I'm getting lots and lots of milk from milking Matilda, so I'm in full dairy mode: cheese, yogurt, and of course butter.
There are endless ways to churn butter -- agitation is the sole unifying component -- so I use my blender to make it quick-n-easy.
I like to wait until I have a gallon and a half or two gallons of cream before making butter.
For whatever reason, cream seems to turn to butter much quicker if it's warmed to about 80F. If the cream is too cool or too warm, it takes muuuuuch longer to turn to butter.
Here it's a bit over 80F, but not so much as to make the churning too inefficient.
Once the cream is warmed up, I use a measuring cup as a scoop to pour the cream into the blender. I don't fill the blender more than half-way.
I have an older blender, which has two types of settings. On one type of setting, I have to keep manually pushing the button for the blender to say on. With the other type of setting, the blender stays on automatically. (I don't know if newer blenders work this way.) I put the blender on the lowest setting it will stay on by itself, which is "Stir."
The cream only has to blend for a couple of minutes. At the end of that time, this is what it looks like.
I line a colander with a clean cloth. Unlike the thin squares of sheeting I use for straining milk or making cheese, I prefer a tighter, stouter weave of cloth for making butter. This is because I have to force the buttermilk out through the cloth. With thinner cloth, the butter also gets forced out, which isn't good.
Pouring the blender contents into the colander. I usually save the buttermilk since the dogs love it.
The buttermilk doesn't drain easily, so I gather the edges of the cloth together...
...and, starting at the top of the gather, squeeze downward. The butter stays inside the cloth, the buttermilk is squeezed out.
By the way, the buttermilk that results is very thin and nothing like the thick creamy buttermilk you buy in stores. That's cultured buttermilk. You can buy cultures to make cultured buttermilk out of plain buttermilk; but since I don't like to drink buttermilk, I don't bother. The dogs (or chickens) are happy to get it.
After the buttermilk is squeezed out, I open the cloth and strip the butter into a bowl. It's very loose and soft at this point, almost unrecognizable as butter.
Meanwhile, while I'm squeezing and stripping, I have another batch of cream in the blender, churning. It makes for a nice rhythm: by the time I'm finished squeezing-and-stripping, the next batch of butter is done. I pour it into the cloth, put some new cream in the blender, and repeat the process until all the cream is churned.
By the end of this process, here's what the butter looks like -- a watery mess.
Now comes the laborious part of washing the butter. All the buttermilk (the cloudy liquid) has to be washed out, otherwise it will make the butter go rancid. So I put the bowl in the sink and run some cold water into it. Then I squish squish squish the butter, pressing it flat against the bottom or sides of the bowl, squeezing and shaping. The water will get very cloudy.
There are butter paddles available to help this process, but I haven't been able to find any in antique stores. I may ask Don to make me one.
I pour off the cloudy water and add fresh cold water. The coldness of the water helps to harden the butter. I repeat the process of squishing, pressing, squeezing, and otherwise working the buttermilk. The water quickly clouds up. I pour it off and repeat the process perhaps another fifteen or twenty times until the water runs clear. Then I pour off the water for the last time.
After this, it's time to add salt. You can keep butter unsalted, but surprisingly it tastes very bland that way (although it's otherwise perfectly fine). How much salt to add? I've read various sources that recommend something like a tablespoon of butter per pound. I've tried that, and the result was eye-wateringly salty butter. After some experimentation, I only add a quarter-teaspoon per pound (or a half teaspoon for two pounds, which is what I ended up with). Sprinkle the salt over the butter and start working it in. I also take this opportunity to squeeze out any excess water.
So how much butter do I get? The usual rule of thumb is a pound of butter per gallon of cream.
In this case out of a bit under two gallons of cream, I got about 2 1/4 pounds of butter.
Eventually I want to segue to non-electric butter-making options. The old paddle-in-a-jar type of churn, such as this one at Lehmans.com, cost an arm and a leg. Even used or antique ones are wildly expensive.
Don says it wouldn't be hard to make a rocking churn, a smaller version of the one mentioned in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Farmer Boy.
There are probably easier ways to make butter, and I'm happy to hear any of them.