Churn It! How to Make Butter at Home

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Although butter has been around since the time of the ancient Egyptians, when you think about making butter, odds are you’re picturing the wooden butter churns of the pioneers and an overworked farm wife cranking away at the paddle. It went that way for a long time, but eventually those labor-intensive churns faded away, replaced by large glass jars with mechanical paddles (think egg beater) which eased the process. But by the late 1800’s, commercial dairies were distributing affordable packaged butter and the age-old chore of churning butter at home faded away. Until now.

Homemade butter is back!

With a growing trend toward urban homesteading, artisanal food and general do-it-yourself-ness, home-churned butter is on the rise and we’re on board. Hand-crank churns are available and you can even produce a passable butter by putting heavy cream in a jar and shaking like the dickens for longer than is fun, but for those of us who like a little modern convenience in our homesteading, fresh, preservative-free butter can be made at home without the need for bulging biceps. Break out the stand mixer and let’s get started!

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A pint of heavy cream (organic preferred), a little salt and some serious agitation by way of a stand mixer are all it takes to make fresh butter, free of commercial additives.

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Pour a pint of cream into the mixing bowl and mix at medium-high speed using the whisk attachment. Use a splash guard, if available.

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Before long, the cream will reach whipped-cream state. Keep going!

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After 5 or 6 minutes, the cream will begin to pill and look crumbly. Not there yet.

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Once thoroughly agitated, the fat and liquid will separate, usually in a somewhat dramatic moment as the liquid is released.

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Pour off the liquid. That milky stuff is buttermilk that can be used as one would use commercially purchased buttermilk. Perhaps to make buttermilk biscuits on which to spread your homemade butter?

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Return drained butter to the mixer and whisk at medium speed until it becomes smooth.

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Using a spatula, work the butter into a ball and transfer it into a bowl of ice-cold water. Knead gently to work remaining buttermilk out of the butter. The water will become grayish. This will extend the shelf life of the butter and prevent the development of a “sour milk” smell. If you plan to use the butter immediately, you can skip this step.

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Pour off the water and repeat, if necessary, until the water drains clear.

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Return butter to the mixer, add ¼ teaspoon of salt and whisk a minute to combine. At this step, you can also customize your homemade butter, depending on your planned use, by adding herbs, spices or sweeteners.

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All done! Your homemade butter can be formed into a log and wrapped in plastic wrap or parchment paper or packed into crocks, jars or recycled butter containers for storage. Store in refrigerator up to 2 weeks.

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