How Is Butter Made?

There’s a simple little trick all chefs know that makes good food even better: It’s butter. That’s right, just about everything is better with butter. That unctuous, creamy stuff can be quite versatile. You can spread it on whatever you want, melt it for a dip, or use it as a fat in your baking. But have you ever asked yourself, what is butter? How is butter made? What is butter made of? Better buckle up because we are about to find out how to make butter!

What is butter made of?

Butter is just made with milk and sometimes salt. But there’s a few tricks to it. We need to get cream from that milk. Cream is the milk fat that collects at the top of non-homogenized milk. Butter is most often made from cow’s milk, but you can also use sheep or goat, or if you want to get really out there, buffalo or yak.

Related: Best Butter to Buy

How to make butter?

To make butter, you need to churn some cream. That’s pretty much it. Simple as that. If you want to make your own butter, it’s easiest to start with cream. Or you can find some non-homogenized milk at your local hippy-dippy health food store. The easiest way for you, a human (if there are any non-humans reading this, I am impressed and terrified) to make butter is with a mixer. Just take that pretty stand mixer that you bought on sale but haven’t used yet and pour some cream into the bowl. Mix with the whisk attachment on medium. Over the next 10 minutes or so, the cream will turn into whipped cream, then as the butterfat separates from the liquid, it will start to cling to the whisk. You will be left with a solid at the bottom of the bowl and liquid on top. That liquid is buttermilk and can be saved to use in other recipes. Take that solid and squeeze it over a fine mesh strainer. Once it’s pretty dry, throw it into a bowl of ice water to remove any leftover buttermilk. Take that butterball, add some salt, mix it in, and you’ve got butter baby! If you don’t have a mixer or you want a workout, you can do all this by hand, or by shaking the cream in a Mason jar. 

Related: What’s the Difference Between Vegan Butter and Margarine?

How long does butter last?

Butter can eventually go bad. Not like, fall-in-with-the-wrong-crowd bad, it can actually go rancid. A good rule of thumb is to use your butter within three months. Butter is mostly fat and that fat can protect it from bacteria. But after a while, it can start to absorb other flavors and smells from your fridge. Some weirdos people like to leave their butter out on the counter and that’s perfectly fine, too. The USDA says it’s fine to leave butter out overnight. But any longer than that, don’t go crying to them if it gets rancid. I usually eat a stick of butter by itself within a day of buying it, so I don’t have to worry about any of that.

About the Author

Will Morgan

Will Morgan, a freelance contributor to Sporked, is an L.A. based writer, actor, and sketch comedy guy. Originally from Houston, TX, he strongly believes in the superiority of breakfast tacos to breakfast burritos. Will traveled the world as one of those people that did yoyo shows at elementary school assemblies, always making a point to find local and regional foods to explore in whatever place he was, even in rinky-dink towns like Tilsonberg, ON. Will spends his birthdays at Benihana’s. Let him know if can make it.

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