Monday, 5 November 2012


Oh my GOSH I made butter! I know. I just overwhipped the cream and made butter. On purpose.

I had a rush of blood to the head recently and picked up (I mean bought) a magazine about making cheeses, and it included a recipe for making butter. I've always known that if you look like you're about to overwhip the cream (I'd just like to say I never get close these days), somebody will say "careful, you'll turn it in to butter," but I've never thought about the fact that butter really is just overwhipped cream.

It's so simple I don't even have a lot to say about it. It was so much fun. I do enjoy making more complicated things, but there is something really good about making the basics with your own hands. Something people have been making the world over for centuries. Something that is utterly essential (in my opinion). It would have felt twice as good if only I had been saving money by doing it, but I am very disappointed to report that it cost twice the price of the butter I buy (I get budget butter from my cheap supermarket for less than $2.50. This block cost me $4.25).

The recipe calls for a litre of cream, so I went to Moore Wilsons and bought a 2 litre bottle (costing $9.50). Yes, 2 litres of cream! I think I had better do another round of butter because not even I can eat that much cream... If you have any ideas of where I can buy cream for less I would be very interested - I'd love to do this regularly.

The recipe below is copied from The NZ Lifestyle Block's "How to Make Cheese and other Dairy Products" by Jean Mansfield. The "breaking" mentioned in step number 1 is not complicated, it's simply the point when it is no longer whipped cream! My 3 year old was watching it and he knew it had changed. I put my mixer on a higher speed until the cream was close to breaking then turned it down, as it was going to take all week otherwise. I struggled to see the "rice-grain sized butter balls" in step number 2. I suggest you just mix for a couple more minutes then move on to step number 3. My butter was fairly dry after step number 3, so I didn't use a sieve. I used a tea towel in step number 4 to mop up the small amount of liquid. Jean suggests placing ice cubes around your butter in step number 4 if it is a hot day. I suggest you try this for the first time on a cool day or in a cool room!

Despite these million suggestions, I have written the original recipe below, as this time round I don't feel my one-off attempt gives me the authority to change the recipe! I'd love you to give it a try and report back on what worked for you.


Using a cake mixer or electric hand mixer or hand beater.

1. Cream should come straight from the fridge. Don't let the level of the cream go over the halfway point of your bowl. Beat cream at the lowest speed setting. It will get thicker and thicker then suddenly "break," separating in to solids and liquid. 

2. Splash half a cup of cold boiled water into the mixture when the separation of fat and buttermilk occurs. Keep beating until rice-grain sized butter balls occur. 

3. Drain the buttermilk into a container and keep for cooking. Add a cup of cold water to the butter to wash it, (or place under the tap). Mix for a few seconds then drain the water off. Keep repeating this until the drained water runs clear (usually 2 - 3 times) and the butter looks like overcooked scrambled eggs.

4. Tip butter into a sieve and let it dry for a couple of minutes. Work it on a wooden board with wooden butter paddles or wooden spoons (not your hands or it will melt) to express the remaining buttermilk. 

5. When you are satisfied that all the buttermilk has been removed, you can add a teaspoon of salt per 450g of butter and work it in with the paddles. 

6. Shape the butter in to a block, wrap in greaseproof paper and freeze (or keep in fridge if you are ready to use it immediately). Alternatively, place butter in to a mould, place in to freezer until it goes really firm, remove and wait for 30 minutes before removing from the mould, then wrap in paper.

This evening on our way home Reuben commented that the clouds looked like they were made from butter.


  1. Fascinating!

    Will you use the buttermilk in anything in particular?

    I'm so impressed!

    1. Yes good question. The obvious thing is buttermilk pancakes, but I am the only pancake eater around here and I'm not doing them for myself. I did put some in our lunchtime fritters today.

  2. Very cool! How did it taste? You can get budget cream from countdown, dont know if its cheaper though?

  3. Well yes, that's the real point isn't it?! I felt there was a lot riding on the taste, and it was hard to tell at first. I would say it is fresher and creamier and lighter. I'll check out the price of budget - probably not cheaper than buying it in 2 litre bottles. Thanks.

  4. I was a bit worried that link was going to take me to a page advising against eating butter!! Phewf! Maybe you could find a friendly farmer with some spare cream?

  5. That looks lovely.

    I remember making a (tiny amount of) butter as a child by skimming the cream off the top of the milk - in the days before it was homogenised, putting it in a jar with a screw-top lid and shaking the jar for ages. It worked, but you'd need to drink an awful lot of milk to get a decent amount of butter!

  6. I live on a dairy farm and make butter quite a lot (I skim most of the cream off the fresh milk before we drink it and our cows make really fatty milk!) - I am forever trying to find ways to use up cream without us getting too obese! You are right that the yield obtained when making this from bought cream would never be economically feasible, however it is a fun experiment that is great to show kids. Commercial butter is not something that contains heaps of unnecessary additives, preservatives etc (unlike cheap commercial ice-cream obviously) so there's not really a lot to gain by making your own. But it does make you feel rather like a domestic goddess :) Also beware of most recipes using buttermilk - in almost every case they are not talking about genuine buttermilk leftover from making butter, but actually mean the cultured stuff that you buy in the supermarket which is kinda more like yoghurt - if you substitute actual buttermilk your liquid measures can be way off due to the viscosity difference between the two. Did I mention that I spent a little time as a food scientist at a dairy research institute? If you have any questions then fire away, can't guarantee that I can answer them but I'll try!

    1. Yes I have to agree about the viability of making it. It is fun (and goddess-like), and it does taste better. Such a shame that doing all the work yourself doesn't make it cheaper. And a shame that it is hard to find ways to reduce your grocery bill - I think nothing I have made so far has been cheaper than shop-bought (eg, sweet chilli sauce, mayo, butter). Interesting about the buttermilk thanks. I really only used mine roughly in place of milk in baking. I shall swing any more questions your way!


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