Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Pioneer Skills: make your own butter

If you've been reading this blog for very long, you'll know that I have a slight fixation with pioneer living. Probably because there's a lot of cross-over between pioneer living and self-sufficiency and homesteading.

Last year (well, actually November 2008) I hosted a Pioneer Week, to encourage people to try living a little more simply by observing some basic living skills like making all your meals from scratch, drastically reducing your energy and water consumption, limiting your transportation, keeping your entertainment very basic and purchasing only necessities. For a full list of "rules" you can check out this post.

If any of you are interested in having me host this again, I'd be happy to. We didn't have a huge amount of participation last time, but I know those that did it really enjoyed it. It may make sense to wait until a little later in the year to do a Pioneer Week again, when weather and daylight are a little more agreeable.

Anyway, in the meantime, I was planning on posting some basic ideas and how-to's of things that are lost on most of us. I grew up in suburbia and learned limited (okay, nothing) about how to survive on my own without store bought everything. I've managed to teach myself quite a few things in my adulthood, but there's still plenty more to learn (see yesterday's Skills to Learn in 2010 post for ideas).

These "Pioneer Skills" posts will be simple, short and sweet. Here is one oldie but goody to get you started...

How to Make Your Own Butter

For full instructions including step-by-step pictures, see this post.

If you haven't tried this one yet, then you really need to give it a go. The taste difference from regular store bought butter is definitely worth the extra effort. You can use the leftover "buttermilk" as a milk substitute in cooking, just know that it is fairly low-fat.

If you thought that you couldn't make butter by hand without a churn or some sort of fancy equipment, then I'm here to tell you that all you need is a little heavy whipping cream, a Mason jar and lid and two hands. It will take you about 30 minutes.

Let the shaking begin!

1. Collect all the necessary equipment. I highly recommend trying to find local, organic cream as the quality is much better, but you can use whatever you have on hand if need be. I generally use a pint of heavy whipping cream and a quart canning jar with lid.

2. Leave the cream out on the counter for a while (the longer the cream sours, the less sweet the butter will be). Once the cream is warmed up to about 60 degrees then pour it into the Mason jar.

3. Put on the lid and start shaking it. After about two minutes you'll see a nice lightly whipped cream.

4. After about four minutes it will look like thick, whipped cream. Resist the temptation to empty the entire Mason jar into you mouth at this point. But do crack it open and breathe in the heavenly, sweet scent.

5. After about nine minutes of shaking, the cream will start to separate from the sides of the glass. Feel free to take a break.

6. After about fourteen minutes, the whey starts separating from the butter.

7. After about sixteen minutes, the curd is more noticeable and there's a lot more whey.

8. At this point you can start pouring the buttermilk off. Continue shaking for a few minutes until your butter has solidified a bit more and until you aren't getting anymore buttermilk off of it.

9. Pour out the butter into a bowl. Pour cold water over the butter and start "massaging" the butter with a spatula to rinse the rest of the buttermilk out. Continue replacing the water until the water stays clear. Drain.

10. Mold your butter into butter molds or into ramekins (or store in an old food safe plastic container). You will also end up with a scant cup of buttermilk (depending on how "juicy" your cream is).

Voila! Butter. In less than thirty minutes.

[This can also be done using a standing mixture, just be careful to stop it when the butter separates from the buttermilk or you will remix it and it won't separate again.]


Joey B said...

I remember doing this in school somewhere around third grade. Thanks for reminding me... sounds like a good project to do with my kids.

Marimoy said...

I, too, did this in elementary school. Unfortunately for me, where I live, cream is ridiculously expensive. Butter is cheaper. I will just buy it. One of the downfalls of living on an isolated rock in the ocean.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Well, if you use high quality cream (ours is local and organic), it is going to be more expensive than butter. But, then again, buying organic butter isn't exactly inexpensive either, especially if you get the grass pastured butter.

So, it's all a matter of what you are looking for! I don't make butter all that often, but I do sometimes do it because we have no organic, local butter source, but we do have a source for milk and cream.

Tigerlily said...

Sounds easy enough. I'd like to try it out. I remember my parents telling me we could turn coffee creamer (as in the tiny ones at restaurants) into butter if we shook them long enough. My brother and I shook those tiny creamers for an hour and nothing. I'm pretty sure it was a method to get us to sit quietly in car.

Hippy Goodwife said...

We make a lot of our own butter here, for us it is not necessarily cheaper but the kids love it. And hey, it is a skill and a science lesson with a very tasty reward at the end. I blogged about our butter making with the kitchen aid on my blog here:

Evillesweeny said...

This isn't in the same spirit of pioneers, but if you have a stand mixer, this works really well and it's fun with kids because you can see when the butter seizes and the buttermilk shoots out. (nota bena: use one pint of cream and you won't have to tent your mixer)

Farmer's Daughter said...

I love this idea for posts! I'd love to see a candle-making post or some other simple, useful skill.

I'd love to do another pioneer week, too. Let's wait for summer, though, okay? I want to have the odds stacked in my favor :)

Robj98168 said...

I just put cream in the mixer and let loose... Not in the spirit of Little House? Nellie Olson would've done it.

Semi-Crunchy Mama said...

I used to do this activity with my students when I was still teaching preschool! I'd use a plastic container, for safety reasons, and then we'd dance like crazy to a fun dancing CD while we took turns shaking the jar. They were always so amazed by the results...

I'd like to take part in a pioneer challenge if you host one again. I only recently discovered your blog, and have enjoyed reading back and seeing the challenges you've hosted in the past...and I've been keeping my fingers crossed that you'd eventually repeat some of them!

Crunchy Chicken said...

Tigerlily - I think you kids were being duped!

Abbie - I'm planning on doing a simple candlemaking post. And I think late May/early June is probably best for Pioneer week?

Rob - What's this ongoing thing will you and Nellie?

Anna Marie said...

What, no one's for the old-fashioned butter churn? :P

Once I can milk my goats again I will definitely try making butter- and cheese, and yogurt.

Robj98168 said...

Nellie is a Goddess! As for candle making, a quick tip- Use an old crock pot to melt the wax in. Melts good and keeps an even temp- no spilling accidents.

K @ Prudent and Practical said...

I did the jar method one night and after tiring my arms, realized I could use my mixer. I love being able to make things myself and learning about homesteading. Thanks for the article!

Hannah said...

Yes, yes, please please host another pioneer week!

--Ma Raven at the Little House Dnside the DC Beltway

Ami said...

Just found that you have to WASH the butter afterwards. Otherwise, it will keep only for a few days before it starts turning green. Perhaps you all are taking care of that by setting it to sour before-hand?

I referenced Encyclopedia of Country Living for rinsing and pressing instructions. Pressing is way too difficult, so I freeze the butter in little logs in wax paper after rinsing a few times.


Hannah Elise said...

This post reminds me of the afternoon at the preschool where I used to work, when one of the kids asked if butter came from butterflies. I then explained to the four or five of them who were still there at that point in the day, that butter comes from milk, and about churning (in a simplified version that I thought was appropriate for their age).

...they then sat through the entire snack time, stirring their cups of milk with their spoons.

No amount of telling them that the milk that comes to the store already had the butter taken out of it (as it were) would convince them to stop. :P But they sure were cute...

Unknown said...

great blog. i can't wait to try some of the how-to's you have posted!