“But why would I want to make my own butter when it’s so easy to buy at the store?” you may ask. “And there are so few ingredients in butter, can it really be that much different if I make it at home?”
Although store-bought butter is perfectly fine, there’s something gratifying about making your own butter. First, you know the source of your ingredients. You know where your heavy cream is from, whether it’s Land o’ Lakes (please no!) or a local dairy farm (yes, please!), and you know how fresh it is. Then there’s the satisfaction of spreading your toast with something you made just a few hours before. Finally, there’s nothing like the pure, creamy flavor of the freshest butter you’ve ever tasted.
Plus, and here’s the key, it’s so simple. Yes, it takes a bit of time, but if you can operate a mixer, you can make butter. Here’s a basic how-to.
A pint of heavy cream will turn out a bit less than a cup of butter. Pour this into the deepest bowl (highest sides) that you own, because you’ll get some splashing later on. You also may want to don an apron or at least wear a shirt that you don’t mind changing later.
Turn on an electric mixer (I used a hand-held mixer, but a stand mixer would be even better if you have one) and start whipping the cream as if you are making whipped cream. Unlike with whipped cream, however, you don’t have to watch the bowl like a hawk trying to prevent it from turning to butter.
Once you’ve reached the whipped-cream stage, keep going. Here’s where the cream will start to test your patience. “Is butter really worth all this work?” “Why don’t you just give up now and go watch some TV?” Hold strong! Trust me, it’s worth it!
Eventually, the cream will start to thicken and look a bit like custard. Keep going. Here’s where you might want to start shielding your kitchen, because the cream will start spitting. This is normal. Keep going.
Finally, the butterfat solids will separate from the buttermilk, and you’ll be left with a concoction that looks kind of like a liquidy ricotta cheese. Strain off the buttermilk (you can save this to bake scones or muffins), and squeeze the solids to remove any excess liquid. Transfer to a container and refrigerate.
If you want to salt the butter, mix it in after pouring off the buttermilk, or you can leave it as is and do as I do: Use sea salt on your bread or toast after you’ve buttered it. It makes even the most basic bread seem decadent.