I know when you think about homemade butter you envision someone sitting on their front porch on a hot summer day, big butter churn, in dress and bonnet, just churning away for hours only stopping to wipe the sweat off of her brow.
OK people it is totally is NOT like that. It is actually pretty easy and quick.
We drink raw milk (which we love) and one of the best things about it is that the cream rises to the top. We skim the cream off and use it for everything, including making butter. We don't have enough cream to replace all the butter we use, but we can make enough butter for spreading on bread or pancakes or whatever (not enough to bake with, though I tend to use a lot of butter in place of oils etc.)
There are several ways you can make butter. Mostly you just need to agitate the cream. For kids it is fun to put it in a jar with some marbles and let them shake and shake (maybe I'll post about that later) but the easiest way I have found is to use a food processor or something similar that will agitate the cream really fast. I use one of those large processors/choppers. the blade at the bottom works fine to move it all really fast. I have used the little handy chopper when I had just a small amount of cream and only needed a little butter, but I am sure you could use a stand mixer or stick mixer or even beaters if that is all you have.
How to make Butter at Home
Start with cream. Raw cream is ideal but heavy cream that you buy at the store will work too.
It works quicker if the cream is room temp. With our raw cream I will sometimes leave it out overnight (raw cream sours, it doesn't spoil). Letting it get a little sour makes for better butter. I am sure you can let store bought cream sit out too, but not too long (don't want it going rancid). You can use cold cream from the fridge too, I have when I didn't plan ahead it just takes a bit longer. Using a food processor, I can usually get butter in 3-6min.
This day I used 4 cups of cream (and got 1 cup of butter).
It had been in the fridge for a couple weeks, so was already a tad sour but was also very thick on top (the longer it sits, the thicker it gets on top, a bit thinner on the bottom).
Pour it in your food processor etc. and turn it on. The processor will churn your cream into butter. Normally I just let it run till I have butter, but I have stopped mine to take pictures to show you the changes it goes through. The first few times you make it you are sure to stop it several times to check anyway, until you get a hang of what it looks/sounds like when it gets to the butter stage.
Within a minute or 2, your cream will start to thicken and eventually you will make whipped cream.
I have a nice thick cream above, and below shows a pretty good whipped cream.
But you have to keep going.
As you churn longer, your whipped cream will go from smooth (above) to a bit lumpy with more texture (below)
As you keep churning it will continue to get more texture to it, looking almost grainy, but still thick. The picture below would be a very buttery flavored whipped cream.
As it gets closer to turning into butter, it will "appear" to thin out some, as the buttermilk is starting to separate out. You can see below that it is watery, with some thicker globs, but it isn't quite finished butter yet, almost.
When the buttermilk completely separates out, then you have butter (below). The change from the picture above to the one below can be very quick and you will notice an immediate difference (which I talk about below)
Notice all the thin white buttermilk, with the thick globs of yellow butter completely separated out.
Here I have taken a spoon and pushed all the butter to the side so you can see how it has separated from the buttermilk.
There are a couple ways you can tell if your butter is finished, other than stopping the machine and pulling the top off to check.
If you watch it churning, you can see it go through all the stages I have shown in the pictures. Once it gets to the butter stage though, there will be an immediate noticeable change. As you are watching it churn, it will look thick from the outside of the bowl, but as it turns to butter it will change immediately and look really thin like water, as the buttermilk, which has separated out, is thrown up the sides of the bowl. It makes for a really noticeable difference and if you are watching it churn it is something you can't miss (make sure you have the lid on the bowl!!)
Another clue is how it sounds, when it gets to the butter stage, because of the change in texture, the machine will make a different sound than it did before. If you are listening, you can hear it.
Once you have butter, you will need to strain out your buttermilk. I usually just push all the butter to one side and pour the buttermilk into a jar to refrigerate and use for whatever. This is not the same as buttermilk you buy in a store, that is cultured buttermilk.
The next step is to wash the butter. You want to get as much buttermilk out of the butter as possible or it will spoil really quick. I typically work it around in the bowl, replacing the water with fresh water till all the water is clear. You need to use cold water. If the water isn't cold the butter will be mushy and sticky. Lately I have just been using my hands and working it that way (cold butter can be handled easily). I'll keep the bowl in the sink and keep a stream of water running into it till it is all rinsed.
Once all the water runs clean and I am pretty sure I have all the buttermilk out, I then work the remaining water out of the butter (below). You can press it over and over against the side of a bowl, working it around and around till all the water is out. If it is nice and cold and firm I will sometimes blot it in a cloth or something too.
After it is rinsed you can add salt (I usually knead it in by hand) and any flavors (honey for honey butter etc.).
To store, I usually just put it in a glass bowl with a lid but you can roll it in was paper or put it in molds in the fridge or whatever. I have found it will usually keep for a week or 2. But you can put it in the freezer and it will keep longer. It is very hard so you can let it sit out a bit if you want it spreadable. I like to use it immediately after I make it. It is VERY yummy!!
The night I made this butter Charlie had made some soup and bread!!!
Need I say Mmmmmmm!!