Butter Making 101


Having a cow is a great thing.  I can do things with cow milk that is very inconvenient to do with goat milk.  For instance, to get cream off of goat milk I would have to leave the milk sitting for a long time or use a cream separator.  Goat milk is naturally homogenized so the first option just leaves the milk to spoil because it takes a very long time to separate.  I did use a cream separator but it really turned out not to be worth it.  There is a lot of work in cleaning the separator after use and there is a good amount of waste stuck on the plates.  So there would have to be a large amount of milk to separate to make that worth the trouble.


Cow milk on the other hand separates fairly rapidly.  Leave it overnight and there is a definite layer of cream.  So making butter is one of the things that I LOVE about having a cow.  I save up the cream and on Sundays while we are watching the Seahawks play, we make butter.

Cream makes butter the fastest at about 65 degrees.  I tried making it while it was cold and it took forever.  So I warm the cream up a little by placing the jar with the cream in it into a bowl of warm water.  When it gets between 60 and 65 I start agitating it.

I have several options for the actual agitation.  The easiest is using a jar with a good sealing lid filled half full of cream.  Hand it to a kid and let them shake it until they are tired.  They usually don’t hold out for the 20 minutes that it takes to get the butter to separate.


The second option that I use is an old hand crank butter churn.  Mine holds a half gallon of cream with lots of room to splash.


The third option I use is a crock butter churn with a dasher.  That holds about a gallon of cream.  So depending on how much cream we have, we use what makes the most sense.

I have heard of people using a mixer or blender, but they have to be real careful not to over whip it or the butter will not stick together.  I did try the mixer one day but got yelled down for drowning out the sound of the game, so I stick to the old ways and I like it better anyway.

It is real easy to tell when the butter is done.  It separates from the milk and sticks together.  The sound changes, the blob of butter feels different, and I can see the chunks of butter that has separated from the buttermilk.  Now this is REAL buttermilk.  Don’t waste it.  It is good for baking and drinking, and when you have as much as we do……pigs love it.  I pour off the buttermilk and what is left is the butter.


Now I have to wash out the rest of the buttermilk so that the butter stays fresh a lot longer.  I squeeze the butter into a blob and put it into some cold water until I gather all that I had it that container.  As I run more cold water over it, I knead it and wash it until there is no more buttermilk coming off the butter.  Then I salt it to taste.


I have put the butter into containers and I have used butter molds.  I love the look of the molds so that is what we use all the time now.  We have an 8 ounce and a 4 ounce molds.

To use the molds, I soak them in cold water for at least the time I am making the butter before I put anything into them.  After I am done salting, I press the butter into the molds making sure that all the crevasses are filled.  Then I smack the edge of the mold on the counter to get the butter out.  I have to be very careful here because the butter is still really soft and I don’t want to damage it.  If it doesn’t come out, I have put the mold in the freezer for about 5 minutes to help, but once I found out that it really does take some smacking I don’t do it anymore.  I hold my hand under the mold and out comes a beautifully formed work of love.


As I hold it, my daughter covers it gently with some plastic wrap and wraps the butter for storage.  Since we make a lot at a time, we put what we aren’t going to use right away onto a pizza pan and put in the refrigerator to get cold.  Once it is solid, we wrap it a second time, put it into a dated Ziploc bag, and freeze it.

There you have it……easy butter making 101.

But I forgot the best part……eating it.  I absolutely love the taste of my fresh made butter.  I will pile it on a bagel like it was cream cheese.  Mix it with honey (of course locally sourced) and load it on bread.  And all the other wonderful ways that we use butter.  I don’t use it in baking though.  I don’t want to waste the goodness of my butter into something where I won’t taste it. Danishes and croissants….yes.  Cakes and cookies….no.

I hope that you get a chance to make your own.  There is nothing like it in the stores.


About Janolyn

I am a mother of 5 wonderful children, 4 boys and 1 girl. During the years that my children were growing up, we grew most of our own food with a vegetable garden, many fruit trees and berry patches. I grew flowers for joy. We milked goats and raised our own meats and eggs. I learned to make my own cheeses, butter, canned foods, sourdough, and fermented foods. I made our own health products like soap, hand creams, lip balm, and herbal tinctures. We live off the power grid and have learned to do without conveniences that most Americans consider essential. The land clearing and building has been mostly accomplished with hand tools; some of them even the right tool for the job. After a couple of miscarriages between #2 and #3 due to “standard medical procedures”, I consulted a midwife and my last 3 children were born safely at home. That was when I was first alerted to the fact that doctors did not know everything nor would they have the time to share it with their patients if they did. As I learned the basic principles of heath-through-nutrition from my midwife, I learned alternative gardening practices from her husband. That introduction started a lifelong love of learning the practical life of our ancestors. I want to share what I have been learning with you and learn from those who are also living a sustainable life.


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