Recipe — Cultured Butter

A few weeks ago, I took a trip up to the Westside Market in Cleveland. Among the treasures I brough home that day were three kinds of butter — Kerrygold, goat butter, and Vermont cultured butter. I put the first two in the refrigerator but left the cultured butter out to use. 

It would be almost impossible to overstate how good this butter is. I don’t even remember what I first used it on; I might have just tasted it from my finger. All I know is that it was as if I were tasting butter for the first time. It was rich, creamy, with just the slightest tang to it. I knew right then and there that I had to figure out how to make this for myself. 

After reading a number of articles and blogs about making cultured butter, I came up with the following recipe. It’s fairly straightforward and well worth the time and effort. 

Cultured Butter 

Ingredients 

  • One quart heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup whole milk yogurt (Dannon is a good brand; make sure whatever you use doesn’t contain any gums or stabilizers)
  • Salt, to taste

Directions 

  1. Mix the cream and yogurt in a clean glass or ceramic bowl. Avoid plastic, which can harbor bacteria in any scratches or imperfections. Cover and let rest for 12 -18 hours, until the mixture has thickened slightly and tastes somewhat tangy. If your room is cool (i.e., less than the mid-70s), it may take longer to culture.
  2. Once the mixture has cultured,  cool it slightly by placing in the refrigerator for an hour or so, or by submerging the bowl in a sinkful of ice water for a minute or two. The ideal temperature is around 60° F.
  3. Prepare a bowl of ice water, which you will use to clean the butter.
  4. Put the cream mixture in a mixing bowl. If using a stand mixer, use the whisk attachment. Beat the mixture on high until stiff peaks form, then reduce the speed to low. Watch closely at this point, as the cream mixture will soon break, separating into butter and buttermilk. If you have a splash guard on your mixer, you might want to use it so you don’t have buttermilk flying everywhere. Once the mixture breaks, turn off the mixer.
  5. Pour the buttermilk into a clean container. You can use this just as you would commercial buttermilk for drinking or baking. If you aren’t going to use it within a week or so, it can be frozen and used later for baking.
  6. Press the butter with a spatula, spoon, or your hand to remove as much buttermilk as possible.
  7. Pour water from the bowl of ice water over the butter to cover. Rinse the butter by kneading it under the water, then dump off the water. Continue to add water and rinse until the water you pour off is clear. It is necessary to remove all the residual buttermilk in order to keep the butter from spoiling too quickly.
  8. Once the butter has been cleaned thoroughly, knead it on the counter for a minute. If you want to salt the butter, press the butter out on the counter, sprinkle lightly with salt, then knead it in. To store the butter, you can press it into ramekins or, as I prefer, roll it into logs. Cover the ramekins or wrap the logs tightly in plastic wrap. If you make two butter rolls, you can freeze one for later use.

Yields two cups buttermilk and about 12 ounces butter. 

Cultured cream

Broken Butter

 

Buttermilk

 

Rinsing the Butter

 

6-ounce roll of cultured butter

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39 Comments

  1. September 10, 2012 at 8:23 am

    [...] I’m still baking my way through the Cakes Section of the Modern Baker Challenge, and this week’s entry is a simple and delicious layer cake. What makes this cake unique is that the butter you would normally expect to find in a cake is replaced by whipping cream. This makes sense if you recall that overwhipped cream turns into butter. [...]

  2. teaandscones said,

    November 19, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    Made your own butter. I AM impressed. Have to try this. What a great addition to the meal.

    • gaaarp said,

      November 19, 2011 at 4:55 pm

      It’s so good, and so easy it’s almost criminal. Especially when you fold in a little truffle salt.

  3. Sara said,

    March 19, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    So I just realized I had some unopened cream in my fridge that had a sell by date a few days past. It tasted fine, and I knew I wouldn’t use it, so perfect opportunity to try to make butter! Since this was a spur of the moment thing, I used the only yogurt we had, greek but nonfat. So hopefully that is OK. (But I recently read you can do this with buttermilk as your culturing agent, i.e. use creme fraiche, and that’s nonfat usually, so should be fine I figure?) My question is about covering: my instructions for creme fraiche say to leave uncovered so that the culture can “breathe”; so when you say cover do you mean airtight or just loosely with a paper towel so nothing accidentally falls in?

    I also have some more creme fraiche cultuing right now. It’s a regular creamery here. I’m pretty excited!

    • gaaarp said,

      March 19, 2011 at 8:55 pm

      I’m not sure it matters. You could just cover it with paper towel. But I don’t suppose plastic wrap or another tight cover is going to hinder the process too much, as there will be plenty of air in the container.

      • Sara said,

        March 21, 2011 at 9:02 pm

        Success! I don’t know how “cultured’ mine is (I love fage, but I haven’t had the best luck with using it to start yogurt, or here, butter) but it’s still butter! What a difference from the first time I tried it a year or so ago using ultrapastuerized butter. Considering this cream was just about past the sell by date, I’m feeling thrifty as well as gourmet! It turns out it’s pretty easy, but the hand holding for first timers is very helpful!

  4. sallybr said,

    March 16, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    Oh, I promise you I’m trying this the moment I set foot back in my house in Oklahoma!

    so cool! Loved this post!

    • gaaarp said,

      March 16, 2011 at 5:01 pm

      Thanks, Sally! It is really good. I’m down to a few logs in the freezer, so I’ll probably be making more soon. The next time I make it, I’m going to do unsalted butter, since that’s what I use in baking all the time these days.

  5. Can't Believe We Ate... said,

    January 8, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    Okay!! I’m enchanted! I’ve got to give this a try…what an interesting concept!

  6. October 31, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    [...] eggs, melted butter, and buttermilk. (I had the buttermilk in the freezer from the last time I made cultured butter. Since I found out that buttermilk can be frozen, I almost always have it on [...]

  7. September 20, 2010 at 2:27 am

    You make it look so easy! I’ve read that you shouldn’t use a mixer and should really knead it by hand — does that really yield a much better result? I’d rather use my mixer, of course…but if hand cranking it will yield something 50% better I might be game for that. (Hey, it might also give me toned arms.)

    • gaaarp said,

      September 20, 2010 at 6:42 pm

      I did the initial mixing with the Kitchen Aid, and only did the final kneading by hand. I can’t imagine that it would make that much difference.

  8. August 15, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    [...] eagerly grabbed a slice of bread, slathered it with lightly salted cultured butter, and took a bite. It was good. A bit too peppery, but otherwise really good. I ate about five [...]

  9. August 10, 2010 at 8:15 am

    [...] After the bread cooled, I sliced it and ate it with some homemade butter. [...]

  10. ap269 said,

    August 9, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    I made the butter yesterday and fell in love with the buttermilk! It is soooooo yummy!

  11. August 9, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    [...] (a recipe by Gaaarp) [...]

  12. August 8, 2010 at 7:53 am

    [...] bread. And the taste was amazing – complex, nutty, slightly sweet. It was great plain, with cultured butter, and as a base for [...]

  13. Diane said,

    August 5, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    I forgot to mention the reason I’ve made this butter twice in such a short period of time — I’ve given away three sticks to friends and kept one for myself so far! people have been *so* impressed with it; it’s like I just performed a magic trick or something. and in a way, I have!

  14. Diane said,

    August 5, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    I’ve made this twice now, and I don’t know that I’ll ever buy butter again at all! the butterfat content of my sticks has been similar to Plugrá, at least in look and feel. in other words, I actually think my sticks of butter have a *higher* fat content. I’ve used it to fry eggs; worked beautifully. can’t wait to use it to bake!

    I’ve also found that I really love keeping at least 1/4 of the batch as straight crème fraîche for my toast — that is truly delicious, slightly cultured cream melting into toast.

  15. astheroshe said,

    August 3, 2010 at 7:25 am

    opps just read the last post! merci!

  16. astheroshe said,

    August 3, 2010 at 7:24 am

    Your the MAN! anytime you want to shamelessly plug butter..you can! I could eat a whole ‘stick’. I wonder how it would be to bake with?..ever tried?

  17. Becky said,

    August 1, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    Can you bake with this butter or is it best for spreading on things? Sounds really good, thanks for the recipe. Can I use greek yogurt or do I need the less thick like Dannon?

    • gaaarp said,

      August 1, 2010 at 4:28 pm

      Yes, you can bake with it. You can use it any way you would use butter. I like to use it in things where you can really taste the butter — spread on bread, to saute vegetables, etc. — but there’s no reason not to use it for baking, too.

      As long as the yogurt has live cultures and no gums or stabalizers, it will work. The consistency doesn’t matter, as you mix a small amount of yogurt with a much larger amount of cream.

      • Becky said,

        August 5, 2010 at 7:44 pm

        My sons made this and it is totally delicious, we never got around to baking with it as it went on bread, grits, so good! I am using the buttermilk sat for waffles, then we are making some more. I may never buy butter again for anything but baking, and use this for everything else. thanks for a great recipe!

      • gaaarp said,

        August 5, 2010 at 7:54 pm

        Becky, I’m glad you and your family like it. I’m thinking of doing some baking with my next batch. Maybe croissants or brioche — something really buttery.

  18. Diane said,

    July 31, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    thank you SO much for posting this recipe! I have been making yogurt and crème fraîche for a while, so it was simple to make a larger batch of crème fraîche for the butter. I used my Kitchen Aid food processor (with the “s” blade attachment) and it took about 3 minutes, maximum, to make the butter. very fun process to watch, and the way it sounded made it easy to tell when the mixture was about to break. I have always preferred unsalted cultured butter to regular butter, and now have a simple way to make my own (plus, much less expensive)! thank you so much.

    • gaaarp said,

      July 31, 2010 at 6:17 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed it. I am about ready to make some more.

  19. Eva said,

    July 19, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    my brother had fond memories of butter like this, him and his father were hunting for something and swung around by a friends cabin which had been closed up for the winter, (this was early spring) and in this area the cabin at that time wasn’t locked, so they stopped to brew up some tea and get out of the cold wind. They had some bread but had forgotten the butter, and Harold knew that Ole kept a pail of butter (home made of course) and they found it hanging int he rafters, and had some, it was super good according to my brother. So will have to try your method. But I was wondering could you just use the starter for yogurt from the health food store instead of the yogurt itself?

    • gaaarp said,

      July 20, 2010 at 4:10 pm

      I’m not sure if that would work or not. I suppose it would be worth a try. Of course, if you make yogurt, you would only have to use a small amount of it, and you can make more yogurt from the first batch, so theoretically you’d never have to buy yogurt or starter again.

      • Eva said,

        July 20, 2010 at 5:56 pm

        Well I’m sure Ole didn’t have yougurt to use, so they must have used something possibly rennet, or the butter just aged naturally, being fresh made from cows milk or rather cream on the farm. This was in the 1960′s and while the Hippie movement was gaining ground, it hadn’t made inroads up here yet. Ole would have been around 50 years old or so, and a farmer all his life. My brother said it was actually more like cheese than butter after 6 or more months in the tin bucket up in the rafters of the unheated cabin. So wonder if they used rennet? Which is impossible to find any more.

      • gaaarp said,

        July 20, 2010 at 7:48 pm

        I would have to guess that it was just fresh butter that had aged naturally.

  20. Abby said,

    July 18, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    Thanks for the step-by-steps! I’ve been studying up on making my own butter (and yogurt) since last summer . . . it sounds so fascinating (and yummy). I think I need to stop studying, follow your instructions, and just do it!!

    • gaaarp said,

      July 18, 2010 at 9:32 pm

      Give it a try! It’s easy, and the results are fantastic.

      If you make your own yogurt (which I’ve also done, with great results), you can use it to culture the cream.

      • Abby said,

        August 9, 2010 at 10:27 pm

        You inspired me ~ tried both the cultured butter and homemade yogurt this weekend. Both turned out well, both were fun processes! =)

  21. Steph said,

    July 18, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    This is amazing! Thanks for sharing this process. I’d never have thought of it. I love to cook with buttermilk and, of course, love butter with everything. :) Hope you and your family are doing well, friend.

    • gaaarp said,

      July 18, 2010 at 6:38 pm

      Thanks, Steph. We’re all hanging in there.

      You really should try this butter, especially if you’ve never had cultured butter. You’ll want to swim in it.

  22. Kristin said,

    July 18, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    Lovely job on the butter! You know, cultured butter (even with residual buttermilk) never goes “bad”. It just continues to ferment (at room temp) until you can’t stand the taste. Of course, some can. You can send it to me if this happens. :-)

    • gaaarp said,

      July 18, 2010 at 6:36 pm

      Thanks. That’s good to know. Part of the reason I packaged it in 6-oz rolls was so I would go through it fast enough not to have to worry about it, whether I got all the buttermilk out or not.

      I’ll keep you in mind if any of it goes rancid. :-)


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