We forget that butter used to be made by hand in every kitchen. We are so used to going to the grocery store and picking up nice, neat boxes of butter wrapped in their little 4 oz quarters.

But making butter was a regular kitchen chore that our ancestors had to do. Every morning they milked their cows and then processed their milk into milk, butter, cream, cheese, etc. In making butter they used what is, today, obsolete technology. Butter churns, butter paddles, butter molds (or presses), butter dishes... all are obsolete now.

Have you ever wondered why old butter dishes were usually round or large deep rectangles? We are used to our modern butter dishes.

That's because we usually use butter quarters. But, in the old days, they made their butter and then used butter paddles to scrape it out of the butter churns.

Then they filled butter molds with the butter...

...and popped the butter out into butter dishes. These butter molds were usually round or large rectangles. So the butter dishes needed to be round.

Butter churns came in many types and sizes. Depending on how much milk you wanted to process into butter. If you had a small family, then a jar type churn is all you would need. If you had a large family, you needed a larger church. If you were making butter for sale in the local general store, you wanted an even larger churn. Here are some butter churns.


Today, making butter is simple and easy (with modern appliances). You can churn the butter from cream in a blender, food processor, or mixer.

All you need is a machine or device that will agitate the cream so that the fat globules in the cream are destabilized. This causes the fat globules to start to clump. This clumping first enables tiny air bubbles to be trapped in the cream forming a relatively stable foam that we know of as whipped cream. When the agitation continues, the fat globules begin to clump so much that the air and fluid being help in place cannot be contained any longer. The foam seizes and the fat network begins to break down into large fat clusters that we call butter. In this example, I'll use a standing mixer to produce almost a pound of butter.

Start by pouring heavy cream into the bowl of a Kitchenaid mixer, blender or a food processor. 1-2 cups heavy whipping cream for food processor or blender up to 2 quarts in Kitchenaid mixer.

Here is what I did:
4 pints (2 qts, 64 oz) of heavy whipping cream
2 (4 tsp) Tbsp salt
2 gallons ice water for washing the butter

Using Food Processor: Fit food processor with plastic blade, whisk, or normal chopping blade. Fill food processor about 1/4 - 1/2 full. Blend. The cream will go through the following stages: Sloshy, frothy, soft whipped cream, firm whipped cream, coarse whipped cream. Then, suddenly, the cream will seize, its smooth shape will collapse, and the whirring will change to sloshing. The butter is now fine grained bits of butter in buttermilk, and a few seconds later, a glob of yellowish butter will separate from milky buttermilk. Drain the buttermilk. Add 1/2 cup (100 mL) of ice-cold water, and blend further. Discard wash water and repeat until the wash water is clear. Now, work butter to remove suspended water. Either place damp butter into a cool bowl and knead with a potato masher or two forks; or put in large covered jar, and shake or tumble. Continue working, pouring out the water occasionally, until most of the water is removed. The butter is now ready. Put butter in a butter crock, ramekins, or roll in waxy freezer paper.

Using Kitchenaid Mixer: Start the mixer with the whisk attachment on low speed (to avoid splatter) and progress to medium speed as the liquid begins to thicken. At this stage, the cream drips in long thick strings.

The heavier it gets, the more you can increase your speed to avoid splatters. Just a short while longer will bring the whipped cream to what is known as soft peaks. I.e. the peaks that form will have a drooping tip.

The next stage that the cream enters happens very quickly. The cream begins to form stiff peaks. The peaks that are forms will stand up straight without drooping. Just past the stiff peaks stage is where the cream just begins to crinkle up and stick to the sides of the bowl. The color of the cream also takes on a very pale yellow color. This is when the cream is about to seize and become butter. It's a good idea to put a dish towel over your mixer (even if you use the splash guard) because it happens quickly and will begin to sling the separated butter milk.

The mixer should churn the cream into butter. This happens quickly and rapidly - the cream suddenly seizes and buttermilk floods out while pellets of yellow butter form. You'll want to slow down your mixer at this point to prevent slashing the buttermilk all over your kitchen. The amount of liquid that is expelled as the butter begins to mash together into a larger lump is considerable. At this point, it's best to remove the buttermilk (you can reserve it for use in baking recipes - use as if it was whole milk, not buttermilk because it's not real buttermilk) and keep mixing a bit longer.

The butter should be washed to remove as much of the butter milk as possible. This can be done by placing the butter in a bowl with ice cold water and kneading the butter. When the water discolors, pour it out and more cold water. Not washing the butter will result in butter that will go rancid because of the buttermilk.

At this point, the butter can be wrapped and frozen or refrigerated for storage. But why not keep working it a little? Continuing to whisk the butter at high speed will start to beat in some air making the butter a little lighter and smoother.

Additional ingredients can be added to make new kinds of butter. Salted butter can be made by whipping 1/4 teaspoon table salt to every 4 ounces (115 g) of butter. Add herbs or honey, etc.

How to freeze: Keep the butter wrapped in it’s original packaging and freeze in sealed freezer bags (air removed). You could also wrap the blocks of butter in a layer of aluminum foil instead of using bags. The extra packaging probably isn’t absolutely necessary since the original foil wrapping does a great job of protecting the butter, but I prefer the extra step just-in-case.

To thaw: Take out a block of butter the night before you need it and allow it to thaw overnight in the refrigerator rather than at room temperature. You’ll find better results this way.

How long can it be frozen for: Store it in the freezer for six to nine months, though I’ve found a few references stating freezing butter for up to a year still gives good results.

Tip: Make sure to freeze the butter as soon as possible rather than wait until it’s close to the expiration date.