Friday, October 11, 2013

Making butter in a blender

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, 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.


  1. Thank you for sharing. I have often wondered if there was a way to do it with things we have around the house. Will have to try this in the future.....I intend making my own everything.....

  2. I've only ever made butter as a kind of science experiment with the kids because we have no dairy animals yet. Anyway, a small batch in my Kitchen Aid stand mixer with a whisk attachment was very easy to do. I also wonder if my hand crank ice cream maker would work.

  3. Your mysterious butter paddle reminds me a lot of a rice scooper. Maybe one could substitute?

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  5. Not only does cream break more easily when warmed, but it breaks very much more easily when allowed to sour for a couple days in a closed jar on the counter. Only do this with cream from raw milk; pasteurized milk doesn't sour, it just spoils. But who would want to drink pasteurized stuff anyway... :)

  6. At nursery school we shake a jar of cream. This is for a small amount and is still relatively tiring.

  7. The rocking churn gives me an idea.

    How about a small chamber (little barrel?) fixed across the back of the rockers on a rocking chair?

    Sit rock, knit (crochet, read, chat, surf...) and make butter?

  8. Not only do dogs like buttermilk, it's also good for their fur. I give mine buttermilk or a scoop of yogurt at least twice a week. She's a black Lab/Collie mix and her fur is shiny all the time. The vet told me the yogurt also helps their digestive tract, same as in humans.
    I very much enjoy your writings, Ms. Lewis, but the biggest laugh I've gotten so far was from your husband's account on efficiency.
    All the best and keep up the good work!
    Kyle MacLachlan

  9. Ooo I know why butter comes together easier! It's because of science! You see what is happening when you make butter is that through agitation you are literally knocking the globules of fat that float around in the fluid together. If it's too cold, the globules won't actually stick together. Instead they'll become attracted to the air bubbles forced into the cream (through a similar force that causes cream to float on milk) and form a film around the air, trapping it in the fluid. When cream is warm, the globules stick to each other and eventually become heavy enough to settle out of the fluids. So, if you agitate cold cream, you get whipped cream with air suspended in the fluid by the fat films, and when you agitate warm cream, you get butter. Temperature is actually an integral part of the process!

  10. Butter churns like the new one shown in your picture often pop up at auctions in my area for $5-10, never knew they sold for so much money! A neighbor of mine uses a food processor to make butter, she says she just puts the cream in there and turns it on for about 10 minutes and lets it go and it works great. I'd assume a stand mixer would work just as well and would probably be easier to get the butter out than trying to get it out of the blender. My dad occasionally still makes homemade butter, says it reminds him of his childhood, however back then they churned all their own butter and it was quite a process, but what he uses now and has been using for the past 50 years or so is what I guess you'd call a hand crank egg beater/mixer? I did an online search to find a picture and here is a more modern version of it: Works really well and isn't too time consuming. A nice backup for if the electricity ever fails and those tend to always pop up at thrift stores in my area for a buck or two. And on the topic of blenders, I have the newer version of the blender you have which is about 2 years old, and most of the settings on it, once you press the button it will keep running until you push the stop button, except for features like ice chopping and some others.

    1. I've used a stand mixer to make butter, using the wisk attachment it works quite well. I always started with chilled cream and bowl cause thats what I was taught. Takes about 10 minutes usually.

  11. You have probably hit upon a good method, here, with the equipment you have. It would be a good idea to ask Don to make you a butter paddle. It will make things go well.

  12. I have made butter successfully with the Kitchen Aid stand mixer, it does help a lot to have the partial cover on the bowl!

  13. I see, also, many blocks of delicious looking cheese in the background of some of those photos.

    Great essay on butter making. If you guys put your heads together on a butter churn, you'll probably come up with some as ingenious as your cheese press.

    Just Me

  14. I enjoyed seeing you make it in a blender. Thanks for sharing this idea with us.

  15. Oh, how funny... I'm part of a homeschool co-op, and one of the classes I'm teaching this semester is Dr. Seuss. Today we read the Butter Battle Book while all the little (antsy!) kids got their wiggles out by shaking little canning jars of cream to make butter. They thought it was the neatest thing ever. It's time consuming if you need to make a bunch of butter, but all you need is the time/energy to shake it up and work on your arm muscles. :)

  16. Years ago I would strap a jar of cream onto the #itchbar of my ridged frame Pan head and ride up and down the dirt road to my house. The road was 2 miles one way. You might try this with a four wheeler. Idaho Bill

  17. Butter! The wonderful golden gift from a jersey cow.
    There is an easier way to make butter, in my opinion. I think you're making to much work for yourself by heating the cream so much and not agitating long enough. Experience has taught me that cream warmer than 65 degrees makes for "fluffy" butter. 58-64 is ideal. Slightly soured does seem to help as well, but it's not essential. I do either 3 quarts at a time in my 6 quart Kitchenaid, with plastic over the mixer head and bowl, or 1 quart at a time in a food processor. The volume of cream doubles as it whips, then the butter just starts to come and the line in the bowl drops a bit, then more. As the butter forms little grains, all the liquid begins to creep up the bowl as the spinning speed increases because of the decreas in resistance. Don't stop yet. Wait until the butter comes together in a glob almost, and the buttermilk is really climbing. In my mixer, it will start to leak out the top if I don't stop it, and in the food processor it cleans off the inside of the cover and will leak out if I don't stop it. Now the butter is easy to press together with a wooden spoon, and the buttermilk can just be poured off into the slop bucket for pigs. Transfer the butter into a bowl for washing (wood would be perfect) and rinse. If you try this, you might be surprised at how much faster the washing process goes.

  18. I have read that the Amish use the Wonderwash to churn their butter. They use the hand ranked one which cost $40 at Amazon.

  19. When I had fresh milk (will again, soon, Miss Fiona is due next month), I made butter by putting the room temperature cream in a quart jar (1/2 full) and putting a piece of plastic wrap over the top, and then the lid (or it leaks all over) and then shake, shake, shake. About 30-45 minutes of shaking usually. We would do several jars at once and put on some Celtic music and shake to the music. Make butter and have a workout at the same time. I tried the KitchenAid mixer, and it made a big fat mess, and it uses electricity. I bought one of those Daisy glass butter churns like you have pictured for about $40 dollars on eBay. When I finally tried it, it was much more difficult to turn that handle round and round than it was to shake quart canning jars. After 45 minutes of cranking, with no end in sight, I poured it into a quart jar and did it my normal way and had butter in about 20 minutes. I was really sore the next day from the churn. I have not had fresh milk for a while, I MAY give the Daisy another chance or it will be a cool decoration on the top of the cabinets.
    For salt, I believe I was using about 1 teaspoon per pound and I would get about 1/4 pound of butter per quart of cream. The buttermilk went into the fridge and we used it for biscuits and pancakes and other baking. the dog and cat and chickens also got some, too.

  20. I use my large mixer to make small batches of butter. For large batches (think 2 gallons) I use a 5 gallon bucket. My husband drilled a hole in the bucket lid and we have a paddle that hooks to his electric drill. It's a paint mixing sort of paddle. We snap the bucket lid on, hook up the drill and I let the drill and paddle mix it until it breaks into butter. I then have to rinse it in batches.

    Lehman's sells that butter paddle too. Nice, wooden and worth the investment. It sure makes it easier to squeeze the water frm the butter.

  21. I remember my Mom making butter in the blender, when we had milk cows, I always loved her fresh butter, I don't remember whether or not she added salt or not. I liked the idea of attaching it to a rocking chair, although not sure if that would work, it seems like a good idea.

  22. We usually let it warm on the counter a couple of hours and then just fill a wide-mouth quart or 2-quart canning jar halfway. Make sure that the lid is very tight, and then hand the jar off to a child in need of a chore. . It usually takes about 10 minutes of brisk up and down shaking for the butter to come. No fuss and not much mess!

  23. i've seen butter churns made from 5 gallon buckets with lids and another bucket bottom to make paddles on the churn handle. it's usually food grade buckets. get a new clean mop handle cut to comfortable length attack plus sign shaped paddle with a stainless steel screw,cut hole in lidfor handle,add cream and do the chuerning pump action.

  24. I knew a lady with seven kids who churned her butter by half way filling a large mason jar with cream and rolling it with her foot as she rocked her children. I know your kids are past the rocking stage but is there anyone you could babysit for? :)

  25. My easy washing process is to pour the butter/buttermilk into a sieve and then catch the butter milk with a bowl underneath if I want to save it. I then take the butter milk bowl away and use cold water coming out of my sink sprayer to wash the butter. When the water coming out of the bottom of the sieve is clear, then I call it good enough. I have a butter paddle but I just use clean hands to press it together and get the water out. If you do this when the grains are still relatively fine, it's the fast part of the process!

  26. I landed on your site while searching for a stainless steel end-over-end butter churn. Haven't found one yet. ;)

    I have that exact butter paddle in my drawer. It was my mother's. We grew up pretty much making all our own food from what we grew and livestock. I have still been trying to get back to that life.

    I hope one day to use that paddle more regularly than I do now, which is only once in a while.