Butter Making 101, 102, 103, 104.......

When the Almighty was yet with me,
And my children were around me;
When my steps were bathed in butter,
And the rock poured out for me streams of oil!
- Job 29:5-6

I was 5 years old when I first tasted freshly-made butter. My kindergarten teacher ceremoniously emptied contents of a Piggy Wiggly paper shopping bag (plastic hadn’t become popular yet) – freshly baked bread, a quart-jar loaded with fresh cream, and a beautiful silver butter knife from her grandmother’s special tea service – announcing, “a very special treat made by your very own hands.”

Oh, the beauty of harnessing natural energy and enthusiasm of 30 5-year-olds, shaking ordinary cream into a lifetime of fond memories! When all that remained was the sloshing of the thin buttermilk and the butter clump thumping against the side of the jar, our teacher proclaimed, “Done! Gather ‘round and share our creation!” The amazing flavor and texture was like nothing I’d ever tasted, or would for many years to come.

My mother viewed butter making as a “farm wife” task, considering herself “lucky” to have modern conveniences like store-bought butter or margarine. It wasn’t until a half-dozen years ago, when I studied nutrition as a drug-free means of pulling our son from the abyss called Autism, that I decided making my own butter, from fresh grass-fed organic Jersey cream, was essential to his diet. My first taste was every bit as wonderful as what I’d remembered so long ago.

Many people are discovering that butter is one of the original health foods, but few have mothers or grandmothers who taught basic skills on how to create it. We’re slowly learning from each other, passing along information to those who desire to learn.

Following are some of my most recent experiments and techniques, based on using:

  • Real (aka “raw”) cream – unpasteurized from a Jersey or Guernsey cow. Holstein milk should not be consumed by humans. (Health Benefits)
  • Real cream that is “naturally cultured” – allowed to sit on the counter (that’s right – NO refrigeration) for 8-12 hours (less in summer, more in winter) which develops a richer taste, allowing the Lactobacillus to multiple, creating health benefits. Souring increases the efficiency of churning. DO NOT TRY this with pasteurized cream as all the healthy bacteria is killed in the pasteurization process and instead of fermenting into a robust product, your cream will rot. (Read more on the history and benefits
  • Stand mixers or a hand-crank butter churns.* Food processors or blenders are *NOT appropriate butter-making tools, generating TOO MUCH HEAT (friction), killing off beneficial bacteria and enzymes.
  • Use a balloon whisk attachment – the same one used to make whipped cream.
  • 58f is the ideal churning temperature – However, I’ve churned cultured cream at room and refrigerator temperatures, with room temp butter taking about 50% longer, but still resulting in fabulous butter.

While I’m at it…

  • Spring and early summer cream is the healthiest when cows are eating new grass which has higher concentrations of nutrition. Spring butter is bright yellow to a deep gold color reflecting high concentrations of beta-carotene and high CLA a natural anti-carcinogenic
  • Make as much spring/early summer butter as you possibly can cutting into 2 oz blocks, and rolling in microwave paper (what else are you going to use it for?), storing in the freezer.

Come butter come
Come butter come
Peter stands at the gate
Waiting for a buttered cake
- Traditional churning song


1. Empty two quarts of naturally cultured cream into one 5-quart or 6-quart Kitchen-Aid bowl. Attach balloon whisk. Set speed at 4 (never higher!) and walk away. Be sure to use splatter-guards which come with Kitchen-Aid mixers. Photo: Cream has reached whipped cream stage. Next stage will be watery because whipped cream “breaks” down.

2. Pay closer attention after whip cream “breaks” back down into a thin liquid. Within approximately 15-minutes, the butter fat globules will “seize” into a ball, separating from the buttermilk which has a tendency to splash out of the bowl onto the counter, floor and any unsuspecting pet or small child walking past. Photo: Butter “seized” inside the balloon whisk. Thin, white buttermilk surrounds the whisk. We’re always amazed at the color differences!

3. Release the balloon whisk from the mixer, placing on a plate. Don’t bother to “free” the butter just yet. Place a sieve over a large glass container (I use an 8-cup Pyrex measuring container.)

4. Strain the buttermilk. Most of the butter will be stuck inside the balloon whisk. Don’t worry about that right now. Simply set it aside, on a clean plate, focusing on straining the buttermilk.

For my own part I am inclined
to prefer the butter churned from cream,
as being most economical, unless you chance
to have Irish or Scotch servants who prefer
buttermilk to new or sweet skimmed milk.
- Catharine Parr Traill, 1836


5. & 6. Draining buttermilk – Generally, I’ll end up with three components – a strainer with some clumps of butter, the balloon whisk loaded with butter, and a large container of buttermilk.

7. Pour buttermilk into storage glass containers for later use. You’ll need the 8-cup measuring glass for the next buttermaking steps, so it is best to empty it now.

8. Enjoy a refreshing drink of buttermilk. Buttermilk left over from butter making is referred to as “old-fashioned buttermilk” having nothing in common with cartons of “cultured” grocery-store buttermilk. Old-fashioned buttermilk, made from cultured, raw, grass-fed cream, is known to have many health benefits and can be used for making other products such as sour cream.

Where a gentle way is used in making Butter,
it will cut like Wax, and it should especially
be well wrought with the Hands, when it is fresh taken from the Churn and salted for common use; for if the Milk be not well work’d out of it, the Butter will not keep.
-Richard Bradley, The Country Housewife, 1728


9. Remove butter from balloon whisk, tapping whisk on the side of the bowl.

10. Rinse remaining buttermilk out of butter – If you’re planning on storing your butter in the refrigertor (no longer than 1-week), or freezing it for later use, or storing it in a Butter Bell, the butter needs to be “washed”, increasing the life of the butter.

Dump 1/2-cup of ice-cold water into the butter while the mixing blade is turning. Keeping the mixer speed on low guarantees you won’t get wet. Photo: I’m using my flat blade, but the balloon whisk could also be used. In fact, I prefer the balloon whisk when washing, because it “cuts” the wash water through the butter better than the flat blade.

11. & 12. Continue draining off the cloudy wash water, and pouring on clean, ice-cold water The wash water will become increasingly clear as any remaining buttermilk is washed out of the butter.

Pack your butter in a clean, scalded firkin [small barrel], cover it with strong brine, and spread a
cloth all over the top, and it will keep good.
- Lydia Child, The American Frugal Housewife, 1835


13. & 14. Butter is “clean” after 10-12 rinse/drain cycles. The concept of “washing” butter seemed so strange to me, until I experimented finding that removing or washing out the excess buttermilk improved the taste and texture of the butter as well as extending its life.

15. & 16. Pressing out the water is the final step of butter making. I use is a modern reproduction of a “butter hand” or “butter paddle” to “pull” the butter from the bottom of the mixing bowl towards the top, which squeezes out excess water. This is also known as “kneading” the butter when the butter is scraped off the sides and bottom of the bowl and “kneaded” into itself, pressing out excess water. The backs of large wooden spoons may also be used.

Hands – the 5-fingered tools attached to the ends of your arms – were used in days of old buttermaking, kneading butter in wooden bowls. They presented a problem in that hands are warm, easily melting butter, thus, paddles or spoon are preferred.


Butter used to be made and eaten every single day. That’s great if you have your own cow (or goat), but for Wannabes like me, who have to run out to someone’s else’s farm to buy cream, it’s more efficient to make butter in large quantities which are frozen, and used when needed.

Once again, my butter paddle comes in handy. I use it to shape my butter into a rectangle, no higher than 1-inch (won’t take as long to defrost). The butter paddle can be used to score the desired cutting lines, and also as a way to scoop the butter into a piece of microwave wrap paper (or waxed paper), rolling into log shapes and placing into a Ziplock Freezer Bag.

And now you know everything there is to know about butter making! Enjoy!