Heavy cream can easily be turned into butter on its own, but simply adding a dash of cultured buttermilk to your heavy cream and letting it ferment on your counter for a while brings on a whole new level of delicious. Meet: cultured butter.
Learn how to make cultured butter at home using just 2 ingredients you may even have in the fridge right now!
At some point, every from-scratch-loving homesteader decides it’s time to learn how to make butter. I put it off for a couple of years, figuring it wasn’t a necessary skill until we had our own family dairy cow.
However, that day is nowhere in sight. It will be many more years until we have the space and resources to care for a dairy cow. I decided I didn’t want to wait, and to my surprise I found that making butter at home is way easier than I anticipated!
Not only is the process super easy and straight-forward, but you can make butter using ingredients from the supermarket that you’re likely already familiar with. In fact, you can use just one ingredient that you probably know and use frequently:
Heavy whipping cream!
If you want to be extra like me, add cultured buttermilk or yogurt to your cart and get ready for an explosion of flavor.
How is Cultured Butter Different?
What is the difference between cultured butter and regular butter? What makes cultured butter so special?
Why bother going through the extra steps of culturing your heavy cream before processing it into butter, when you could easily just pour the carton into a food processor and make butter right on the spot?
The answer, my friends, is flavor development.
Culturing the cream for a day or two gives it a delicious tangy flavor you just can’t achieve otherwise. No herbs or spices can replicate it. If you haven’t tried store-bought cultured butter before, you’re in for a treat.
Allowing the cream to ferment for a day or two increases the milk fat content and acidity, resulting in creamier butter, and adds a complexity to the finished product. It’s tangy, it’s creamy, and it’s delicious!
Because the fat content of cultured butter is higher, it has a higher smoke point than traditional butter, making searing and cooking much better!
How is Cultured Butter Made?
Now, you should go into this knowing there are several different ways to go about making your own cultured butter at home.
My preferred method for making cultured butter is to use cultured buttermilk. I know it sounds a bit strange, adding a by-product of butter into your butter, but hear me out.
There are cultured butter recipes that call for yogurt instead of cultured buttermilk.
All you’re doing is adding live active cultures to your heavy cream and allowing it to ferment on the counter for a little while prior to processing it.
Live cultures can be found in both cultured buttermilk, and most yogurt. It’s recommended to use whole milk yogurt, not Greek.
Sounds a lot less confusing, right? Some may prefer the flavor profile yogurt adds to their cultured butter, but generally, this is a pretty straight forward recipe. There aren’t a ton of variations of cultured butter recipes because it is what it is.
Similar to many other fermented foods, there’s a ton of wiggle room for customization, but the key components and process remain the same.
In short, you’re simply introducing live bacteria to the heavy cream. Whether you choose to use yogurt or buttermilk is up to you.
As for processing the cream into butter, you can use a food processor, a mason jar, an old-fashioned churner, or even a blender. All you’re doing is whipping the cream around super fast until the buttermilk separates from the butterfat.
How to Make Cultured Butter with Buttermilk
The only thing to keep in mind is that you’ll need cultured buttermilk. Seriously, make sure it says “cultured”! Regular ol’ buttermilk won’t do. And don’t even get me started on the complexities of the difference between store-bought buttermilk and the by-product of making butter out of raw milk at home.
Cultured buttermilk butter is my favorite! I recommend this version over the yogurt, though it’s not a huge deal.
How to Make Cultured Butter from Raw Milk
The process of making cultured butter is exactly the same when you’re working with raw milk, except you’ll have to separate the heavy cream first.
Raw milk will settle when left in the fridge for a few hours. You should be able to easily find the cream line. Everything above the cream line is – well, cream! Everything below it is milk.
Separate the heavy cream by ladling it out, or you can use a turkey baster. There are machines that separate heavy cream for you, but unless you’re planning on having an entire business around selling heavy cream and raw milk, it’s not necessary at all.
Once you’ve separated your heavy cream, add the cultured buttermilk or yogurt, allow it to ferment, and process it into butter. Easy peasy!
There’s really only one notable difference:
Because the flavor of raw cream is so much more flavorful and rich than store-bought heavy cream, you don’t have to let it ferment as long for the flavor to be out of this world. Even just a few hours will do!
How to Make Cultured Butter with Yogurt
The process of making cultured butter with yogurt instead of cream is exactly the same! It’s really all a matter of what you have available in your area, and if you prefer a flavor of one over the other. They’re more or less the same, though.
Homemade Cultured Butter Recipe
- 1 quart of Heavy Whipping Cream
- 3 tbsp Cultured Buttermilk or Plain Whole Milk Yogurt
- Large Jar or Container with Loose Lid
- Large Mixing Bowl
- Fine Mesh Sieve (you can make it work without if you need to)
- Food Processor (or a Large Mason Jar)
- Cold Water
How to Make Cultured Butter at Home:
Step 1: Gather ingredients for day one.
I typically use two 24-oz mason jars, simply because I don’t have a ton of jars that are big enough for all of the cream and buttermilk at once. It’s not a big deal. You can add it all to one jar or container, or you can separate it if need be.
Step 2: Add heavy whipping cream to jar or container.
Step 3: Add buttermilk or yogurt to heavy whipping cream and stir.
Step 4: Put a loose fitting lid on the jar/jars and allow the mixture to ferment on your counter at room temp for at least 12 hours.
Your cream can culture and thicken up in just a few hours, but it may take longer. You can also make the decision to allow it to ferment for up to 2 days, depending on the temperature in your house. The warmer it is, the faster it will ferment.
Typically I allow my butter to culture for 1-2 days.
Step 5: Gather ingredients for day 2.
Step 6: Add the fermented heavy cream into the food processor.
By now, the cream should have thickened up quite a bit, and it will have a tangy smell. What you’ve created in this jar is actually homemade crème fraîche! Add it to a food processor.
(If you don’t have a food processor, you can add the cream to a mason jar and shake until curds appear, but it takes a TON of elbow grease and determination. A stand mixer can also be used!)
Step 7: Turn the food processor on high and process until the butterfat separates from the buttermilk, and curds appear.
This can take a couple of minutes. It will go through some changes during this time, from looking like whipped cream, to looking like lumpy whipped cream. Finally, it will break and you’ll feel the food processor thumping solid bits around.
From here, turn the food processor off after a few seconds, and pulse 2-4 more times, careful not to over process the butterfat.
Step 8: Put the fine mesh colander in your large mixing bowl.
Step 9: Line the colander with cheesecloth.
Step 10: Pour the contents of the food processor into the cheesecloth.
Step 11: Separate the buttermilk from the butterfat, reserving the buttermilk for later. Don’t throw it out! It’s cultured buttermilk! You can cook with it!
I usually pick the cheesecloth up, swiping the sides to help get the buttermilk out. You don’t have to let this naturally separate.
Rinse your bowl and add the butterfat to it.
Step 12: Run cold tap water over the butterfat.
See how this water is murky? It’s because there is still a ton of buttermilk in the butter. You need to express the last bits of buttermilk out to extend the shelf life and stability of the butter.
Step 13: Using the back of a spatula, press the butter against the bottom and sides of the bowl to get the buttermilk out. You can also use your hands! It’s oily, but much quicker.
Step 14: Push the butterfat to one side of the bowl and dump out the murky water.
Step 15: Add more fresh cold water to the bowl and continue massaging the buttermilk out of the butter.
Step 16: Continue this process until the water runs clear.
It usually takes me 2-4 times to get clear water.
Step 17: Dump out all the water, and use the spatula to squeeze out any remaining moisture from the butter.
And there you have it! What you’re left with here is amazing cultured butter!
From this point you can add some salt or herbs if you like, or leave it plain. Store in an airtight container on the counter for up to 2 weeks, or in the fridge for a few months. You can also freeze your homemade cultured butter!
To Shape Your Butter:
Let the butter chill in the fridge for 10 minutes, then remove and shape! Wrap in wax paper and store back in the fridge. You can use the wax paper itself to help shape it into a log.
What is the Best Cream for Making Butter?
When I first started making homemade butter using store-bought heavy cream, I frantically searched the internet for specific brands I should use. I was convinced it only works if you use a certain type of heavy whipping cream.
Now, the higher the fat content, the better. However, I’ve personally found that it doesn’t really matter. I’ve used about 7 different brands, ranging from cheap off-brand heavy cream to the Organic Valley heavy cream. And they have all processed into beautiful butter.
Ideally, you’re looking for high fat content, and heavy cream that is NOT ultra pasteurized. I have a hard time finding heavy cream that isn’t ultra pasteurized, so I work with what I have. If you can, that’s ideal!
Why Do You Need to Wash Homemade Butter?
When you separate the butterfat from the buttermilk using cheesecloth, there’s still a ton of buttermilk in there. It’s delicious an safe as is, but it will go rancid super fast if you don’t expel the last bits of buttermilk out.
Washing the buttermilk out of your homemade butter leaves you with nothing but butterfat, which is what we want. It also increases the shelf life and stability of the final product.
Should Cream be Warm or Cold to Make Butter?
Ideally, your heavy cream should be room temp when you add it to your food processor. If it’s too cold, it will take a long time to churn. If it’s too warm, it will be too soft and not separate the way it should.
How Long Does Cultured Butter Last?
In the fridge – about a month.
In the freezer – you may notice a decrease in the quality if left for too long, but it should last for several months.
On the counter – up to 2 weeks. It’s never lasted this long in my house, so I’m not 100% sure.
Does Cultured Butter Need to be Refrigerated?
This is tricky. Ideally, you should keep your cultured butter in the fridge for the longest shelf life, and especially if it’s unsalted. So, is it safe to leave butter on the counter?
According to a few different sources, salted butter is more stable than unsalted when it comes to being left out at room temp. The butter I leave on our counter is always salted.
Can Homemade Butter be Frozen?
Absolutely! Homemade butter can last months in the freezer!
Is Cultured Butter Good for Baking?
Yes! According to Bon Appetit,
“One of the biggest places that cultured butter makes a difference is in baking. Not only does the cultured flavor transfer directly to your scones and shortbreads, adding a barely definable boost that mostly makes the treats to taste nuttier and more like butter, it also improves the texture.”
“Many bakers swear by cultured butter when it comes to croissants, particularly, because the extra butterfat content in products such as Vermont Creamery’s cultured butter means less moisture sogging down those flaky layers and makes the butter easier to work with at colder temperatures—also a key in making pie crusts.”
Is it Cheaper to Make Your own Butter?
This is a question I’ve received a few times on Instagram. The answer is a little tricky. Ultimately, it depends on what type of butter you usually buy.
If you typically buy the cheap, off-brand sticks of butter, then switching exclusively to homemade cultured butter will definitely cost more. If you buy the fancy, reputable European cultured butter, then yes, this will likely be cheaper.
It comes down to the jump in quality. You won’t find a butter in the store that’s quite like homemade cultured butter, but it may cost you a little bit more every month.
It is cheaper to make it at home if you buy the same quality in the store.
Why is Homemade Butter White?
You’ll find that making butter out of raw milk will usually result in a beautiful golden color, whereas using store-bought heavy whipping cream results in white butter.
Raw milk is full of beta-carotene from the cows diet, which gives the fatty parts of the milk their yellow color. During the pasteurization, separation, and processing of most commercial heavy whipping cream brands, the color ends up being white. It doesn’t mean you failed at your butter! It’s to be expected unless you have access to raw milk.
What Happens if You Churn Butter Too Long?
Can you overwhip butter? The answer is yes, but I’ve found it’s harder than you think it is. At some point, if you continue churning the butter once it’s already separated from the buttermilk, it will start getting warm and sort of melt back down.
Is Homemade Butter Healthier than Store Bought?
Fermented foods are great for your gut. While I can’t provide you with a definite answer on this, I’d be willing to bet that the answer is yes. It’s always nice knowing exactly what’s in your butter as well. Fresher is always better.
Can You Make Butter with 2% Milk?
In short, no. Even if you had a gallon of whole milk in your fridge, don’t bother trying to make butter out of it. While there’s still a bit of fat in these 2 types of milk, it’s not enough to make butter. Butter is fat. You need the heavy cream, because it’s the fattiest part of milk.
What Do You Do with Milk That is Left After Making Butter?
It’s buttermilk! Buttermilk is a by-product of butter. It’s vastly different than the buttermilk you’ll find at the grocery store, but you can still cook and bake with it! Don’t waste it!
How Can You Tell if Butter is Rancid?
Boy, oh boy. You can tell. It starts smelling a little cheesy, and your gut will tell you to steer clear. Look out for discoloration and mold, as with any food.
I have experienced mold once before during the fermentation process. This is simply because I left it out on my counter for far too long. Possibly up to 4 days. It was a busy week. It’s very apparent when mold has formed on your cream or butter, and the cheesy smell is a dead giveaway.
Is It Worth It To Make Your Own Butter?
Absolutely! Whether you make regular butter or cultured butter, whether you use raw milk, or store-bought heavy cream, you’re going to notice a huge difference in flavor.
It’s not a super time-consuming process, and I personally find it relaxing. You don’t have to exclusively use homemade butter, though I generally try to. I make one to two batches of this per week, and it’s pretty much the only butter we use now.
When I know I’m going to be baking a lot or using a ton of butter on a recipe, I use store-bought sticks of unsalted butter, leaving the homemade butter for spreading on fresh bread or to saute with.
I’m convinced that once someone makes their own cultured butter, there’s really no turning back. It ruins regular butter for you forever!
Have you made your own cultured butter before? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear any tips or ideas you may have!
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