Monday, July 26, 2010

Meatless Monday: Make Your Own Butter

I often blog on food or food issues on Monday in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal  health and the health of our planet.”

It’s vacation time. Some of you may have out-of-school kids who occasionally whine that they are bored. This DIY experiment might be just the boredom fix you need.

The idea for our Great Butter-Making Experiment came from my friend Kevin, who told me how easy it had been for him to make butter from organic cream he had purchased on sale. He sent the following synopsis:

“Leave an opened pint of heavy cream out overnight, pour it into a mixer or blender & whisk for about 10 minutes, voilĂ … I used organic cream which was on sale for $3.25. One pint yielded 14 ozs. of butter; the cheapest organic butter in the store went for $5.89.”

This sounded like a very good and very easy thing to try.

Kevin also posted a link to a video which showed how to make butter merely by shaking cream in a jar. “How green,” I thought. I clicked and I watched.

This outrageous and educational video by the eccentric Robert Krampf has been viewed over 81,000 times! Whether or not you decide to make butter, you have got to check this video out. Krampf made it look like so much fun, I decided that his method was the way to go.

With the thought of trying butter-making sometime soon, on my most recent visit to Whole Foods I bought a pint of organic heavy cream with a good date, and I set it in the fridge.

On Saturday I decided the time had come. Blueberries are in season, and I had bought a quart at CitySeed on Wednesday (too hot here to pick my own.) We both agreed these plump, sweet beauties would be excellent on pancakes topped with homemade butter. I duly set the cream out overnight —  guessing that “room temperature” was more likely to be in the room with the A/C set to  76° than in the kitchen where it was 85°.

The next morning we poured the cream into the jar. Don began shaking it, vigorously, once a second, as Krampf had instructed. Nothing much happened. After about ten minutes of this, I took the jar and, Ignoring Krampf, shook it back and forth vigorously. I soon ended up with a jar of whipped cream, with no liquid.

By this time the pancakes were almost ready, so I decided to switch gears and see if I could salvage the butter by use of a machine. I got out the Bamix, plunged it into the cream, and soon after had a nice jar of whipped butter. It looked beautiful when scraped into a paté bowl.

Our "whipped" butter
What had gone wrong? We were ready to blame it on an incorrect “room temperature” when I decided to read the cream carton. There was another ingredient besides cream listed — carageenan. Carageenan, derived from red seaweed, is added to products to keep them from separating. I suspect that no matter what the room temperature, this cream would never have turned into butter with the Krampf method.

I will have to give this experiment another try with 100% cream bought at the farmer’s market.

The whipped butter did taste great on the pancakes. And the next time I have extra cream, I will know to turn it into butter rather than pour it down the drain. You can read more about making mixer butter at Cooking for Engineers.

I hope you decide to give DIY butter a try. Just be sure to read the ingredients on the cream carton first. And you might consider making the butter before you start grilling the pancakes.

PS I mentioned our butter-making experiment to my mother-in-law, who grew up in rural Illinois during the Depression. She told me how the kids in her family would churn cream into butter which would then be traded for groceries at the local store. She added that the kids would fight over the buttermilk in the process. Some things never change.


  1. This is great. Something fun to try with the grandkids. Thanks Elaine. DMT

  2. Elaine-
    I once made butter in a science class. We put a washed marble in with the cream when we shook idea if that would help :)

  3. I have made butter many times by accident! It was one of the cautions my mom always gave us when it was our turn to whip the cream....

  4. The video was definitely worth watching It also gave me the image of Don shaking the jar..and shaking the jar. . .and shaking the jar.