Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I Can't Believe It's Not Butter

I had to leave work early yesterday to be home when the water heater guy arrived.  So I thought, what a perfect time to multitask, work from home and churn butter while thinking hard about numbers (or something).
So I churned and I thought and I churned and churned and thought and thought, for a really long time, like an hour.  All the liquid in the container did is get foamy and double in volume.  So I put down the churn and looked online for "what happens if the cream doesn't turn into butter".  As far as I can tell, according to the internet, that doesn't happen.  It always turns into butter.  I couldn't find a single thing on ways that you can screw up making butter.

I let it rest in the refrigerator for a few hours and tried again later last night.  Still nothing buttery in that foamy fluid.

So now I have 1/2+ gallon of creamy stuff that I have no idea what to do with.  I don't know what I did wrong, or what it is, exactly.  Can I pretend nothing happened, put it back in with the milk I took it from and make cheese with it all together?  Feed it to the chickens, the dogs? eat it? ... what??

This is so frustrating.  With most stuff I've tried, I get a reasonable facsimile of what I was looking for, and I see that I can tweak this or that to get closer to what I want.  This is a total failure. I have 2 more gallons of milk, but I hesitate to take the cream off and try again because I don't know what I did wrong.

Hmph.  This is a good example of one of the skills that was lost in the ages of time that I wish our ancestors would have not lost.  Here we are, a raft of people trying to learn all over again things that "we" (the universal we) used to know.


  1. In the way you skimmed the cream from the milk, you probably got too much milk in with the cream globules. (I've never even had any luck making whipped cream from cream skimmed off the top of our raw milk so I can understand why you can't get butter.)

    Most people who are into butter making use a piece of equipment called a cream separator. It's a centrifugal force type operation that separates milk from the cream. (Leaving you heavy cream and skimmed milk.) This is what we used when we had our dairy goats. Ours is currently packed away or I would send you a picture. I'm sure you can find it online for a more helpful description and illustration.

    The only thing I could suggest that might work would be for you to let your raw, whole milk sit (in the refrigerator) for a couple/few days before skimming the cream. The longer it sits, the "denser" the cream that rises to the top will be.

    You can mix the cream that won't become butter back into the milk you took it from and you'll just have whole milk again for making cheese or whatever. If you feel it got too warm to safely do that, the chickens will LOVE it. I wouldn't feed it to them as a steady diet (really high in butter fat) but this once wouldn't hurt.

    When we have milk that has gotten a little old on us, hubby mixes it with laying mash, let's it sit at room temperature for a few days. It ferments and the chickens gobble it up like candy.

    I know you'll figure this out, too, Jordan. Good luck!

  2. Big sigh of relief! Sounds like it would have turned out better if I hadn't tried to get so much of the cream. At least it won't go to waste. I'll chees-ify it tonight with the milk it came from. It'll be like it was never gone from it's skim milk other half. I wonder if the little milks will cry when they get back together.

  3. The reunion tonight will be a joyous occasion for all involved!

  4. Jordan-
    I don't remember if you've made butter before. It might be worth a try to buy a qt or so of cream (heavy or whipping) just to see how it acts when you make butter and how much churning it takes to get your results and then you can try the skimming off the cream again.

  5. Karen Sue, I'm not making butter myself, but your suggestion is so sensible and good, it just made me smile!

  6. You know - I just assumed that the cream had to be non-pasteurized, but that's only for when I want to grow things! As a matter of fact - I have some heavy cream here from when I made quiche recently. I could just try it.

  7. One thing I learned from a friend is that if your heavy cream is slightly warm it turns to butter really quickly. That totally didn't make sense to me, since you always hear that it needs to be cold, but my friend heats the cream a little in the microwave, shakes it in a jar and it turns into butter. Weird, but it works! I've always just used the heavy cream and never separated it myself. Good luck!