While the idea of churning my own butter appeals to the part of me that obsessed over the Little House on the Prairie books as kid, I think that if Laura Ingalls Wilder landed in the present day, she'd ditch that butter churn for a blender in a heartbeat.
In a blender, making your own butter becomes a practical, everyday affair for us modern-day home cooks. Find a sale on your favorite heavy cream? Have half a carton left over from the weekend? Treat yourself to some homemade butter.
The Cream Makes the Butter
You can use any cream with at least 35 percent fat to make butter, but don't worry if you can't find that info on the label. Average grocery store cartons of both heavy cream and whipping cream have plenty of fat to make butter, and it's fine to use cream that has been pasteurized or ultra-pasteurized. In other words, the cream in your fridge is just fine for making some homemade butter.
But it stands to reason that the better your cream, the better your butter. If you're buying cream specifically to make butter (as opposed to using up some leftover cream from another project), get the best cream in the refrigerator case. This is usually the most expensive cream, but the chances are good that it will still be less expensive than fancy salted butter. A pint of cream makes about eight ounces of butter (plus buttermilk!), so it's easy to compare prices if you need to.
Use Room-Temperature Cream
Slightly cool or room-temperature cream will churn more quickly into butter than cream that's straight from the fridge. I recommend letting the cream sit out for about 30 minutes to take the chill off. You can also culture your cream overnight with a spoonful of yogurt if you'd like to make cultured butter.
Read More: How To Make Cultured Butter
You can also make butter using just about any amount of cream. I'd recommend using at least a half-cup of cream to make sure you get good separation between the butter and buttermilk. I'd also recommend not filling your blender more than halfway full or you might have some trouble getting it to churn in a timely manner without overheating and disrupting the process.
Making Butter in the Blender
A blender or food processor (you can use either) makes short work of transforming cream into butter and buttermilk. First, the blades will churn the cream into whipped cream, which will then become grainy and gradually separate into globs of butter and watery buttermilk. How quickly this happens can depend on your blender and the temperature of the cream, but it generally takes between two and 10 minutes; the high-powered blenders will take around two minutes.
Once the cream has separated, pour off the buttermilk (save it for pancakes!), and "wash" the butter a few times by blending it with some fresh water. This helps remove any remaining buttermilk from the butter, making it more compact and improving its shelf-life.
Storing and Using Your Butter
Freshly made butter is very soft and creamy. You can transfer it to a butter keeper, where it will stay quite soft and spreadable, or you can wrap it up in wax paper and let it firm up in the fridge. Kept on the counter, homemade butter will keep for around a week. Refrigerated butter will keep for several weeks, and you can also freeze this butter for up to three months.
Homemade butter is fantastic spread on toast or breakfast muffins, of course. It can also be used interchangeably with butter in most recipes, although I'd avoid using it for delicate cakes and pastries; homemade butter might have a different moisture content than commercial butter, which could throw off these recipes.
Troubleshooting Butter in the Blender
If your cream gets stuck on the whipped cream phase and doesn't seem to be progressing, then it's likely that an air bubble formed around the blades that's preventing the cream from becoming churned. If this happens, first try scraping down the whipped cream (and breaking the bubble), and then blending again. If that still doesn't work, try gently shaking the blender, pulsing the blender, or blending at alternating speeds until the whipped cream starts getting churned by the blades again and moves past the whipped cream stage.
You can also make butter using your stand mixer.
How To Make Butter in a Blender
Makes around 1 cup (8 ounces) butter
What You Need
salt, if making salted butter
Let the cream warm to room temperature: Pour the cream into your blender and let it stand until warmed to room temperature, about 30 minutes. (Chilled cream can also be used, but will take longer to separate into butter.)
Blend until the cream separates: Turn on the blender and let it blend the cream past the "whipped cream" stage, until big crumbs appear — that's the butter! This can happen in a minute or two with a powerful blender, or can take up to 10 minutes in an older blender.
Let the butter and buttermilk separate: The butter will float to the top as you let this sit. Once you see two clear layers, continue.
Pour off the buttermilk: Pour the buttermilk into another container, leaving the butter in the blender. Use a spoon to hold back the butter, if needed.
Wash the butter: Add enough cool water to cover the butter in the blender. Cover and pulse a few times until the water turns cloudy. Let it stand a moment or two to separate, then pour off the liquid. Repeat once or twice until the liquid is mostly clear after blending. (This liquid contains buttermilk, but is less concentrated than the original buttermilk; you can combine the two or keep them separated for different uses.)
Add the salt: If you're salting your butter, add it now and pulse a few times until it's combined. Taste and add more salt if you like.
Store the butter: Scrape the butter into a storage container or butter keeper, or shape it into a log with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Butter will keep for at least a week at room temperature, several weeks in the fridge, or up to 3 months if frozen.
Using the buttermilk: The buttermilk and rinse water can be used in bread and other baked goods or to make smoothies.
Cultured butter: Cultured butter will last longer and has a more complex flavor than regular milk. To make cultured butter (and buttermilk), mix two tablespoons of plain yogurt, kefir, or other fermented dairy with live cultures into the cream. Cover and let sit at room temperature overnight, or about 10 hours. The cream is "cultured" when it has thickened slightly, smells tangy and sour, and is a little foamy. Use the cultured cream right away or chill until ready to use. Read more about it here: How To Make Cultured Butter.
Food-processor butter: You can also make butter in a food processor. Follow the directions as written; it may take slightly longer for the butter to separate.