How to make your own butter

Years ago, in elementary school, I remember shaking up homemade butter in little glass jars.

When my own kids were old enough, I showed them this “trick” to making something familiar out of plain old cream.

Homemade butter

Butter: The real thing

If you don’t have an old-fashioned butter churn, no worries: This project is easy enough to do at home — and kids will enjoy it (although their arms may get a little tired from all the shaking).

Finding out the “how” and “why” you can turn cream into butter is almost as fun as eating the finished product!

Making homemade butter

What you need:

  • Small jar and lid, completely cleaned (a baby food jar works well for little hands)
  • Heavy whipping cream (not milk, and not half and half)
  • Dash of salt (optional)
  • Yellow food coloring (optional)

How to do it:

Fill the small food jar 1/4 to 1/2 way full of (unwhipped) whipping cream/heavy cream. Cream should be cool. Replace the lid tightly.

Start shaking! You will need to shake the jars for about ten to fifteen minutes before the butter starts to separate. You can hear it starting to happen as you shake, because it will feel like you’re shaking a lump of something. This is the curd separating from the whey. Shake until the remaining liquid (whey) is watery and translucent.

Use a strainer to drain off the whey. Next, rinse the lump of butter with cool water two or three times, or until the water runs off clear. (If the weather is warm, you may need to chill the butter before rinsing.)

Note that your butter will probably not look much like the packaged sticks from the grocery store, and is likely to be almost white in color. Also, kids (and grownups, too) may not like the taste of unsalted butter — most people are used to the salted variety! You can get around this by spreading the butter on salted crackers, or, if you like, add salt to the butter.

Are bananas radioactive?

To salt and/or color your butter:
Place the butter in a bowl. Add salt to taste, and use a spoon to incorporate the salt and a drop of food coloring while you work out the rest of the whey. Discard any whey.

To store the butter:
If you plan to keep your butter and don’t use it all immediately, it is important that you wash out all the whey to help the butter last longer. You will need to ply it (mash it) with a spoon and rinse until the water is clear. When you’re all done, be sure to refrigerate your butter so it will keep safely.

More butter fun

If you like the idea of getting back to basics and making your own foods, you might want to check out and the The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Classic Stories.

And if you would prefer to make butter the new-fashioned way, watch this video about how to churn butter with a stand mixer, and read the Cooking with Engineers version, too.

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