A lot of people feel intimidated by the thought of making homemade butter because they think expensive equipment like stand mixers or high tech blenders are an absolute necessity. Although they do make life easier, all you really need is a mason jar and some perseverance to make some great tasting butter!
Before we get started I’d like to point out some important factors which will contribute to the overall quality of the butter you produce. I can not stress this part enough! These five guidelines will ensure that the milk you use is optimal for this recipe and more importantly for your health.
- Type of milk to use: More than just cow’s milk?
You can make butter from pretty much any animal but I find using cow’s milk the easiest just because of its better availability in my area. In the near future, I’ll be experimenting with butter using goat, sheep and water buffalo milk and let you guys know how each one goes. I’m assuming their processes, storage, and even nutrition will be different. For this tutorial I will be focusing on just cow’s milk.
2. Quality: Conventional vs Organic?
The quality of the milk you use is probably the most important part of butter making! Try sourcing your milk from a local farmer who uses older and more traditional methods of dairy extraction (the Amish are a great example of this). This means the cows should be raised with absolutely no antibiotics, hormones or steroid injections. They must also spend the majority of their lives outside where they can roam fields, exercise, exhibit natural behaviors and eat grass. After all, grass is the only food they are supposed to be eating (not grains). If you live in the US or abroad, the links below will provide a comprehensive list of farms that still practice these standards.
United States: https://www.realmilk.com/real-milk-finder/
Other countries: https://www.realmilk.com/real-milk-finder/other-countries/
If you really can’t find a natural dairy supplier in your area, your next best option would be to go organic. With the organic label you’re pretty much guaranteed cows were fed food containing no GMO’s and pesticides along with zero antibiotics or steroids. Unless it says 100% grass fed, their diet must consist of at least 30% grass and the rest must be organic non-gmo grains. Remember that grains are unnatural to a cows diet and can lead to various health problems which can also affect the quality of the milk. I will be discussing in the future the health benefits of grass fed cows because they are quite substantial.
3. Raw or Pasteurized:
There seems to be a lot of controversy and fear surrounding the consumption of raw milk due to the possibility of contracting listeria, a foodborne infection that has (in rare cases) lead to death.
Because of this, high-heat pasteurization was enforced by law in many states to kill all pathogenic bacteria. The problem with heating milk at high temperatures is that in addition to killing some of the harmful bacteria, you’re also denaturing proteins and killing the good bacteria responsible for digesting lactose. Because of this, we’ve seen the rate of lactose intolerance’s and casein sensitivities skyrocket over the past few decades. Besides the health concerns, some also swear that raw milk just tastes better. Butter and cheeses made from raw milk have a unique flavor (imparted by the good bacteria) that’s impossible to replicate any other way.
If you live in a state or a province where raw milk is illegal (like I do), your next best option would be to purchase a low-pasteurized milk. This means that the milk was never heated above 145°F leaving at least some of the beneficial enzymes and proteins intact.
4. Whole Milk, 2%, 1%, skim: Which should I use?
Butter is made up of about 80% fat from milk. Using a lower fat milk will yield less butter if any butter at all. Plus lower fat milks undergo a mechanical process of centrifugal separation changing the milk composition and rendering it less nutritious. Because of this, artificial vitamin A and D are added back into the milk to mimic what it would have had if it had not been skimmed.
5. Homogenized vs Unhomogenized:
Ever seen milk with a thick layer of yellowish liquid at the top? That’s unhomogenized milk (or just normal milk). Naturally, it’s supposed to separate into a top layer of cream and a bottom layer of skimmed milk (lower fat content). The cream is the part we need to actually make the butter because it contains the most fat.
What to look for in milk:
- No antibiotics, steroids or hormones
- Naturally outdoors (within reason)
- Grass-fed as much as possible
- Raw if legal, low-pasteurization instead
What you’ll need:
- Cows Milk (you can use organic whipping cream for faster results)
- 2 Mason Jars
- Cheesecloth or a strainer
- Turkey Baster (or spoon)
***You can skip step 1 if you’re using heavy cream instead of whole milk.
- Unhomogenized cows milk will have a layer of cream on top. Using a turkey baster (or a spoon) remove the cream as best you can. Be careful not to go too close to the cream line (the line which separates the cream and skim milk). If you’re using a turkey baster it’s extremely important you pick up absolutely no skimmed milk as it’s impossible to separate them after (unless you restart and let the milk separate again overnight).
- Add your cream into a clean mason jar. The size doesn’t really matter, generally the more cream you have the bigger your jar should be. I use a 16 oz jar and it’s about half full. Also remember that the bigger the jar the more heavier it’s going to be to shake it.
- Close the lid and shake. The fat separates when it hits the walls of the jar so be sure to shake the jar as vigorously as you can. After about 8 min of doing this (the worst part is over, I promise) you will see the fat and buttermilk separate. You should continue shaking it if you don’t hear a lot of swishing or if don’t see much liquid in the jar.
- Once you’re satisfied with the amount of buttermilk present, strain it into another mason jar using a cheesecloth or stainless steel strainer. You can use this buttermilk for variety of different recipes or just drink it as is.
- Add ice cold water into the jar with the butter inside and shake it once again. Strain the liquid but this time you can discard this liquid (it has no nutritional benefits). Keep repeating this process until the the liquid comes out clear, usually about 3 or 4 times.
- On your last strain, try to strain it as best as you can. I wrap a cheese cloth around the butterball and add a weight on top of it. I like to put this on top of a stainless steel mesh strainer with a bowl underneath to catch the residual liquid.You can leave this in the fridge for an hour or even overnight.This will ensure the butter has as little water content as possible in order to maximize its longevity. That is extremely important if you want to avoid rancid butter!
You will need to measure your ingredients since the salt to butter ratio DOES matter. For every cup of cream you use, add ¼ teaspoon of salt to the cream. Follow step 2 and beyond from above.
After that, that’s it! You now have butter! Make sure you store it in an airtight container and it should last for about 2-3 weeks.