. Don’t stop now, but you might want to slow things down…
Stage 12: Is my butter bleeding?: Ok, so it’s most certainly not blood but you will start seeing milk appear in the bottom of your bowl. TURN THE MIXER WAY DOWN! Or else it will splash several feet across your counter top. The mass will start to form a nice solid lump in just a few more turns.
Stage 13: I did it!: Congratulations, you have made butter! And as a by-product, you have also made fresh buttermilk! Which once poured off from the butter lump is delicious to drink on its own or culture into buttermilk or use for cooking. Whatever you do, don’t waste it! Find an old farmer and give it to them as a gift, they will love you and shower you with stories of turning butter with a churn by hand.
Stage 14: The washing: In order for your butter to stay rich and delicious for more than a day or two you need to wash all of the excess milk out of it. This is done by pouring off the buttermilk, and dousing the butter with clean cold water, then mashing it around with a spatula. Rinse and repeat until the water is clear. I personally take a second to dry my bowl out, add the butter back into it and give it a spin to make sure I get all the water off my butter.
Stage 15: Salting: Should you desire salted butter, I have found it easiest to add a little bit (about ¼ tsp give or take to your taste) into the mixer with my washed butter and let it spin for a few seconds.
Stage 16: Store or eat!: You have successfully made homemade butter. You have conquered the kitchen and taken the dairy world by storm. Enjoy your reward on some fresh homemade bread, biscuits or mashed potatoes (and if you eat it right off the paddle I won’t judge). If you are storing your butter pack it into an airtight container and keep in the fridge for the longest shelf life (about 1-2 weeks). You can also freeze it if you have more than you can use quickly… That is never a problem in my house!