Butter (DIY)

In my recent Día de Muertos post, I mentioned making my own butter for the Pan de Muerto recipe from Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

I wanted to post the procedure here.

But first….a “remember when.”

In the early 80s my mom had her heart set on a KitchenAid stand mixer.   Mom had many careers before she retired, everything from a kindergarten teacher to running a therapeutic foster care home.   But, her degree was in home economics education and she worked as a home ec. teacher after I was born in Ft. Scott, KS and later in a couple of the small towns that we lived near in Oklahoma.   I am guessing that her love of cooking and especially baking comes from her training and experiences as a home ec. teacher.   (Today she would be called a Family and Consumer Science teacher.)

Back to my KitchenAid story….She researched and researched her purchase and painstakingly read reviews in Consumer Report which she subscribed to.    She checked and checked prices as well for this was a big purchase.   Not much money was budgeted for kitchen gadgetry.   Farm equipment?  Yes. But,  she made do with the basics in her kitchen.     Finally she pulled the trigger and purchased one.   I remember traveling to Wichita to buy her new mixer.   I don’t recall whether it was because she found the best price there or if we were visiting our cousins who lived there.   Regardless, she was now the proud owner of the supreme kitchen gadget.   It was off-white and beautiful.   We all loved it.


I pulled this image off ebay. You can buy one just like mom had.

Her main purpose and need for this mixer was to make bread.    She longed to use the dough hook.   Personally, I couldn’t wait because I hated to knead bread.     The dough hook was miraculous but so was the whisk.

The whisk leads me to the butter part of this story.

We were hosting a family holiday meal at our home and mom had instructed me to make some whipped cream.   I was probably about fourteen at the time.  I was on it!  That meant I got to use the lovely mixer.

I dumped the cream in and walked away for just a few seconds.   That was another attribute of this wonderful machine—you could walk away from it.   You didn’t have to hold the bowl and the mixer in your hand.   It was all in one.  (I have heard horror stories however of people walking away from their stand mixers only to hear a horrendous crash in the kitchen as it walked off the counter and onto the floor.)   So, it was just for a few minutes but when I returned, the whipped cream looked a bit lumpy.   “Mom, this doesn’t look right.”

“Good lord, you made butter,” was Mom’s reply.   Really?   I thought you had to have a churn to make butter.

I tried it once more, cleaning out the bowl and dumping in more cream.    And, again, I walked away for a second or two.   Now it looked a bit like cottage cheese.  “Mom?”

“Good lord, you made butter again.”   Mom was not happy.    I think she finally pulled a package of Dream Whip out of the pantry and asked if I could manage adding the milk and whipping it up.   Finally, dessert was served.

As a lovely homage to this stressful kitchen memory, I give you how to make butter in your stand mixer on purpose.

Homemade Butter
From Organic Gardening

1 qt. whipping cream
sea salt, to taste
a stand mixer with both the whisk and dough hook attachments
approximately 1 cup of ice water

Place whipping cream in the bowl of a stand mixer equipped with the whisk attachment.

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I know you all know what cream looks like but I wanted to show you the type of whisk I am using. I have a KitchenAid that is about twenty years old, a gift from The Hubs when we were dating.

If you have a splatter shield, use that as well.  If not, carefully drape a clean dish towel over mixer and bowl to stop splatters.   Set mixer on medium speed and whip.

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Whipped cream. Mom would have loved it if I had stopped here back in the day.

As the mixture starts to get stiff and form peaks, you can increase the speed.   The next stage will look like a stiff frosting.

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This is right before the butterfat starts to release. I call this the frosting stage.

Keep on whipping.   “Soft cottage-cheese-like curds” will start to form as the butterfat separates from the milk.

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The liquid is your buttermilk.

The butter begins to stiffen and clump together and the buttermilk pools in the bottom of the bowl. This should take about 10 minutes.

At this point, stop the mixture and carefully pour off the buttermilk.   Refrigerate and use in other recipes.  (See note below.)  Remove the whisk and equip the mixer with the dough hook.   Start the mixer.   The dough hook will help squeeze out more of the watery buttermilk.   Stop the mixer when necessary to pour off more of the liquid.

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You’re basically just kneading the butter. Stop as often as you need to to pour off more liquid.

Add about 1/4  cup ice water to the butter and continue beating with the dough hook. This step, called “washing,” is important to keep the butter from spoiling. Pour off the cloudy liquid and do not save it. Add more ice water and repeat the process three or four times until the water becomes less cloudy.

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This is after the fourth “washing.”

Continue kneading butter with the dough hook  until all the liquid has been pressed out. Sprinkle with sea salt, if desired.

Pack butter in a container and seal.

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Ready to use in baking or for slathering on fresh bread.

Refrigerate up to 1 week or freeze for up to 6 months.

One quart cream yields 1 pound (16 ounces) of butter plus 2 cups buttermilk.

Note:  This by-product buttermilk is not like the thick, tangy stuff you buy in the grocery store but it can be used for cooking, baking, and drinking.

I used part of my butter in my Pan de Muerto  and it seemed to work just fine.   I also formed up some creepy eyes and ears butter pats to go with my “Bread for the Dead.”


For a fun kid friendly way to make butter, check out the article here.

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