Kitchen Hacks

When 1 + 0 = 2, or DIY Butter

April 12, 2017

We originally ran this post in 2015, but we brought it back because we had a hankering for butter and toast.

It's always more fun to DIY. Every week, we'll spare you a trip to the grocery store and show you how to make small batches of great foods at home.

Today: Make your own butter in a one-step process using fresh cream, a mason jar, and your bicep strength. 

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DIY Butter by Food52This batch of rustic homemade butter looks right at home in our new embossed ceramic butter keeper by Tjossem Ceramics—and pretty darn cute on burnt toast. 

Ever buy a carton of heavy cream when you just need a spoonful? Or maybe you're fresh out of buttermilk for a recipe, but not that excited about splashing vinegar into some milk to make biscuit dough (though that does work!). Need something to fry your eggs in, but you just used the last pat of butter on a slice of almond cake?

All of these conundrums can be solved with a simple scientific fact that your grandmother knew but might have forgotten to tell you: Butter and buttermilk can be made from shaking the daylights out of heavy cream. In other words, 1 (cream) + 0 (nothing) = 2 (butter AND buttermilk), so call your calculus, biology, and physics teachers and tell them you can graduate on time after all.

Instead of tossing the rest of your leftover cream or running to the store, put it in a mason jar and shake it—in just 15 minutes, the cream breaks into a mass of butter and a puddle of buttermilk. Strain. Spread. Pour. Voilà.

DIY Butter by Food52

What you'll need:

Heavy cream (the freshest, most natural you can find)
Mason jar with tight-fitting lid
, if you like your butter salted or demi-sel

How to make butter from cream, one more time, slower:

Pour the cream in a mason jar (leaving plenty of room for air), seal the lid tight, and shake it to pieces—literally. It won't take long for the cream to become whipped, and then it will get deceptively thicker, but it's not butter yet! Power past this very whipped cream stage until it breaks: The liquid that forms is buttermilk, and the solid is your butter. We recommend inviting a friend or a strong child to take turns with you, but the whole process takes no more than 15 minutes and is a good chance to practice your cocktail shaking technique. 

DIY Butter by Food52  DIY Butter by Food52

Strain the buttermilk away and scoop out the butter onto some parchment. If you like salted butter, sprinkle a little on and mash it around to combine. Shape the butter into a log, wrap it in wax paper, and refrigerate to harden. Alternatively, you can press it into butter molds before letting it get cold.

DIY Butter by Food52

That's it! When life gives you fresh cream, use some of it to make butter (and don't think too hard about the math).

DIY Butter Made from Cream!

If the shake, shake, shake feels like a little much today, our shop carries a clever hand-cranked butter churner. Pour the cream in, put on a podcast, and starting turning the handle. It makes us feel like pioneers—minus the log cabins. 

That cream is just a churn away, thanks to the Kilner Butter Churner, now available in the Shop! 


Photos by James Ransom

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Amanda Sims

Written by: Amanda Sims

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Ellen January 28, 2018
Here's a method that saves dirty dishes and is easy: Put the cream into a wide-mouth pint mason jar, roll it back and forth with your foot (for about 15- 20 min?) while watching TV. Rinse and knead the butter with a spoon right in the jar, draining as needed. Refrigerate in the jar! No scraping or cleanup required.
Ralph A. January 4, 2018
I've been making butter for several years and I have a few tips.
1.. Buy the very inexpensive Oster Top Chopper (Target, uder $30.00).
It's the least messy and QUICK butter churn (Very heavy cream approx. 2 minutes).. Pour cream into the 4 cup container.
2. For a better tasting butter. European style, buy some sour cream Culture . (Amazon appox $10 ).
3. For Aromatic butter (popcorn type) add a pinch of LIPASE enzyme. ( Cheese making supply house).
4. Add Culture to cream (optional Lipase), Wait 24 hours at 70 to 75 degrees,
5. Press Top Chop motor button and when looks like yellow cottage cheese...
6. Rinse until no milky liquid shows.
7. Use in a week, or Freeze for a year.
If you don't freeze it, make sure as much milk solids have been rinse away. Otherwise, butter will mold.
Scott P. January 4, 2018
Use a stand mixer with a whisk, WAY faster and works just as well.
Terry June 30, 2017
I've been making butter at home for a few years now, since a few months after I started buying raw milk (for my "pets"...ahem...) and pouring off the cream. Making raw ice cream took some experimenting and the cream sometimes soured in the meantime. I quickly got tired of finding recipes calling for copious amounts of sour cream (although this was as real as sour cream gets!). So I started making butter, first in my stand mixer like others here; and when that got too messy with the "breaking" announcing itself all over the walls and countertop I switched to my food processor. As someone suggested I also "wash" the butter after draining off the buttermilk and store it in flat, roundish patties wrapped in brown wax paper in the fridge. This gets used for toast, pancakes - anything calling for a bit o' butter that doesn't involve baking, melting or otherwise defeating the purpose of all those good bacterial critters. I've also made use of ultra-pasteurized store-bought cream, but first I re-pasteurize it by boiling and then "culture" it with a bit of yogurt to make creme fraiche first. Making butter from spoiled pasteurized cream is dangerous.
Avon L. May 15, 2017
Sorry to burst your bubble but what you'd get from this method using fresh cream is NOT real buttermilk. In the old days, butter was made from cultured cream, like yogurt. So the reside was also cultured.
Amy L. May 30, 2017
Ummm wrong. I have made butter from fresh cream and it's divine.
Sarah D. May 31, 2017
They were saying that the resulting liquid isn't buttermilk, which is true. It's just skim milk. If it was cultured it would be buttermilk.
Peggy April 19, 2017
When I was in first grade (1957) my class sat around in a circle taking turns shaking a jar of cream singing "come butter come, come butter come, johnnys in.......that's all of the song I remember. Once we had butter, we were each given some on a saltine cracker.
Savannah May 24, 2017
I love that story.
Sarah D. May 31, 2017
I teach cooking to elementary students and this is my favorite lesson! It works best with room temp cream. We usually put it on crackers with home grown radishes.
Penny H. April 16, 2017
Many years ago I happened to buy some whipping cream that was a little past it's prime. When I tried to make whipping cream with my stand mixer, I got butter instead. Beats shaking a jar or turning a butter churn.
Tina C. April 14, 2017
I have a "butter churner" jar (knockoff of Kilner?), but have yet to use it. This has inspired me. I've also added some of my Coffee Syrup to butter, blended it in to make "Coffee Butter". It is AMAZING, and I'm not just saying that to tout my little business. Though, of course, I'd love for more people to learn about my Coffee Syrup - ESPECIALLY creative bakers - since it can be used in so many recipes! I've made (ok, going Forest Gump Bubba here) Coffee Chantilly Cream for Cream Puffs, Coffee Caramels, Coffee Soda, Coffee Panna Cotta... and Coffee Butter. Always trying new recipes where I can swap in Coffee Syrup for sugar or maple syrup. Would love to hear others' ideas!
WIC April 10, 2017
It makes a nice satisfying thump inside the jar when done. :)
Amateur F. January 5, 2017
I am definitely making my own buttermilk for my next Irish soda bread! Yum
stefan P. August 26, 2016
Is it possible by any means to turn butter back into cream?
jpriddy September 11, 2016
JanetMoh June 26, 2016
A great way to keep butter fresh is to store it in the mason jar. You just cover it with a layer of water. See here:
Saffron3 January 13, 2016
Hi there. Thanks Amanda for this article. I get so busy I forget to try new small things that are fun. I don't have a mixer or food processor, and all that shaking will help per workouts! I like the 'play' of shake-them-biceps!
Winifred R. January 10, 2016
Not to be rude with the formula, but it's 1 (cream) + 1 (energy from agitation) = 2 (butter + buttermilk). Yeah, too many science and engineering classes, but this is the more correct equation.
drunkenboxer January 22, 2016
Respectfully disagree.

Food science is arguably a branch of organic chemistry, which does not include energy as a reactant or product when writing a reaction. (Energy is sometimes written above or below the reaction arrows, but nobody would argue that "2H20 <-> 2H2 + O2" is incorrect because it doesn't include reaction energy.)

Also, in a standard recipe, which this is (rather than a complicated molecular gastronomy recipe requiring calibrated equipment), heating/cooling requirements (187* water bath for sous vide) aren't usually written as ingredients. You might as well argue that the mason jar isn't included as a catalyst in the reaction.

Besides, this is meant to be light and enjoyable reading/cooking/eating.
drunkenboxer January 22, 2016
Hmm, my bidirectional arrow was excluded from my equation after "2H2O". The parser probably interpreted it as html.
Laura M. March 22, 2017
The mason jar is mos def not a catalyst. It's the apparatus.

Guys, scientific debate is the best.
anne January 4, 2016
Can I use my whisk attachment on the Kitchenaid mixer?
jpriddy September 11, 2016
yes, as any sensible person would
Alaina C. October 22, 2015
Just one more fascinating DIY use for mason jars ;)
Jennifer August 21, 2015
If you want to play Little House on the Prairie (Little Apartment in the Biggest Borough?), shake that Mason jar. If you want to have homemade butter on a regular basis, bust out your electric mixer or food processor, as others have suggested.
jpriddy September 11, 2016
Tara H. August 7, 2015
I keep ending up with clotted cream. Am I shaking it too long? or not enough? Any tips would be appreciated.
Amanda S. August 7, 2015
Keep shaking past the thick stage until it breaks!
Bee May 18, 2015
I accidentally "made butter" when I was 8 years old, when I over-whipped the whipping cream and !Surprise!, it turned into butter, which was promptly fed to the dog. LOL I'm confused about the "washing of the butter"--if I use a hand beater to whip heavy cream to the butter stage again, do I just dump that butter into a bowl and then run COLD water over it for a bit? What keeps the butter from breaking up and just going down the drain? Thanks to anyone who cares to answer a novice butter maker. :D
Mei C. May 19, 2015
Bee, when you take the butter from your mixing vessel, you want to press and mold it into a shape, kind of like a gentle kneading. This will squeeze more of the buttermilk from the butter mixture and will also make the butter stick together like, well, a big lump of butter—I like to do this part over a large strainer or colander. From there, just gently rinse with cold water. All this does is wash away the buttermilk from your final product—it will be done when the water runs clear off the butter. I also recommend bundling it in cheesecloth and letting it hang from your kitchen faucet to drain a little more for an hour or so, so that the water runs off the butter, too.
kitwilliams May 16, 2015
Cultured butter, as Anita Burns mentioned, is truly the way you want to go. Your butter will have flavor and your buttermilk will have the tang it is meant to. ALL butter in this country used to be cultured: dairy farmers would keep the cream from several days' milkings during which time the cream would ferment slightly. Nowadays, those of us who don't live near grass-fed dairy cattle, must resort to buying whatever we can lay our hands on, usually ultra-pastreurized cream which will not ferment as easily as pasteurized cream. We have to help these creams along by adding buttermilk to the cream, letting it sit 24 hours or so at room temperature which, in turn, makes creme fraiche and THAT is what is churned to make cultured butter. And it and the buttermilk are just amazing. Do this once a week or so and you'll then have your own buttermilk with which to culture your cream, rather than the stuff they call "buttermilk" in the grocery stores which is not the by-product of butter-making, but simply low-fat milk with culture added. And yes, you must wash the butter and get as much of the water out as possible (butter muslin helps here), then work the salt in (if you want salted butter), which not only distributes the salt, but the working of the butter is important to create that intensely silky, creamy-smooth, dense texture of a high-quality, high-fat butter (oh...I neglected to mention you want HEAVY cream or HEAVY WHIPPING cream, not just WHIPPING cream which is lower in butterfat. I've become addicted to not only my own butter and buttermilk, but to the process itself. It is so satisfying.
jpriddy September 11, 2016
Thank you!
Monica April 25, 2017
How much buttermilk should you add to 1 pint of Heavy whipping cream or should you use a quart of heavy whipping cream? Also, thanks for sharing your knowledge about making cultured butter. I have muslin for straining but do I need to get muslin that is specifically called "butter muslin "? How many layers or plys should I use? Thanks!