The Butter Experiment

Last week we made butter!

I have friends who made this fine food back in their grade school/scouting/summer camp days, but I haven’t had this pleasure until now. As such, this was much an experiment for me as it was for my child. And it was SO worth it. This project appealed to me because it hardly cost a thing, it was super easy to make, and I was rivited by the process of making my very own butter. And it appealed to my two-and-a-half year old because she could participate in the kitchen by doing many of her favorite things: pouring, mixing, and of course…eating!

Ingredients

  • Glass jar with tight-fitting lid. I used a clean spaghetti sauce jar
  • Heavy whipping cream
  • That’s it! Really, it’s that easy.


Directions

  • Pour cream into a jar. Fill it about 1/4 of the way to allow room for shaking.
  • Shake continuously until the cream divides into butter and “buttermilk”
  • Scoop out and pat butter into a bowl or molds.
  • Save the sweet butter milk for other recipes. Delish.

For this experiment, we made two batches: one in the glass jar and the other with a hand mixer. I hypothesized that the hand mixer concoction would whip up much quicker, so you can imagine my surprise when it never got past the thick cream phase. Given the nature of butter-making, maybe the blender would have worked better. If you’ve had success making butter with a mixer, please share your tips!

N helped with the hand mixer, gave the jar a few shakes for good measure, and then handed her duties off to me and her G-Ma.

There’s my adorable Mother-in-Law being a sport: baby-carrying in one hand and butter-shaking in the other. She’s clearly a pro. And a bonus…as you can see, my baby was enthralled by the process. It’s never too early to help a child develop critical thinking skills!

After about four minutes of shaking, the cream whipped up into a lovely spreadable consistency. Not quite butter, but still worth a taste. If you look closely, you’ll also notice that N is keeping herself busy cutting up coffee filters and snacking on raisins, while her grown-up friends labor away with butter shaking.

Mmmmmm.

About 10 minutes of shaking later I said out loud, “I don’t get it, is it supposed to look like REAL butter? Are we doing this right?” And within seconds the shaking became much easier and the butter was READY! We added a little bit of salt to taste, and then steamed up some corn to put it to the test. And it was amazing.

How it works

When you shake heavy cream, the drops of fat that are usually suspended in the liquid smack against each other and stick to each other.

When was the last time you made butter, and have you tried any variations on this experiment?

Happily shared with Tot Tuesday, We Play, Play Academy, and ABC and 123, Kids Get Crafty

Comments

  1. says

    I remember my nephew doing this (he is 21 now) and bringing it to our Thanksgiving celebration! Thank you for the reminder to make this! My daughter loves butter and would thoroughly enjoy this! We’ve made ice cream in a bag and you shake it too! You put the cream and sugar in a small ziploc bag, put this bag within a larger ziploc bag filled with rock salt and ice and shake! Your kids are sooo cute!

      • rachelle says

        Thanks for the nice compliment, Melissa. Your daughter is adorable too! We have yet to make ice cream, and I’m sure this will go over well. Thanks for sharing this easy recipe. Can’t wait to try it.

  2. says

    That’s the second butter-making post I’ve seen in two days! It must be a sign. I should dig up that pint of heavy cream in my fridge and see if it’s still, um, edible.

    • rachelle says

      What?! Other people are making butter too? :) I remember reading that sour(ed) cream makes decent butter. Sounds strange, but it may be worth looking into.

  3. Aleksandra says

    I remember doing this in elementary school for the first time and how amazed I was by how quickly it turned to butter! Very fun.

    And here’s another spin on this – for adults only :) In college I made a baked pear dessert with my roommate, and to top it off we made our very own butter in a glass jar…with a bit of rum mixed in there too. Super yummy!

  4. says

    I read about making butter somewhere else and I was wondering “but how long does it actually take?” So thanks for the post! Very helpful! Now I just have to actually try . . .

    • rachelle says

      Glad this helped, Darcy! I read it could take 10-20 minutes, and was pretty happy when it only took 10. I hope you have the same experience. Enjoy!

  5. Lori E says

    I guess you weren’t in Prof. Duckworth’s class at HGSE. We made butter just like this after a lesson on butter molds and ate it with homemade bread. Experiential learning at work!

    • rachelle says

      Oh, I really wanted to take her course, and never heard about the butter lesson. What a cool prof she is! Experiential learning, indeed!!

  6. says

    My daughter swipes butter out of the fridge and eats it in stick form. I’m afraid she’ll see this post and realize she can make her own with my cream! Eeeek!

    :-) Looks super scrumptious. I wish I had some corn or fresh baked bread to try it with myself!

  7. says

    Oh Wow! I am impressed you made your own butter! What a great activity and a fabulous idea to teach children where our food comes from!! Thanks for the science lesson too! We will do this one day with Red Ted too, so he can learn!

    Thank you for linking up to Kids Get Crafty, your visit is very much appreciated!

    Maggy

    • rachelle says

      Hi Maggy, It was so easy, and I bet Red Ted will get a lot out of it (in addition to yummy butter, of course). And thanks to you for sharing Kids Get Crafty with everyone!

  8. says

    I have made butter before with a group of kiddos. I used a book where a frog makes butter by kicking in a bucket of cream. I can’t think of the name…

  9. says

    We’ve done this from time to time. One suggestion I’ve read (but not yet used) is to put a (clean) marble in with the heavy cream. The marble helps create more friction and makes the process faster. I usually have to give it a few hard shakes at the end to finish off the butter.

    Great post.

    • rachelle says

      Great suggestion, Scott. We’ll have to try it. There’s still half a pint of cream in the fridge, waiting to be made into butter…

  10. Julia says

    I was a camp counselor 12-ish years ago and led a butter-making activity. My recipe was for 1/2 c. heavy cream and 1 Tbsp. of sour cream. The kids shook it up in mason jars like you did, but it only took about 5 minutes. Somehow the sour cream speeds up the process, maybe by giving the fat globules something to stick to, kind of like a precipitating agent? But that’s just a guess. I just know there’s no way all those 7-12-year-olds would have shook their jars for 10 long minutes. The butter turned out really tasty, by the way, not sour. And it was just like you said: nothing, then suddenly a clump of butter separated from buttermilk. I don’t remember tasting the buttermilk. I’d be interested to know if you try it this way if you notice a flavor difference, and how much shorter it really is. Maybe I’ll do the side-by-side experiment when my daughter is a little older.

    • rachelle says

      Hi Julia, Thanks for sharing this alternate recipe. I didn’t come across a sour cream version in my research (although truth be told, I didn’t dig very deep!), and I’d love to try it out. With young children, five minutes is a much more manageable period of time. Add this to Scott’s earlier suggestion of using a marble as an instigator, and I wonder if you could whip up some butter in three minutes?! :) A side-by-side experiment would be an awesome experience for elementary-age children, and I’ll sock that one away for when my daughters get to be a little bit older. Thank you!!

    • Dragonleo13 says

      We used 1 Tblsp honey Greek yogurt to make honey butter…great minds think a like.

  11. says

    I used to do that when I was little. I’ve been wanting to try it with my boys. May be I just need to MAKE time to do it. :) I remember it being so much fun.

    • rachelle says

      making time with children is always a challenge, but this doesn’t take much. i’m attracted to low-threshold projects, and once you have an empty jar and some cream, it’ll just take about 10 minutes. i hope you find this to be as much fun now as it was when you were a kid!

  12. says

    We did it the same way, just adding 2 clean marbles in the jar to speed the process. It was really good ! I love your blog, thanks for all the great ideas.

    • rachelle says

      thanks for the kind words and good suggestion. we haven’t revisited this project yet, but next time we’ll definitely use marbles too! yum.

  13. Angella says

    The reason it did not do it with the hand mixer is because you were making whip cream that way. I do it all the time when I make homemade banana cream pie. You take heavy whipping cream, a little sugar and some vanilla and you use the hand mixer until soft peaks form and then you have whip cream.