butter trioA couple of summers ago, I called to check in on a friend of mine in New Jersey, who was taking a more-or-less enforced summer off of work. He’d spent his time traveling to Greece with his family, organizing his life, playing with his kids, but the novelty of so much free time was wearing thin. His boredom was as clear as he sighed over the phone when I asked him what he’d been up to.

“Oh…nothing. Just making butter today…”

Making butter? I pictured him sitting on an Amish stool churning away in the shade of his porch. And since I’ve always thought of butter-making as the sole province of women, I pictured him in a dairy maid’s bonnet that matched both his eyes and his rugby shirt. I was a bit jealous of both his crushing amount of free time and the fact that he had thought of making butter before I did. I asked him where he picked up the churn.

“I don’t have a churn, Michael. I’m doing it in my Kitchen Aid.”

There went my fantasy. Use of a stand mixer was cheating in my book. Especially on the East Coast, where my urban, California sensibilities allowed me to imagine butter churns by the truckload were to be had yard-saling on any given weekend.

My fantasy deflated, I cast the thought of butter-making out of my head. Until last week, when I picked up my dog-eared copy of Much Depends on Dinner by Margaret Visser. Her chapter “Butter– and Something ‘Just as Good’” made me think entirely too much about the stuff. I wanted to know how to make it on my own, so I did a little research. And I do mean little.

It’s alarmingly easy to do, as you’ll soon see. For an excellent and very informative post on butter and butter-making, visit Cooking for Engineers — a site filled with all the cooking Geekdom to which I aspire.


Makes: 1 cup


2 cups heavy whipping cream (at a temperature between 60 and 68°F)
A pinch of salt (optional)
Finely diced herbs (also optional)


1. Place cream in the clean, cool bowl of your stand mixer, assuming you have one. Mix on medium speed.

whisk cream

2. Basically, you begin by making whipped cream. Once the cream has reached stiff-peak stage, slow the mixing down a little. The cream will now start to clump in the bowl.

butter happens when you keep whipping after the cream turns into whipped cream

3. What you have in the bowl will quickly turn from creamy white to, not surprisingly given the subject matter of this post, buttery yellow.

butter turns

4. After a short while, the buttermilk will begin to separate from the butter solids.

buttermilk separates from butter solids

5. Pour off the buttermilk. You may save it as the appropriate beverage for a late night, heart-to-heart conversation about women with your teen-aged son around your antique farm house table, cook with it, or throw it away. The choice is yours.

6. At this point, it’s a good idea to rinse the remaining buttermilk from the solid bits, since the buttermilk will cause your butter to turn rancid much sooner than one would like. Pour cold water over the butter, then squeeze and knead. Repeat until water runs clear.

 squeeze and knead butter

7. Congratulations, you now have your butter.

butter done

8. You may now add a little salt, if that is your preference. Or fold in some fresh herbs. Whatever the hell you want, really– it’s your butter.

butter with chives

Makes approximately one cup of useable butter excellent for lashing on one’s toast or experimenting à la Maria Schneider. Have a jolly time with it.

How To Make Butter 5 July,2013Michael Procopio

  • If you save the buttermilk, you can make fabulous ice cream with it.

    There were also a heap of buttermilk recipes in the Chron last year… smoothies and such (since I know how much you like those).

  • nelibelly

    I make butter with the kids in my preschool class:
    Pour heavy cream into a clean baby food jar to fill half-way, add a pinch of salt (if you like), screw the lid on tight, and shake, shake, shake til your arms feel like they’re gonna fall off. This makes the best butter I’ve ever tasted! Lots of fun for the kids to see the whole process, too!

  • Esi

    I did this a few weeks ago by accident with a vanilla cinnamon flavor. Made awesome pancakes the next day with the buttermilk!

  • Rich

    I noticed this morning we had two cartons of heavy cream in the fridge not doing anything, then I saw this post. Grabbed a bowl and a whip – 30 minutes later – fresh rosemary butter’s ready. Good stuff.

  • Ok I never realized it was so easy. My question: was it better than a good artisinal butter? It sounds great, and I can’t wait to try this. Now only if I could get some cows, I would really be happy.

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  • NG

    Apparently, the loafer who put the butter seed in your brain is good for something in this world.

    He’s thinking about making butter again, though he’s waiting until he can find raw cream to make it, which is not legally for sale in New Jersey.

    Apparently, pasteurization or, worse, flash pasteurization, does something to the cream that makes the butter less than it can be.

    We know about the cannabis clubs in California, what’s the legal status of raw milk? And shouldn’t there be clubs if you can’t get raw dairy products (not talking about cheese)? If you can’t, let the lobbying effort begin!!!

  • Anita– Buttermilk ice cream. Mmmm. You’ll have to make me some so I might try it.

    Nelibelly– I thought about doing the shaken version of butter-making, but discovered I lack that sort of energy. I suppose I would have been prouder of my results, though the results were excellent.

    Esi– Accidental butter may just be the best kind of all.

    Rich– Why on earth would you have two, unattended cartons of cream sitting in your fridge? I’m glad you had the wherewithall to make good use of it.

    MangerLaVille– As good as artisnal butter? I don’t know if I can answer that question. I suspect homemade butter may just be artisinal, without all that bother of cow-management.

    I would have loved to make it with raw milk, but that’s a little hard to get. The results are certainly fresher than what one might find in the store, though not necessarily fresher than what one can find at a farmer’s market. It’s more fun than buying artisinal butter, for sure.

  • G3

    Great read! I’ll definitely be trying this out soon!

    One question though, the website Cooking for Engineers, suggested that you let the heavy cream sit for 12 hours before mixing due to electric appliances.

    Is this required, or do you just receive different results?


Michael Procopio

I am terribly fond of martinis, Edward Gorey, and sleeping with many pillows.
You are more than welcome to follow me on Twitter: @procopster

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