Is It Worth It? Making Your Own Butter

I was away for the past week at the Oregon coast, celebrating my 30th birthday  with an extended getaway. During my birthday dinner out with my wife, our waiter informed us that the restaurant made its own butter each morning, then mixed in herbs picked fresh from the garden.

As soon as I heard the words “make our own butter,” I knew I had to try it, too. It turns out making your own butter isn’t that difficult, but is it worth the time and expense?

In a post last year, Bon Appetit magazine asked the same question and determined that, no, it wasn’t really worth it. Still, I wanted to see for myself.

Anyone who makes whipped cream and has let the cream develop really stiff peaks has started down the path of making butter. Butter is simply heavy cream that has been beaten until the fat molecules bind together and the fat and water (in this case, literally buttermilk) separate.

Starting with heavy whipping cream and a stand mixer, you can make butter in less than 5 minutes.

After beating on medium-high speed, the cream will develop soft peaks, then stiff peaks, then very stiff peaks (starting to turn yellow now) and then quickly turn to butter.

A look at the bottom of the mixing bowl will show soft butter and a very thin milk-like liquid.

 

 

 

Strain out this buttermilk …

 

 

 

 

Then squeeze the butter in your hands to press out the remaining liquid. You’ve just made butter, in less than 10 minutes.

 

 

 

Mix in a little salt and finely chopped fresh herbs for a simple compound butter, and spoon into ramekins for serving.

So, making your own butter doesn’t take much time. But how much does it cost? I got 7 ounces of butter from 16 ounces of organic heavy whipping cream. I paid $3.49 for less than two sticks of butter. The butter I use exclusively now is a European-style unsalted butter from Plugra, which I can get at my local specialty foods store for $4.92 a pound.

Making your own butter isn’t worth it on price – how about taste? I spread a healthy dab of my homemade butter and the Plugra butter on slices of sourdough baguette. They certainly taste distinctive from each other, but one wasn’t notably better  than the other. The Plugra butter tasted slightly more grassy, while the homemade butter was a little sweeter.

Is making your own butter worth it? Yes, once, for a special dinner party where you really want to impress your guests. “You made your own butter?” they’ll ask. “That’s insane!”

It’s little more than a silly trick, akin to juggling dinner rolls. But no one said juggling isn’t impressive, and making your own butter is a lot easier than learning how to keep multiple rolls in the air.

  • http://www.nocturnalknits.com/ Laura

    I have to say, the only time I ever make butter is when I need the buttermilk as well. I’ve never done the calculations, but I’m guessing it’s cheaper to buy one container of heavy cream instead of butter + buttermilk… but who knows? It is a fun trick, though!

  • Darlene in North GA

    Ah, but did you try CULTURING your cream first (exactly like the Creme Fraiche) and THEN whipping it. (by the way, you don’t need a stand mixer. A blender, hand-held mixer or even a mason jar with the cream in it will work). You then have Cultured butter PLUS some awesome buttermilk. It might taste a whole lot better to you. And if you can get some RAW cream (or raw milk with cream still on it), then it will taste even BETTER!

    And I can’t believe you threw OUT the buttermilk. Cook with it!

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