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Making Homemade Butter

Updated on February 28, 2015
relache profile image

Raye gardens organically, harvests rainwater, strives to eat locally, and honors the gods from her home in the Pacific Northwest.

Give DIY Butter A Try!

I first read about the process of making your own butter when I was a little girl, reading the Little House series of books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. When I was in junior high, I got to make butter with a day camp group one summer. Now as an adult who is interested in local eating and supporting my area farmers, I happen to live in an area where I can easily get raw milk plentifully and regularly at my weekly farmer's market. Making homemade butter is easy and fun, and delicious.

When you make your own butter, the product is just about as fresh as can be and is free from artificial ingredients or preservatives. For those who are interested in reclaiming lost household skills, making butter is a great place to start. And if you have kids, this can be a really fun shared activity.

A successful end product


Preparing To Make Butter

To make your own butter the really traditional way, you start off with milk. However it's not what most people have come to identify as their everyday, out-of-fridge milk. You want non-homogenized, non-pasteurized milk. This is also what is called "raw milk." If you let the container sit, you will get a rich, yellow layer on top. This is the cream separating out.

You skim the cream off carefully with a spoon into a container of its own. This then needs to sit for about twelve hours. Then it's agitated, which is a fancy way of saying shaken and/or mixed, which causes it to form solids. It's these solids which we call butter. Some modern butter makers start out with store-bought cream, but you then don't get the fantastic buttermilk that is the by-product when you make it yourself using raw milk.

Butter can be made with something as simple as a big glass jar or as fancy as a modern electric mixer. Using a butter churn, meaning something made especially to make butter, often makes the process easier than the glass jar and more simple as these tend to work without electricity. The method you chose will depend on what sort of equipment you wish to own and how much of your own time and effort you want to put into the process.

Chef'n Buttercup Butter Maker
Chef'n Buttercup Butter Maker
Make your own homemade butter with this special separator! It's easy and quick.

How A Butter Churn Works

When you "churn" butter, what you are doing is actually agitating the cream so that the walls of the tiny particles break, causing them to stick together and form lumps.

The type of butter churn I read about in the Little House books was a wooden churn, sort of like a small barrel with a wooden pole that comes out the top. Down in the containers, the pole often has a round of wood on it with holes in it. You moved the pole up and down, which caused the wooden round to move vertically like a paddle. When you saw "grains" on the wooden handle, you knew you were starting to form butter inside. There tend to be rather large, holding a few gallons of milk, as they come from a time when people owned and milked their own cows.  There were also version where it was a barrel that was turned, sort of like a big milk tumbler which could churn butter.

More Victorian and early 20th century butter churns were made using glass jars, which let you watch the process more precisely and which churned smaller amounts of butter once people started to not live on farms and get milk via local delivery. These had a mechanism on top that had a handle which turned a paddle inside the jar, much like an early version of hand mixers.

See how a hand-cranked churn works

Really Making Butter

So, that day camp group butter project I mentioned in the introduction? We had a huge glass jar with a marble inside for agitation and it was passed around the circle of kids. Each of us shook it until we were tired and then passed it along. I absolutely do NOT recommend this method as 1) the glass marble cracked the jar and 2) it took way too long for the effort.

Most modern butter-makers are probably going to use a modern electric mixer. I suggest people try using a hand-cranked mixer, especially if you are starting out with pure cream. It really only takes about 10 minutes.

On my "wish list" is a proper butter churn, one of those glass ones that you hand-crank. Given that I can get raw milk so readily, the part of separating the cream and letting it sit for a bit isn't hard at all. For a small household, it's easy to make butter once or twice a week. Having a proper butter ceramic butter crock is the best way to store homemade butter. We have to keep our in the refrigerator as we have a cat with a butter fetish, who will jump up on the counter and lick to her heart's content if we leave any out.

You will also want some recipes on hand that require buttermilk, as making butter produces this as well.  This keeps for a long time and is very versatile so don't worry if you have to keep it around for a bit before you think of a way you'd like to use it.

Paddles - for draining, handling and shaping

Birch Wood Butter Paddles 8.5 Inch
Birch Wood Butter Paddles 8.5 Inch
These traditional paddles are how the soft lumps of butter fat are pressed together and drained to form larger chunks of solid butter. You can't use your hands because the heat from them softens the butter too much.

A Traditional Ceramic Butter Crock

Le Creuset Stoneware Butter Crock, 6 oz., Cerise
Le Creuset Stoneware Butter Crock, 6 oz., Cerise
Using a ceramic butter crock to store your homemade butter will keep it fresher for longer. A small amount of fresh water inside keeps your butter fresh and ready-to-spread without refrigeration.

Have You Made Your Own Butter? How Did It Turn Out?

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    • relache profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Seattle, WA

      I get my milk from cows that are cared for entirely organically, and find that the taste of my homemade butter is much fresher than store bought.

    • Phillip Grobler profile image

      Phillip Grobler 

      6 years ago from Polokwane

      This is exactly how my grandmother makes it, though i don't believe or like the taste of home made butter maybe because I am not use to it or something, cant even drink fresh cow milk if i don't see the process myself.

    • Hearts and Lattes profile image

      Hearts and Lattes 

      7 years ago

      I forgot that making your own butter is actually possible, but that's what our ancestors always did. It just shows that sometimes our older ways were the best.

    • donmanual profile image


      8 years ago from Playa del Carmen, Mexico

      I would never think to make butter at home. But it's great idea!!! Thanks.

    • rgmit profile image


      8 years ago

      Great idea, I wish we could make our own butter. My wife does a lot of baking and we usually have to buy it 10-20lbs at a time from the grocery store.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      Vespa Woolf 

      8 years ago from Peru, South America

      I also pored over the Little House books and vividly remember the account about making butter. After reading your hub, I want to try it too! I love the little butter crock from Amazon as well. Thank you!

    • profile image

      Little Country Girl 

      8 years ago

      Hi have been buying raw milk for probably 4-6 months. I have made my own butter and it is great. I have only made it with the jar method, but getting ready to try Great Uncle's churn that I have. I have been amazed since I have been drinking the raw milk at how strong my fingernails have become. I know I am getting more nutritious milk.

    • rugsdynamic profile image


      10 years ago

      Making butter, that is fantastic! I love homemade food. It makes me feel very welcoming by just eating one.

    • ultimatepotential profile image


      10 years ago from India

      Thanks for enlightening us on this. I will try this soon. Cheers!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      wow , very nice guide to make butter at home. I have tried many times in other ways.

    • mbwalz profile image

      MaryBeth Walz 

      10 years ago from Maine

      I've never made any but it looks like fabulous butter. I love cream so much though, I'm not sure if I could keep it long enough to make the butter. I might try though - thanks for the post!

    • Mrs. Moneypants profile image

      Mrs. Moneypants 

      10 years ago from Canada and other places

      Excellent hub. It's interesting to see how older skills are being recaptured. Thanks for putting this out there.

    • Gomet profile image


      10 years ago

      Mmmm! I can already taste it . Market cream is bad for butter you need the true cream. Nicely explained!

    • Bibleseo profile image


      10 years ago

      My wife makes home made butter and yogurt also. De..licious!!

    • dragonbear profile image


      10 years ago from Essex UK

      I used to sit with my grandmother as a little boy and shake a jar of cream from the top of the milk and was always amazed when the butter appeared! Thanks relache, this has been a trip down memory lane... I think I'll be finding a jar to try it this weekend!

    • askjanbrass profile image


      10 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      I've never even though to make my own butter. I agree with some of the comments above: it can be hard or inconvenient to find raw milk. Though definitely not impossible and worth it!

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      10 years ago from East Coast, United States

      I remember when my son made butter in school after reading 'the Little House on the Prairie.' Moms came in that day. I think they had Prairie Day or something. But I didn't think they used raw milk!

    • greensnob profile image


      10 years ago

      Just wrote about making fig preserves. Now I can compliment toast with handmade butter. Thnx

    • mpurcell10 profile image


      10 years ago from Arkansas

      I love real butter not what the store calls real. We have fun making good homemade stuff. Thanks for the recipe.

    • KeithTax profile image

      Keith Schroeder 

      10 years ago from Wisconsin

      Excellent article on making my own butter. I prefer the DIY method because I know what is in my food. Thanks for the informative article.

    • blackjava profile image


      10 years ago from Canada

      I grew up in a time when the only butter you had was what you made. First we milked the cows. Then we used the cream separator to separate the cream from the milk. I cranked that thing many a time :)

      To make the butter we had 2 methods. I'm sure every one is familiar with the butter churn with the big crock that uses a wooden plunger. The cream had to be cool. Then you pumped that plunger until you finally separated the butter fat from the cream.

      The other method that we had was the 2 quart mason jar and you pounded it on your knee for a couple of hours until you eventually got your butter.

      We used to have one of the old wooden butter forms. You bought you waxed papers, then you put the paper in the form and filled it with butter. It had a lid that you pressed down to get all the air out. Then you wrapped the block with the waxed paper and put your butter in the ice house.

      The best thing about home made butter was the fabulous butter milk you ended up with. Let it sit for a few days to ripen and man was that good.

      Store bought butter milk can't hold a candle to it.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      i used to do this fews months ago when i was living with my GF. for some reasons homemade butter taste better

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      10 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      I remember making this in grade school. So much better than the store boughten.

    • Jerilee Wei profile image

      Jerilee Wei 

      10 years ago from United States

      Another alternative if you aren't inclined to make your own homemade butter is if you live in a community with a livestock auction, chances are that someone there will be selling it. I've made homemade butters and it's worth the effort and highly recommend making herbed butters too. Great hub!

    • Cindy Lietz profile image

      Cindy Lietz 

      10 years ago from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

      There is nothing more delicious than homemade butter. I've made sweet butter a few times by accident, by whipping the whipping cream too far. Oh well, at least it tastes great!

    • profile image

      Madame X 

      10 years ago

      This is a fabulous hub! I have been wanting to get raw milk for a while now but I don't live very close to the local producers, unfortunately. The raw milk at the local farmer's market ends up being $14 a gallon!!! Just a little too steep for me!! - and that's with the "vendor discount" (I work at a farmer's market). So i'm still looking for someplace that's not too far away to buy it. You're so lucky that it's close for you.

      I'm going to bookmark this hub so I can make use of all your good advice when I finally do find a source. Thanks for a wonderful explanation of how to do this :)

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      10 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Unfortunately in my neck of the woods the dairy farmers are not allowed to sell 'raw milk' anymore. When I had my farm a few years back I had a little jersey cow who gave us so much milk that I learned how to make butter and different types of cheeses too. There is nothing that can compare to the taste of freshly made butter spread on a thick slice (or better yet the heel) of warm homemade bread.

    • Delaney Boling profile image

      Delaney Boling 

      10 years ago

      This way of making butter is fantastic. I only use unpastuerized milk for my butter at home but I will sometimes use manufacturing creme to make hotel butters for events (easy, fast and reliable). I also love using creme fraich to make a more tangy butter. Simply use one part creme fraich to one part unpastuerized milk and churn as normal. Right before the solids start to set up, add a little salt and lemon juice. Try it! You'll be amazed...

    • ethel smith profile image

      Ethel Smith 

      10 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Great hub but I will settle for the easy option :)

    • fishtiger58 profile image


      10 years ago from Momence, Illinois

      I am going to have to try this. Sounds wonderful. I love butter and would love to make my own. Thanks for the great hub.

    • profile image


      10 years ago


    • Dale Mazurek profile image

      Dale Mazurek 

      10 years ago from Canada

      I absolutely love the taste of butter. My wife is always telling me to stop buying it because of its expense compared to margarine.

      You write a great hub but I think I will stick to running to the grocery store for my butter.

      I do remember years ago on the farm when my Grandmother used to make her own butter and honestly any store bought stuff just cant equal in the taste.

      Thanks for the great hub with great information.

    • Albertttt profile image


      10 years ago

      I like butter but it doesn't like me.

    • Ben Zoltak profile image

      Ben Zoltak 

      10 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Great article, I have only had this kind of butter a few times in my life. There is a farmers buffet north of Madison where they have it out in huge 5 gallon like bowls! So good on waffles and bread. I'm bookmarking this for when I get the means, lucky you relache for being so close to a farmers market that has raw milk. Someday I'll approach one of these dairy farmers around here, I wonder if I can just walk up and knock on the farmhouse with out getting a shotgun pointed at me? Ha, thanks for the warm delicious words!


    • grillrepair profile image


      10 years ago from florida

      that is a great hub! thank you. where do we buy milk that is not pasturized? we make slushies and ice cream and other stuff but i'd like to try butter. there are so many kinds of cream what type do you use?

    • lelanew55 profile image


      10 years ago

      Great hub. I used to make butter using conventional milk. I think I will try it with raw milk now. Thank you for sharing.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Neat idea - well written A+++

    • H P Roychoudhury profile image

      H P Roychoudhury 

      10 years ago from Guwahati, India

      Good to know the technique of home made butter. Thanks.

    • creativeone59 profile image

      benny Faye Douglass 

      10 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      Thanks for a great hub, on making homemade butter. I remember when I was a child, how th old folks made butter, some with a churn and some with jar, shaking it until the butter was formed. Thanks for sharing with us. blessings to you. creativeone59

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      10 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I remember (vaguely) things like butter being made by my grandmother. I was very young at the tim, so the memories are dim. However I do remember the butter churns. They also "candled" eggs to see if they were good before selling them. It seems like they pasteurized their own milk but I am not sure exactly what it was all about. I grew up in the city and had very little contact with the country but these memories somehow seem meaningful.

    • rkhyclak profile image


      10 years ago from Ohio

      Nice! I have a hub on the same subject. I wish I had access to raw milk, it would be so much tastier! I get cream at our market from a local farm, but it's been processed. Thanks!


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