Thursday, April 9, 2009

Making butter :: Your turn to churn!

On the list of odd things I've tried in life recently, today's activity is right up there near the top. A friend of mine mentioned wanting to make butter with her children and I admitted that I was completely unaware that you can just "make" butter in your own home. I always assumed it involved some sort of intense processing and I'm sure the word pasteurization or homogenization was involved and there had to be some sort of large machinery in there somewhere too. Definitely people in hair nets. Definitely some sort of large stainless steel box with a conveyor belt in a factory.

Turns out that any fool can make butter at home with no skills and no special equipment. I am proof of that. I knew this would be something my boys would get a huge kick out of and I was right. Since we're trying so hard to show the boys where food comes from, this activity was right up our alley. We're growing a garden, we're raising chickens for eggs, so making our own butter seemed to be the icing on the sustainability cake. Granted my sustainability cake is small compared to the sheet cakes of the hard core sustainability families, but we're doing our best.

If you've ever wanted to make butter, or are intrigued now, get on it and follow these steps. My mom came into town today to visit for a few days so we got her in on the action too.

Here's the cast of characters:

:: Heavy whipping cream
:: A container with a tight-fitting lid. People not having kids help can use a mason jar. If kids are helping, use Tupperware.
:: Salt. Regular salt pictured. Kosher salt was used after my friend told me not to insult my butter with crappy table salt.

Pour the heavy whipping cream into your container. Make sure there is enough room for the cream to almost double at one point in the process. Sprinkle in a bit of salt. Put on the lid and shake. Then shake some more. Then when you think you haven't shaken enough. Keep shaking. Then give it to a small child to shake.

About 10 minutes into the process you'll see soft peaks forming in your container.

Then give it to another child to shake. Preferably one who does everything at 100% with no regards for dropping the container. Twice.

About 5 minutes later you'll see it turn into a Little Miss Muffet-pleasing chunky-looking curdled blob.

Then give it to your mom to shake. What must she think? She travels 5 hours to come and see us and within the first half hour of being here she's petting a bucketful of chickens and shaking butter in the living room. Oddly, she doesn't blink an eye at me anymore.

About another 5 minutes later you'll see it start to separate. By now your children have abandoned you because shaking a container for this long has bored them and you're left standing there like a fool shaking a container until your arms ache. But then you notice it. A sloshing sound. The butter and buttermilk are beginning to separate. Angels begin to sing.

A few more shakes and you've done it. You have donned your mad scientist hat and perfectly executed an intense scientific experiment causing molecules to shift and move until an entirely new beast is born. Butter, baby. Just pour off the buttermilk and save it if you want to use it in your favorite recipe. Then put the butter in a bowl and pour in some cold water and refrigerate for about 20 minutes. This makes the butter easier to knead. You'll be using the cold water to wash the butter to extract the excess buttermilk from the butter.

We took the butter out and I stuck my hand in the ice cold water and grabbed the butter to begin kneading it. I was immediately turned off by the texture and got out a couple of spoons to do the kneading for me. When the water got cloudy, I dumped out the water, filled it up with more cold water and kneaded it again. On my third go with the water, it ended up clear.

We dumped out the water and transferred the butter to a nicer container. We tried it on a slice of bread and it was amazing.

The boys were fascinated, my mom got a kick out of it and it was just a fun experience for us all. So put down your hoe for 30 minutes and shake up some butter, baby!


Daphne said...

I did that as a kid, but cheated and used an electric beater.

Sandra said...

Great description - And your photos of the kids doing it are just great! They might get bored and move on to other things, but they'll remember making and eating their own butter for some time. Now if you only had your own cow!

Jeff Vandiver said...

That's amazing, Kate! Thank you very much, for sharing how to do it. I might try that!


Kate and Crew said...

EG - you should try it! It's totally fun, but you'll get tired arms if you don't have helpers!

Sande - my husband would disown me if I brought home a cow, but don't think I haven't thought about it - LOL

Dani said...

I think they have miniature cows out there now. Just sayin'... ;0

Kate and Crew said...

Dani - you're a total enabler!!!

whiterice said...

You don't know how hard I laughed at the picture of your mom churning - something about that shot seems so retro/vintage funny! Looks like the boys had a blast too.

Radishes are sprouting in our garden - and you can bet that we'll be making butter to enjoy those radishes on some rustic hearth bread. Thanks for the great post.

Kate and Crew said...

hey whiterish - check out my radish salad recipe. It's AMAZING and super easy. I think it's in my tags under recipes.

applefalls said...

I love your site. I just stumbled upon it after reading some of your stuff on

I had a similar butter-churning experience at Thanksgiving a few years ago. I, too, thought it would be such a great experience for the kids. Luckily, we had many adults present to step in once the children all gave up!

Deb said...

Very cool. I didn't realize it was such a simple process. I'm going to try it this weekend.

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