Butter making in colonial times took a lot of time and energy. It was a lot of work. Fresh homemade butter is delicious. It is easy to make butter in your own home. You can eat it plain or add flavoring such as herbs, garlic or salt to taste.
In colonial times, people used a wooden butter churn and moved the handle, which is called a “dasher”, up and down until the heavy cream turned into butter. Using today’s tools like an electric whisk would make the task easy, but you can have more fun making butter by shaking heavy cream in a tightly closed lid container.
- 8 oz. heavy cream (whipping or light cream won’t work because it doesn’t have a high enough fat content)
- A plastic container with a tightly closed lid
- A large bowl to wash the butter in
- A wooden spoon
- Butter pats or butter paddles (optional)
- Fresh chives, garlic, salt or other herbs, e.g. fresh thyme (optional)
Pour the heavy cream into the plastic container and close the lid tightly. If you are planning to use butter pats, soak them in cold water.
Shake the container until you don’t hear any liquid moving around inside. This will take about 3-5 minutes. Look inside and you will see whipped cream. Then close the lid tightly again.
Keep shaking. If you have trouble moving the cream in your container, try pounding the container 3-5 times on a stable table. Then turn the container around and pound again. The pounding will move the cream. After pounding for about 5 minutes, your cream will become more liquid again. This is where the cream has separated into buttermilk and little crumbs of fat (for butter)
Shake some more, turning the container sideways in a circle if that makes it easier. After 2 or 3 more minutes of shaking, those little crumbs of butter will all stick together and form one larger ball of butter. You can hear this butterball banging inside the container as it sloshes in the buttermilk. Now your butter is done.
Finishing your butter
You have to wash your butter in order to keep it from going bad (rancid) too soon. Washing butter is called “working your butter”. This will remove any buttermilk from inside your butter. To do this, take the butter out of the container with a spoon and put the butter into your bowl. You can drink the leftover buttermilk or save it in the refrigerator for baking buttermilk biscuits or pancakes.
Fill the bowl with cold water. Wash the butter by pressing the butter against the side of the bowl and move it around the bowl pressing it repeatedly with the wooden spoon. The water will get milky white when you do this. Then pour out the water and fill the bowl with new water and continue to wash the butter in the same manner. Repeat 3-5 more times until the water in the bowl runs clear. This gets rid of the last of the buttermilk.
Now remove all the water. Take out the butter with your very clean or gloved hands, a wooden spoon or the butter pats. Squeeze the butter with either hands, spoon or pats to remove any remaining water.
Optional: Adding flavoring to your butter
You can add herbs like chives or thyme. If you want to add salt or garlic, use it sparingly. Here, chives were added.
Store the butter in a closed container or a butter dish. Below is a picture of a fancy upside down butter dish. You can also experiment with other containers like silicon molds. You can also use ice cube trays or muffin forms. Cover it with plastic wrap to keep from absorbing odors from the refrigerator or freezer.
when taken out of the molds:
Now try your homemade butter on some toast and enjoy!
If you really enjoy making fresh butter, rather than store bought butter, which, by the way, contains additives and yellow dye, you can buy some modern equipment. Use either an electrical mixer or a hand cranked butter churn and butter pats (pictured below) for a more hands-on experience. These items can be purchased from a local hardware store.