We’ve had a couple requests for a step-by-step butter making tutorial, and I think it’s a brilliant idea. Butter is one of the easiest home dairy recipes that you can make, and homemade butter adds another dimension of deliciousness to sourdough bread, vegetables, or breakfast. There are, however, a few tips and tricks that will help turn you into a butter making champ. Ready? Here we go! The simplest way to make butter is to fill a quart sized Mason jar halfway up with heavy cream. Be sure to use a metal lid…NOT plastic. The plastic lids are not liquid tight and your tasty, expensive cream could end up on your clothes instead of turning into butter.

Quart mason jar halfway filled up with heavy cream

Once your jar is filled (halfway) and the lid is on nice and tight, get shaking! This is what will happen after a few minutes of vigorous shaking. See how the jar is now three quarters full? That’s why we start with halfway!

Quart mason jar three quarters full of heavy cream

Shaking can get tiring and boring, and you’ll be here a while, so I like to put my older kids to work, rolling the jar back and forth on a clean rug, towel, or blanket.

Children playing with a jar

I should note that about five minutes after this picture was taken, my children decided that it was much more fun to chase each other with the jar, which is scarier but just as effective in butter making. Almost there…

Heavy cream in a jar

And…we have butter, my friends!

buttermilk and sourdough starter in a jar

You can culture the 
buttermilk with our buttermilk starter, drink it as is, or use it in baking or cooking. I love to let it sour (my cream is raw) and use it to add a little oomph to a sourdough starter. The next step is to drain and rinse your butter, so it will stay fresh and sweet. When you are using a jar, the easiest way to do that is to pour off the buttermilk, then cover the butter in the jar with COLD water and shake again.

water, sourdough, and buttermilk mixed in a jar

Note that the water is cloudy and still has a lot of buttermilk in it. You will want to repeat this step several times, until the water runs clear. I filled and shook this jar five times. At this point I like to add a teaspoon of sea or kosher salt, shake it until it’s combined with my butter, and rinse again. This salts my butter (the rinse prevents it from being too salty) and helps drain more buttermilk, which will make my butter last longer. Not that anything this fabulous will last very long…it’s too yummy!

Butter on a plate

Voila! Butter! Magic. Next we will talk about making butter in larger quantities, and with slightly more technology.

Today we are going to talk about making butter in larger quantities. The jar method is fantastic for making a quarter to half a pound of butter. It’s my favorite way to make butter for a special dinner, or if I’m in a hurry and don’t want to wash my food processor. However, if I want to make a pound or more, or if I’m making butter to freeze, I prefer to use a food processor. I have a large one, and it will hold half a gallon of cream at a time. Here’s how I make it.

Making butter in a food processor

I prefer the regular old chopping blade, although the dough blade makes a softer, more spreadable butter. Simply pour your cream into the food processor and turn it on. Within seconds you should start to see a thick foam. Please pardon the hard water stains on my food processor. Farm life is glamorous, folks.

Making butter in a food processor

After about twenty minutes, you will get…

Making butter in a food processor

BUTTER! Now, the next step (as we mentioned in Part 1) is to remove all traces of buttermilk from your butter. You can, of course, simply place your butter in a jar, cover with cold water, and shake, just as we did in Part 1. But I like to use a salad spinner.

Butter in a food processor

The pressure helps to remove the buttermilk, and it doesn’t use nearly as much water as other kinds of rinsing. If your salad spinner has larger holes, just line it with butter muslin or cheese cloth. Once again, you’ll want to continue to rinse and spin until the water runs clear. Pressing on the butter is good too; you can use your hands, the back of a big wooden spoon, or special butter paddles to press out more buttermilk and give your butter a pretty shape. I’ve used butter paddles here.

Butter on a plate

You can also use a cheese mold and press, if you have one. I’ve used mine and it does a beautiful job, but works best with 2-3 pounds of butter at a time. It’s worth noting that if you are serious about making your own butter (if you have your own cows or goats, for example) you may want to spend the money and invest in a decent butter churn. A food processor works well and a jar is cheap and efficient, but neither are designed for long term use or large amounts of butter. A basic, non electric butter churn can be found for around $150, and a motorized version can be had for less than $300. With either in your arsenal, you’ll be able to turn 1-2 gallons of heavy cream into butter at one time, and you won’t risk burning out a valuable piece of kitchen equipment that, if you’re like me, you use all the time.

download our milk kefir guide and recipe books

A Little PS About Cultured Butter

First, everyone needs to try cultured butter at least once. It is amazing, great for your belly, and is the most intensely buttery butter you will ever have, because one of the byproducts of fermentation is diacetyl, which produces a creamy, buttery flavor. Second, every single time I have made cultured butter in my food processor, the butter grains have been SMALLER than when I have made sweet butter. If you are making cultured butter in your food processor, you may want to use the dough blade and you almost definitely want to use a piece of butter muslin during the draining and rinsing steps. Happy culturing!