How to make butter at home

Food & drink
The easy way to make butter

Making butter is simple.

It’s really just very agitated cream.

The craft of making butter seems to have been lost.  In past centuries, most butter was made by hand using methods similar to this.  These are forgotten skills now, so much so that actually doing it yourself by hand and seeing a pat of butter form before your amazed eyes has something magical about it.

All you need are three things:

  • double cream, about a pint
  • a large jar with a tight fitting lid
  • a little salt, to taste

Pour the cream into the jar and fasten the lid.

Shake the jar.

Shake it some more.

And some more.

Keep shaking it for what will seem like an eternity.  The cream will thicken and cling to the sides of the jar.  Don’t worry, just keep shaking.

Eventually, you’ll feel a weight slopping around in the jar with a satisfying thud.  The cream will have separated into butter and buttermilk.

Drain the contents of the jar through a seive and swill it out with cold water to remove any bits that were left behind.  Shape the butter into a block, squeezing out as much liquid as you can, and dry it with a cloth.

You could beat in some salt at this point, or just leave your butter unsalted.

This method is centuries old, and it’s difficult to see how a recipe that involves only one ingredient – a carton of double cream – could be attributed to any specific person.  Despite this, I got the idea from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s excellent The River Cottage Family Cookbook, a superb book full of simple and easy recipes that are perfect for kids to help out with.

Hugh writes that people sometimes used to make butter by giving their grandma a jar of cream and letting her rock it into butter on her rocking chair.  If you have access to a suitably equipped pensioner, by all means strap a couple of Kilner jars to her chair and see what happens.

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