Real Food 101: How to Make Butter (and buttermilk!)

(To buy the REAL FOOD 101 E-book: Traditional Foods, Traditionally Prepared, click here.  Full color photos, step by step tutorials, and more.  Only $14.)

Look at that gorgeous yellow butter!  You cannot see it quite as well, but look at all that beautiful buttermilk below, too.  Isn’t food amazing?  Whenever I make butter I feel like a truly grounded foodie, getting back to my foodie roots! Despite the intimidation that seeing a butter churn might instill in you, butter is actually incredibly easy to make.  And if you can get your hands on raw, grass-fed cream locally, then you are going to be very pleasantly surprised at your ability to make such fresh butter available in your very own kitchen!

The reason to put emphasis on grass-fed butter is based on the natural yellow color of the butter itself.  The yellow color indicates the presence of vitamin K2, or the “Activator X” that Weston Price was talking about in his research of traditional diets. Regardless of whether you are using raw or pasteurized cream, as long as it is grass-fed you will be getting the vitamin K2 in your butterfat.  This is because the vitamin K2 does not break down under heat.  (This is also good news for store-bought, grass-fed butter, because when you use it in a cake, cookie, or other baked good, then you are still getting your vitamin K2.) From “On the Trail of the Elusive X Factor: A Sixty-Two Year Mystery Finally Solved“:

There are two natural forms of vitamin K: vitamin K1 and vitamin K2. Vitamin K1, also called phylloquinone, is found in the green tissues of plants, tightly embedded within the membrane of the photosynthesizing organelle called the chloroplast. As the chlorophyll within this organelle absorbs energy from sunlight, it releases high-energy electrons; vitamin K1 forms a bridge between chlorophyll and several iron-sulfur centers across which these electrons travel, releasing their energy so that the cell can ultimately use it to synthesize glucose. . When animals consume vitamin K1, their tissues convert part of it into vitamin K2which fulfills a host of physiological functions in the animal that we are only now beginning to understand. The ability to make this conversion varies widely not only between species but even between strains of laboratory rats, and has not been determined in humans. The mammary glands appear to be especially efficient at making this conversion, presumably because vitamin K2 is essential for the growing infant. Vitamin K2 is also produced by lactic acid bacteria, although bacteria produce forms of the vitamin that are chemically different from those that animals produce, and researchers have not yet established the differences in biological activity between these forms.

Homemade butter is made from cream that is whipped for so long that it separates into solid butter and buttermilk.  You press the butter together and squeeze out all the buttermilk, separating them into two useful items!  Use the butter for anything your heart desires, and save the buttermilk for soaking flour, making pancakes, or even culturing the buttermilk to make it probiotically alive! If you use raw cream in particular, then you will be left with raw butter and raw buttermilk.  Raw butter is best eaten unmelted if possible.  This is not for the benefit of the vitamin K2, but for the benefit of the enzymatic and probiotic raw qualities of having raw butter on hand.  Take advantage of those extra goodies by using your homemade raw butter for eating cold, and using your store-bought butter for baking and melting.

Equipment Needed:

Homemade Butter

1 quart of cream (find raw dairy near you here), preferably at room temperature*, and preferably raw & grass-fed (or at least NOT ultra-pasteurized)
1/2 teaspoon salt (buy unrefined sea salt here)

*cream at room temperature will change to butter in only about 15 minutes; chilled, it will take closer to 25 minutes

  1.  In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, pour the quart of cream into the bowl and start it mixing on low.  After a few bubbles start to form, you can turn the speed up a bit, making sure it doesn’t splash.
  2. As you let the mixer go, you will notice that the cream will go through several stages: First it will get bubbles and appear frothy, then it will thicken up like whipped cream (this is when you want to add the salt), then it will get thinner again and deflate, and a even get a little bit grainy, then it will continue to deepen in color, staying grainy, as the butterfat starts to clump more and more, and finally, the butter will suddenly clump completely together and separate from the buttermilk; you will know when it starts to slosh around!
  3. After the butter and buttermilk separate, pour into a strainer set over a bowl. Then press the butter down to release most of the buttermilk.  Hold sieve over the sink and rinse with water a few times, pressing more and more of the buttermilk out until the liquid released when you press down is clear. Then turn the butter over onto a dishcloth, and squeeze tightly in a dishcloth to press out the remaining buttermilk then unwrap the butter and you’re done!
  4. You can also add flavorings to your butter, such as herbs, cinnamon, honey, and any other mix in.  Since the butter is soft at this point, it’s easy to mix it all together in the same mixer you were just using (sans buttermilk of course!)
  5. Store raw butter in the fridge to keep it fresher for longer.  Enjoy!

This post is a part of Sunday School, Weekend Gourmet, Monday Mania, Traditional Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday, The Mommy Club, Healthy2Day Wednesdays, Simple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter, Full Plate Thursday, Fight Back Friday, Friday Food Flicks, and Fresh Bites Friday.

PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.
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Comments

  1. Love your pictures of the whole process! It’s really helpful to have the pictures for reference the first time.

  2. So, how much butter do you get from one quart of cream?
    You don’t wash your butter?

  3. LOVE This! I am going to try this with my son- I think he will get a kick out of the science behind the project, with all the separation and what not. :) I always though you had to wash the butter as well, but I suppose that just depends on the end result you want?? Thanks for the great post- and love the pics!!

  4. I love to make butter like this!! You did an amazing job with your pictures. Don’t forget you can always flavor your butter up at the end. I like to add honey and cinnamon and I even give that away sometimes as gifts. Yum…Garlic and herb is another of my families favorites.

  5. We made this today for the feast of St. Brigid. I can’t believe how easy it was, and oh my goodness, it’s sooooo good. We made it in our good old Oster Kitchen Center blender. Next time maybe I’ll try it with the stand mixer. Thank you!

  6. I Love your website! Thank You, for more wonderful healthy ideas, and the pictures helped allot! You Rock as usual, your number one fan! Going to do this tomorrow after I go get my organic cream! :0)

  7. The post says: “Use the butter for anything your heart desires, and save the buttermilk for soaking flour, making pancakes, or even culturing the buttermilk to make it probiotically alive!” Couldn’t you also try culturing the cream first? That way you’d end up with cultured butter and cultured buttermilk?

  8. There is something very satisfying about making your own butter. Great pictures too!

    I’d be honored if you’d share this post on our new weekly link up — Friday Food Flicks — Amanda

  9. I love making homemade butter. And the buttermilk is the best thing EVER! I usually end up drinking all of it when I’m done making the butter.

    One question though – why didn’t you wash your butter? I’ve always been told to wash it. I’d love to skip that step, as it seems to take awhile.

  10. Thanks for linking your great post to FAT TUESDAY. This was very interesting! Hope to see you next week!

    Be sure to visit RealFoodForager.com on Sunday for Sunday Snippets – your post from Fat Tuesday may be featured there!
    http://realfoodforager.com/fat-tuesday-january-31-2012/

    Share your great fermented food recipes at my Probiotic Food Linky – open through Februray 6, 2012.
    http://realfoodforager.com/probiotic-food-challenge-linky/

  11. We just love homemade butter. I have an antique churn that we make butter in when the grandchildren are here, they think it is the greatest thing, and it is. Your tutorial is wonderful! Hope you are having a wonderful week end and thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

  12. LOVE this post–and all the pics! Super helpful–I’m pinning! Thanks for sharing w/ Healthy 2Day Wednesday! Hope to see you back next week!

  13. I made homemade butter once, and long time ago, and it was so good, store bought has never quite suited me since. I’ll have to try it again soon!

    I would love for you to come share this recipe on my link-up, Make-ahead Mondays, at Raising Isabella!

    http://naturalparentingunnaturalworld.blogspot.com/2012/02/make-ahead-monday-6.html

    Hope to see you there!

  14. Great post – thanx!! I always rinse my butter in a bowl under a thin stream of water and “cream” it as it’s being rinsed until the water runs clear and then press ans squeeze all the water out like you did in your post. If you don’t get all the buttermilk out, it won’t last as long in the frig and can take on an off flavor.

  15. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am very new to all of this and I am learning so much from you! You are so awesome, there are no words! Except, thank you! :0) Pictures help a newbie like me too~ :0)

  16. Just an interesting tidbit. I am on GAPS and still working on introducing some foods. Dairy is an issue. I was able to add my raw, from a grassfed cow, butter to my diet without any problems. I ran out of that butter and switched to Albertsons regular butter and got sick! Too bad, I LOVE butter and don’t own a cow. Raw milk is illegal here, though I know a farmer so I can get some when she (the cow) is giving milk. But I would have to eat a lot of yogurt to keep up with my butter “requirement”. Being that you only get so much butter from a gallon of whole milk.

  17. I did an experiment with my first couple batches of butter this weekend. I used raw milk that I let set in the fridge and scooped off the cream. This butter was bright yellow and very rich in flavor. It formed quickly. I then used ultra-pasteurized local dairy milk from the corner store and it also turned to butter but it took considerably longer and the color was much paler and not as rich in flavor. It is amazing the difference! It reminded me of the difference between the yolks of big farm eggs compared to local, free-range eggs.

  18. I was wondering… does salt have to be added to this?? My husband is on a salt restricted diet so any added salt is a no-no for him..

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