Butter Bummer

What is the simplest of cultured milk products to make? So simple that my mom teaches her preschoolers how to make it? Butter. You take cream and shake it around in a jar (or a blender) and “ta-da”, butter! How do you mess that up?


Mmmmm. Cream.

What I Did:

I used one pint of local, low temp pasteurized, non homogeonized cow cream left over from making cream cheese. I mixed in half a packet of buttermilk culture and let it ripen for about 12 hours, using this recipe. Then I took the ripened cream in a glass jar, at room temperature, and started shaking. And shaking. I got a lovely thick cream but…that’s it. So I shook some more. And then I put it in the blender. Still nothing but thick cream. I thought- maybe its gotten too warm with all that shaking, so I put it in the fridge. It got fairly firm- kind of like a margarine spread- but it hadn’t actually released any of its buttermilk. So I blended some more, and shook some more. And then got Chris to try shaking it in case I wasn’t shaking it well enough. I even tried straining it through cheesecloth but either nothing came out or I squeezed it and butter started leaking through the holes (i.e., still no separation).

Butter...sort of?

Butter…sort of?

What went wrong?

After doing some internet searching I discovered a couple of important things

1) if you use ripened cream rather than fresh or refrigerated cream, it takes LESS shaking and can happen pretty quickly, especially if the cream is warm to begin with

2) it is possible to mix the buttermilk and butter back together after it “breaks” (separates) and when that happens more shaking just makes it worse

3) while you can use the mixture of butter and buttermilk as a spread, it can’t be used in place of butter in baking (different balance of fats and liquids) and it will spoil much more quickly than real butter

Lesson Learned

Next time, I’ll start off with less shaking and check it more frequently to make sure I catch the “break”.

What Now?

Right now I’m working the butter with a wooden spoon and have been able to remove some of the buttermilk. I’m going to try adding a bit of salt and keep working it to see if I can get more of the buttermilk out. If I can get it a bit firmer with less of the buttermilk flavor I think it’ll still be useful as a spread, even if it won’t work for baking. I am planning on freezing it in small amounts so hopefully that will let me avoid the problem of spoilage.

Thankfully I didn’t actually “need” butter and didn’t have any plans for using it. I had a pint of cream left over after making cream cheese and didn’t want it to go to waste, so I was mostly just looking for a way to use it. I’ve heard that cream doesn’t freeze very well but butter does, so I figured it would be quick and easy to just turn it into butter and freeze it for later.

Has anyone else failed at making butter? Where did you go wrong?