Fresh homemade butter
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How can you make homemade butter in a mason jar?

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Years ago, in elementary school, I remember learning how to make homemade butter in little mason jars.

When my own kids were old enough, I showed them this “trick” to make something new out of plain old cream.

Butter: The real thing

If you don’t have an old-fashioned butter churn, no worries: This project is easy enough to do at home — and kids will enjoy it (although their arms may get a little tired from all the shaking).

Finding out the “how” and “why” you can turn cream into butter is almost as fun as eating the finished product!

Making homemade butter

What you need:

  • Small Mason jar and lid, completely cleaned (a baby food jar can also work well for little hands)
  • Heavy whipping cream (not milk, and not half and half)
  • Dash of salt (optional)
  • Yellow food coloring (optional)

How to do it:

Fill the small jar 1/4 to 1/2 way full of (unwhipped) whipping cream/heavy cream. Cream should be cool. Replace the lid tightly.

Start shaking! You will need to shake the jars for about ten to fifteen minutes before the butter starts to separate. You can hear it starting to happen as you shake, because it will feel like you’re shaking a lump of something. This is the curd separating from the whey. Shake until the remaining liquid (whey) is watery and translucent.

Use a strainer to drain off the whey. If you plan to keep your butter and don’t use it all immediately, it is important that you wash out all the whey to help the butter last. You will need to ply it (mash it) with a spoon and rinse until the water is clear.

Next, rinse the lump of butter with cool water two or three times, or until the water runs off clear. (If the weather is warm, you may need to chill the butter before rinsing.) It will look sort of like scrambled egg.

If you’d like to add salt, do it now. And with or without salt, you will want to knead the butter a bit to help consolidate it. When you’re all done, you can pack them into cube shapes, or leave as-is. (Of course, your butter will probably not look much like the packaged sticks from the grocery store, and may be almost white in color.)

More butter fun

If you like the idea of getting back to basics and making your own foods, you might want to check out OldAndInteresting.com and the The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Classic Stories.

And if you would prefer to make homemade butter the new-fashioned way, watch this video about how to churn butter with a stand mixer, and read the Cooking with Engineers version, too.