Field trip report: free butter-making class (with "recipe") / by Leslie Seaton

At the end of July 2010, I took a free butter-making class at Central Co-op. The knowledgeable dairy folks from the store offered the class as they wanted to help their customers learn to make butter from unpasteurized milk since unpasteurized butter is not sold in the store. 

I hadn't actually considered that angle when I signed up; I just liked that the class was a) free, and b) would allow me to feel that much closer to being Laura Ingalls Wilder.

The class was held in an apartment above the store. It was pretty full and if I remember correctly, the store had to add another date due to the popularity. I am not alone in my Laura Ingalls Wildering.

Among the attendees were a tiny elderly lady with a couple somewhat jarring facial contusions and a young man whose arms were fully scabbed up from some recent tumble. Maybe the Venn diagram of butter-makers and daredevils has significant overlap.

The Madison Market staff – cheesemonger Roger Bass and dairy manager Aprille T. – got us set up with instruction packets, cream, and the equipment we needed for making the butter, but the rest was up to us and our own elbow grease. Here's a quick overview of the process below, and check out the slideshow to see it in action. (To see the slideshow, click here or on the image below.)

  • You'll need whipping cream (regular or heavy whipping cream) and a jar.
  • One cup of cream will yield approximately ½ cup butter and ½ cup buttermilk.
  • Pour cream into jar, seal tightly, and wrap the jar in a plastic bag.
  • Start shaking. And shaking and shaking.
  • Eventually, you will feel it thicken. As it thickens, periodically open the jar, pour off the buttermilk (which can be used just as store-bought buttermilk is), reseal tightly, wrap and begin shaking again.
  • The butter will first be grainy, but should eventually turn into a smooth mass that looks like, yes, butter.
  • We did this on a warm day in a west-facing room, so my butter in my hot hands wound up staying melted. If this happens, put it in the fridge to firm up.
  • Buttermilk will make the butter spoil, so unless you plan to eat the butter immediately, drain all the buttermilk well, then rinse the butter with water until the water runs clear.
  • You can add salt (Aprille cautioned to use just a few grains as it gets salty quickly) or mix in herbs and other flavorings.
  • If you leave the cream out at room temp for about 12 hours, it will sour slightly, and you can make a sour cream butter.
  • You can also make this in a mixer: continue mixing past the whipped cream stage until it turns into butter and buttermilk. Taste it to be sure it tastes like butter; if it still tastes like cream, continue mixing. Drain the buttermilk and wash as above.

Thanks to Central Co-op for offering this free class!