Home-made Butter: 3 Easy Steps

This week at Mom’s house, I attempted to re-create a scene from my childhood – in the same house, on the same chair, with one of the same Ball-Mason jars from the mother’s stash in the cellar. The kind with tiny bubbles crystallized within the glass of the jar. Mother says these jars are valuable.

The cream of bygone days for butter-making came from one of the Holstein cows that Sam and Mabel Hoffer kept on their tiny farm down the road from us on Anchor Road. For this re-enactment, I buy whipping cream from Giant Foods up the road toward town.

Butter 1

Did I mention that my sister Jan and Mother are both skeptical that store-bought cream will yield real butter.

Janice says, “You’re probably wasting your time shaking that jar back and forth with cream from the store. Think about all of the additives and preservatives they put in.”

Mother doesn’t say much but looks skeptical. I’m out to prove them wrong.

Butter 2

I stop the shaking long enough to notice that curdles of cream are clinging to the jar’s insides. That’s all it takes.

First, sister Jan and then Mother get in on the action, now past the 12-minute mark.

Without a shadow of doubt, real honest-to-goodness butter lumps are forming.

Butter 4

And voilá . . .

Butter 5

Fifteen minutes later, more or less, we have two fat butter-balls!

Did you catch the steps?

  1. Pour cream into 2-quart jar.
  2. Shake until you rattle and roll.
  3. Remove the congealed mass from the jar. Add a pinch of salt.

*  *  *

What scenes from your past have you tried to re-create?

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47 thoughts on “Home-made Butter: 3 Easy Steps

  1. Marian, we never had cows down the road, and I never did this as a child–but I made butter this way with my children when they were little. (I had done it with pre-school classes I taught.) It became part of our family’s Thanksgiving tradition, and my now grown younger daughter still insists on making butter for Thanksgiving!

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    1. Oh, my goodness, Merril. Another connection to the past. Your daughter is certainly carrying on the historical traditions, you and she on parallel tracks–your writing and her demonstrating. Next thing you know she will be investing in a butter churn!

      Thanks again for being a first responder.

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  2. I remember making butter with my granny in a churn, maybe once with a jar. I think that may be why we have such flabby arm wings these days, not enough manual butter making! Love your BLOGS. Glad you made it back home safely.

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  3. Well, Marian, I would’ve responded to your blog almost immediately after you posted this morning, but you inspired me to look up “butter churning chants”!!! So I became enthralled & spent an hour reading them. So many, each with a different twist according their region or area. I really enjoyed this post, especially since I know your family! I tried to enclose a picture of my antique butter churn, but i guess the blog site does not allow it. Anyway, you’re welcome to borrow it anytime! (Although I wonder if the cream was poured directly into butter churns, or into some sort of sack? Unsanitary!)

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    1. I checked out your butter churn image. Maybe I can post it on Facebook. It’s thrilling to think this post led you to into so much research, so Gencie-like. And you can always add to the conversation later if you find else something really stunning. Thanks for reading, posting, and commenting.

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  4. This is so cool! My grandparents had a machine that separated cream and made butter. She provided the milk and Mason jar for my third grade class to make butter like this, and we made biscuits to go with it.

    When my in-laws bought a farm, we found a box of 100 jars under an old house on the property. I would not let my father-in-law throw them away. We cleaned them up and I taught my mother-in-law to can. One year we made 75 quarts of tomatoes and 12 jars of pickles. Labor intensive, but rewarding.

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    1. So you are a nurse, a writer, and a teacher too, SK. Wonders never cease! I love reading about the hands-on demo you did for your third graders. They will never forget this.

      My mother says those Mason jars, especially the old ones, are quite valuable. You say you taught your mother-in-law to can. Usually, it’s the other way around. The vegetables look so cool in cans; I especially loved looking at the rainbow of colors in my mother’s cellar after canning season was over – red, green, and even orange for the pickled cantaloupes.

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      1. I was a student in the third grade, but I did teach art to 3-6th grades later in life. My in-laws were from Detroit. They didn’t know about canning and farm stuff. I had to teach them a lot about planting and harvest.

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  5. Marian — How COOL is that?! My sister’s coming next week for a short visit and we are oh-so-going-to-do-this! I enjoyed watching the video clip of your mom — she’s adorable! — and hearing your voice in the background.

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  6. Actually, the voice belongs to my sister Jan, but we sound sort of alike. The best thing about this activity is that it works best with two or more. Otherwise, you can go a little crazy with all the shaking. Maybe you can add a neighbor or two to the mix. Let us know how it turns out, Laurie.

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  7. Wow! That looks really simple, Marian. On a side note, I had some scrapple for breakfast – at a Greek restaurant of all places – for the first time in years. It really took me back to living in Pennsylvania Deutsche country. 😉

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    1. It sounds like we are both sampling PA Dutch fare this summer. True confession: I love pork and sauerkraut, dried beef gravy over potatoes, pig stomach, and sweet bologna. But I hate scrapple for some reason. Thanks for adding to our conversation today, Judy.

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      1. I also love sauerkraut. We’d have it with ribs on New Year’s Day for good luck the rest of the year. As far as scrapple, it tastes wonderful with maple syrup on it. Of course, everything tastes better with maple syrup on it. 😉

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      1. That (so many others) is very cool, Marian. When we did it there was barely an internet, let alone social media. It was a novelty among our hs and other friends. You are good at shaking up good memories 🙂 Ok, pardon the pun 🙂
        P

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  8. Looks like you enjoyed the whole experience. I had no idea butter was that easy to make, even without a churn. I was just reading in another book this week abut making clabber. Did your mother make that too? I think it is kind of a substitute for sour cream. I was never a big fan of homemade butter, but this looks good. The butter I was exposed to was a deep yellow and sometimes tasted like a dairy barn. Or did the store bought cream make a difference in color?

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  9. Mother said as I child she made butter in a wooden churn. (Think an appliance with a handle.) I don’t know whether Mom ever made clabber, but she didn’t mention it recently. The butter we made this week tasted like a good brand of store-bought butter, no dairy barn taste that I noticed.

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  10. My first experience with making butter was when I was in around eighth grade. Mother did not enjoy cooking and she was sick so often so she allowed me to do the cooking after I was in home ec classes. I was trying to make whipped cream with the electric mixer and after a while II saw tiny yellow pieces in the whipped cream. I asked Mother what it was and she said butter. I stopped beating the cream right away because I wanted whipped cream, not butter.

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    1. I guess you didn’t know that whipped cream is first cousin to butter. Ha! Funny thing: Last week I bought buttermilk to make the butter not realizing I’d never have butter without cream. It seems as though we both learned some cooking lessons.

      About your Mother: Maybe she didn’t enjoy cooking, but she was a whiz with the sewing machine. Her creations always amazed me.

      It was good to see you again at the cousin get-together. We certainly had a hilarious time swapping stories! Thanks for reading and commenting today, Gerry.

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  11. Another delightful post, Marian. It brought up a memory from third grade. One of the lies I confessed to Miss Frey was that I had lied about my mother making butter. I don’t remember the nature of the lie, but I think I tried to impress my teacher with some story about how much butter my mother made.

    My little grandson Owen loves butter, so this looks like a great activity when he comes to visit. We’ll watch your mother demonstrate. BTW, today Owen was asked whether he wanted to go to the beach or to a farm. His answer? A farm!

    Shirley

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    1. When I created this post, I saw it as a stroll down memory lane, but others have commented on butter-making as an inter-generational activity. The more shakers the better, I’d say. I see the jar being passed around in a circle, lively banter, possibly ending in a buttery snack.

      I enjoyed reading your confession and Owen’s comment. Of course a farm is more interesting than the beach. Why, there are animals galore, odd places to explore.

      It sounds as though you are enjoying your “Grandma” fix before your Tremendous Tour. Your fans are waiting with baited breath I have no doubt. I wish you Godspeed!

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    1. And then there are the joys of eating along with the picking. At least that’s what happens when we go berry-picking. Grandma’s berry patch is planted in grass now, but we can un-earth the memories anytime. Thanks for adding yours, Traci.

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  12. Memories of my Missouri grandma making butter in the wooden churn–and she made ice cream, too. I’ve never made butter, but I follow her footsteps in my garden and in my love of my land and my sons.

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    1. Yes, we had a wooden ice cream churn too. How I remember the chards of ice packed around the tall silver tub of cream and sugar. Yum! The land and its “fruits” nourishes all of us. Thanks for stopping by, Elaine.

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  13. Such a fun memory rides the coat tails of this post, Marian! The first time my cousin and I made butter (from fresh cow’s milk) I was probably 11 or 12, but I had stronger arms than my older cousin. I shook and shook. Finally it began to form. My cousin was supposed to add just a pinch of salt, but for such frail little hands she pinched a whole lot of salt! My grandmother offset it (fairly well) with pinches of sugar. It worked well enough that we did spread it on our toast and ate it, calling it delicious.

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    1. I’m glad this post evoked a fond memory. I guess in this case “a spoonful of sugar made the ‘medicine’ go down”! Truthfully, I had no idea that so many others have had early experiences with butter-making. Somehow when I was sitting on the chair shaking the jar I imagined that I was no only child doing this silly thing. Then it seemed to take ages, but I wasn’t smart enough to share the job as you did.

      Thanks for your homespun anecdote. I love it!

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  14. Marian what a joy to see how easy it is to make butter. I have some organic heavy cream in my fridge that I am going to make butter asap!! The best joys are the most simple.
    Irene Picca

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  15. Growing up in the city deprived me of having cows down the road or a mama who churned butter or made her own cream. However, I think what you’ve demonstrated here is the unity of women in a family to try in successive generations to reproduce the activities of the prior generation, if possible, in new and different ways. Kudos to the women of your family, and to you individually for such an entertaining post!

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    1. Nice to see your warm smile again, Sherrey. The unity of women in a family I suppose is the underlying theme of this post, as you point out. But I’m afraid we went into this activity with less intention: My mother had the right kind of jars and cream was available, so we shook our insides out and were rewarded with two fat butterballs.

      Thanks for stopping by, Sherrey. And thanks always for your encouragement of my writing.

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  16. OOoooo thanks Marian! I may well try that – I have some consol jars at hand. Would love to do some shake rattle and roll. I love all the comments and your responses back to them …

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    1. Join in! There are many who caught interest in this re-enactment. I hope you have a pal or two to help. It is so much easier with other “shakers”!

      I always appreciate your reading and responding. Very heart-warming, Susan.

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  17. I remember a wooden butter churn (looked somewhat like a barrel) and we complained about the task of turning it until the golden lumps of butter formed. Then my mother got out squares of “butter paper” and wrapped the brick-shaped butter for the occasional customer. I can’t recreate it since no one in my family remembers what happened to the churn.

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    1. Oh, Verna, so nice to see you in “comments” today. Even though you can’t recreate the activity, I hope it has brought back some pleasant memories. Mother had a wooden butter churn at home when she was young probably like what you describe, so I’m not sure where she got the idea of shaking cream in a two-quart jar. Again, thanks for stopping by.

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