Making Homemade Butter

Making homemade butter is an easy process. All homemade butter takes is a little cream, a little patience and a little muscle. The raw cream that rises to the top of fresh cow's or goat's milk is skimmed from the top and stored in its own container. The richness of the cream is the result of the butterfat content in the animal's diet and, of course, what helps butter pass richness on to baked goods and sauces.

When you're making homemade butter, you won't use raw cream, which is unpasteurized. The pasteurization process subjects cream and other dairy products to high levels of heat to kill off any bacteria that may have come into contact with the milk during the actual milking process (from the animal or equipment) or airborne particles find their way into the milk during transport from the milking area.

Look for good quality, heavy cream (organic is best) at your local grocery store or dairy farm and keep in mind that while cows and goats both produce butter cream, the richness of their milk can vary, even within the species, based on the individual animal's diet, the time of year and its genetic tendencies so your results may not always be the same. Keep the cream cold until ready to use.

Making Butter
Start by working with small amounts of cream. You're going to need to hold a canning or other jar comfortably in your hand while you shake it for anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes depending on your butter-making skills. For a pint-sized jar, use four to six ounces of cream which will yield between twoand three ounces of butter.

Pour the cream into a canning jar and allow it to come to room temperature. Then:

  • Drop a clean marble into the cream and adjust the lid and band to avoid leakage. The marble, much like the ball in a bottle of nail polish, will help keep the liquid mixed well during shaking. (Once it begins to solidify, remove the marble).
  • Begin to shake the jar vigorously, about 60 shakes per minute. The entire butter making processing, from start to finish, can take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes for a skilled butter maker.

The cream will pass through several stages: sloshy, frothy, soft whipped, firm whipped, coarse whipped and finally the consistency we all know and love-butter. Keep tabs on the cream's temperature level. Once buttermilk begins to form, which happens shortly after the cream starts to solidify, it, along with the whey, can emulsify. If you get the sense your cream is getting too warm, simply return it to the refrigerator to cool it down some.

When the buttermilk forms, you'll use a strainer during the sloshy and frothy stages to pour off the buttermilk. Set aside for use in pancakes or other recipes. The strainer helps make sure you don't lose any of the butter fat you're working so hard to make.

Resume shaking the jar and continue to strain any liquids that form. This process is very important as any whey, milk or buttermilk that remains in the butter will break down quickly and turn the butter rancid.

When the mixture has gone through all of the stages and reached the consistency of butter you'd buy at the store, pour approximately half a glass of ice cold water into the jar and shake. When the water turns cloudy, pour it off and repeat until the water stays clear. This water bath will remove any buttermilk particles.

Finally, press the butter with a rubber spatula, taking care to cut through any water or milk pockets that might remain in the butter.

Ladle the butter onto plastic wrap and form it into logs or spoon it into containers. Like all dairy, homemade butter is prone to spoilage and should be refrigerated when not in use. The cold temperatures will harden the butter more, and logs can then be cut into pats or shaved into curls as needed.

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