Since I've been milking Polly every day, I've been getting about 1.25 gallons each morning. Needless to say, this stuff stacks up in the fridge. I haven't made any cheese for awhile because I'm out of starter culture and need to cultivate more; so until then, I've been skimming the cream and making butter.
I don't know why it didn't occur to me to put up a blog post about the process until I was halfway done with this latest batch, but there you go. So I apologise for not showing the eight or so gallons that were stacked in the fridge, or the process of ladling the cream into a large pot. But suffice it to say, I ended with this large pot (which holds two gallons) full of cream.
I heated it slowly to 60F.
For whatever reason, when cream is warmer or cooler than 60F, it takes too long to churn; but right around 60F, it churns quickly and easily... especially if you churn in a blender, which I do for the sake of convenience.
The blender shouldn't be more than half full, since it increases in volume during the churning process, plus it needs room to splash around.
It takes maybe a minute (or less) for cream to churn to butter in the blender. You can "hear" when it's done because the motor changes tone as the contents become thicker. This is what it looks like after it's churned. Butter floats on top, buttermilk is at the bottom.
I line a colander in the sink with a large piece of clean sheeting, about 2x2 feet square, and pour the liquidy butter/buttermilk into the colander.
The colander will hold the contents of two bouts in the blender (this photo shows just one blender's worth).
When I've churned twice and dumped everything into the colander, it's time to squeeze out the buttermilk. You can save the buttermilk if you like, though I don't bother. It's not like the thick buttermilk you find in grocery stores, by the way. That's cultured buttermilk, which this isn't.
Gather up the corners of the cloth...
...then squeeze downward. I prefer "thick" sheeting rather than "thin" sheeting for this purpose. If the fabric is too thin or loose (like cheesecloth), it will squeeze out the butter along with the buttermilk.
After that, move the sheet over a large bowl...
...and strip the butter downward off the sheet into the bowl. It's messy, but the butter is so softy and liquidy it's very easy.
Repeat this process until the cream is all gone. I am able to set up a comfortable rhythm: While I'm stripping butter from the cloth, another batch is churning; then I dump the churned butter in the colander and set up another batch to churn while I squeeze and strip the butter, etc.
At the end, this is what the butter looks like. It's very watery and loose and bears little resemblance to the finished product.
The next step is to wash the butter. It's necessary to wash all the buttermilk out of the butter, or it will go rancid very quickly.
Run COLD water into the bowl...
...and start working the butter -- squeezing and flattening, squeezing and flattening.
The water will quickly get cloudy, and you'll feel the butter start to firm up.
Pour off the water and refill the bowl, always using cold water. I like to pour off the cloudy water over a colander, because sometimes little bits of butter get poured off too.
Repeat this process for as many times as necessary until the water comes clear - maybe nine or ten times. You can expect anywhere from 2 to 3.5 pounds of butter from two gallons of cream. This time I got 3.5 lbs, calibrated for the weight of the bowl.
The next step is to salt the butter. Salting isn't necessary, though it does improve the flavor and helps preserve it. Most instructions for making butter call for waaaay too much salt, in my opinion. Through trial and error, I've found one teaspoon of salt for three pounds of butter is just about right. If I had only one pound of butter, I'd add 1/3 teaspoon.
Sprinkle the salt over the butter and work it in until you can't feel the graininess of the salt any more. You'll probably work out a bit more water during this process, so just pour it off.
Then the butter is done. Since 3.5 lbs is more than we will use in the immediate, I froze the excess. I tore off three sheets of waxed paper and laid them on the counter, ready, then weighed out a pound of butter.
The butter is still very sloppy and loose since it's at room temperature, so I plop it onto the waxed paper and carefully roll it into a ball within the paper, tucking the side tails of the paper under the ball. This left me with half a pound left over, which I put in the fridge for immediate use.
I like to slip each pound of wrapped butter into a plastic Ziplock bag as well, before freezing.
That's all there is to making butter. From start to finish, including cleanup, takes about an hour. By the way, you'd think the piece of fabric I used to drain the buttermilk would be a mess to clean, but it's not. Under hot water, it's quite easy to rinse off the remains of the butter, after which I put the cloth in the wash.
As I see it, knowing how to make butter is just one more step toward self-sufficiency. After all, you can't get much closer to the cow than homemade butter.
Oh, and let's not forget... this butter is EXTREMELY RARE AND PRECIOUS, according to this article. LOL.