Take your home pantry to the next level and learn how to make butter from heavy cream.
Homemade butter is so easy to make, and while it may not exactly save you money, according to this Bon Appetit article, it is delicious, luxurious, and completely customizable.
In our home cooking journey, I feel like there are a handful of momentous milestones. Baking bread, the perfect roast chicken, and making butter from heavy cream are three of the biggest accomplishments in my book.
Butter is one of those ingredients we take for granted. But with just a little patience, it’s almost magical. You take one ingredient (heavy whipping cream) and turn it into two: butter and buttermilk!
The History of Butter
Humans have been milking sheep and goats since we began domesticating them over 10,000 years ago. (Cows and horses wouldn’t be domesticated until 1,000 and 4,000 years later, respectively!)
Sheep and goats milk both serve as excellent creams to make butter out of because of their high fat content.
In fact, to this day butter is made from cow, goat, sheep, horse, camel and llama milk all around the world.
However, in the ancient middle east, butter would spoiled quickly, due to the climate, and was not a convenient way of preserving the nutrition of milk. Instead, they would make cheese.
The ancient Greeks and Romans considered it the finest food among their Northern Barbarian neighbors. However, Galen, one of the founding fathers of herbal medicine considered it medicinal.
In the middle ages butter spread across most of Europe but was mainly consumed by the lower classes. It wasn’t until the 16th century that it started to gain popularity in the upper classes as well.
The color of your butter will vary according to the breed and what the animal has been eating. It can be everything from white to a dandelion yellow to a rich orange cream.
How to Make Butter From Heavy Cream
The goal of making butter from heavy cream is to agitate the milk enough that the butterfat that is suspended in the cream clings together to form clumps.
In fact, a traditional way of making milk in the ancient middle east was to fill a goat skin only halfway with milk and then hang it on a saddle bag to be agitated by the movement of a horse, or hung from a tripod made out of sticks and rocked back and forth until butter was formed.
Making butter by hand brings to mind women working a wooden churn which did essentially what we do today with our standing mixers.
To make butter in your standing mixer, simply add the heavy cream and put on the whisk attachment. Turn your mixer on slowly.
Slowly step up the speed until it starts spraying out and then step it down so that it’s as fast as it can go without making a mess.
Then wait! Soon you’ll see it become whipped butter (and you can stop here if you want!) and before long it turns into little balls of butter in buttermilk.
Run your hands under cold water so that your skin is cold and then grab the butter and squeeze out as much buttermilk as you can.
You can do it just with your hands, or “wash” the butter in ice water to “rinse” out the rest of the buttermilk.
Enjoy your fresh butter over some homemade bread and save the buttermilk to bake some banana nut bread later!
Here’s a quick video I made of what the entire process looks like. The first time I did it, I truly doubted it would ever work – I was too impatient. But here’s the proof!
- 1 pint (2 cups) heavy whipping cream
- salt (optional)
- ice water
- In a standing mixer with the whisk attachment attached, add the heavy cream and salt (if desired).
- Whisk on medium until butter lumps together and the buttermilk separates.
- Remove the butter and reserve the buttermilk for other recipes.
- Pour the ice water over the butter and squeeze the remaining buttermilk out or press it with the back of a spoon.