Butter Me Up!

Not so very long ago, there was this looney idea that margarine was better for people than butter. I don’t think anyone still legitimately believes this craziness. Well, maybe they do. Not my concern. But, back when the margarine craze was shortly in vogue, I wondered how it was that people could think something artificially made in some lab could be better than the real thing? I still get upset when I ask for butter at a restaurant and get brought “spread” instead. “This is not butter!” I want to exclaim. Instead, I just go butterless, which, in itself, is sort of tragic. In short, ya can’t beat butter.

This is my butter bell. The “bell” part sits in water inside the other portion until it’s time to use it.

I often get asked if I make all my own butter, since I have a family milk cow. In truth, I do not. I cannot. It takes a lot of cream to make a little bit of butter. Part of the benefit of having nice, whole, Jersey, raw milk is to enjoy its creaminess. (Quick side note: Jersey milk has more cream than Holstein milk, and your traditional store-bought milk comes from Holsteins.) So, everyone who I share milk with wants the cream left on their milk. That only leaves the 4 or so gallons a week that my immediate family drinks. With four gallons of milk weekly, I could probably come up with a pound of butter (4 sticks) a week, maybe. Do you know how many sticks of butter it takes to make cookies? Two. Let me just say that my family usually goes through more than a pound of butter a week. That’s what happens when you cook and bake with it regularly, plus spread it on about everything.

Nonetheless, I do make butter sometimes. The first step is to somehow skim the cream off the milk. I don’t have a fancy separator for that, so I usually use a small ladle. I have used a turkey baster before but find the ladle faster. You can take as much or as little cream off each gallon as you like. You’re still not going to get every scrap of it, so don’t think you’re leaving skim milk behind.

I then put the cream in my blender and only fill it three-quarters of the way full. I have tried this with a stand mixer and handheld mixer. No thanks. The blender is faster. I think a food processor would also be just as fast. Once the cream turns to whipped cream, my blender (because it’s cheap) wants to quit, so I have to stop and mix it with a spoon, push start again, mix it, etc. But it’s not long after this that it turns to butter. The next step I do by hand.

Obviously with clean hands, you take the butter out of the blender, leaving the “buttermilk” behind. (Plan to talk about that next week.) The butter sticks together easily and doesn’t really stick to your hands, so it’s easy to knead and squeeze the butter glob. If the glob is too big, separate it, and do it in parts. You have to knead it to get as much of the liquid (whey) out as you can. This will help the flavor, and it will help the butter stay fresher longer. I also run a little bit of cold water on the butter a couple times while I’m kneading it over the sink. This helps get the whey out. I then salt my homemade butter and stick it in a butter bell for immediate use. The whole process only takes about 15 minutes.

If I’m not going to use my butter in the next couple of days, I will freeze it. I’ve found that homemade butter quickly gets a strong aftertaste the older it gets. Homemade butter doesn’t last near as long as store-bought. You can keep it longer in the fridge, of course, but I like my butter spreadable.  

Depending on the time of the year, my butter will be a different color. Can anyone guess why? (Without looking it up, of course.) I’ll answer that next week.


  1. My guess on the differences in color is due to the differences in the cow’s diet?? (That may be too generic of a guess….so, maybe eating fresh, green grass in the summer, vs a diet mostly of hay or grain in the winter?)


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