Churn up the fun


Churn up the fun



“Modern” butter making is very little changed from the ancient methods developed by our ancestors for turning delicious, luxurious cream into solid “gold.”

The recipe was easy and simple: Let the cream culture overnight at room temperature, then put it in a barrel and whack the heck out of it with a stick until it turns into a solid.

Child’s play, right? Exactly. I don’t remember making butter as a youngster, but as a grown-up I’ve come to love the timeless fun of making butter at home with my daughter.

And you don’t need a barrel, or even a churn. It’s as easy as putting cream in a glass jar, then shaking it like mad until it turns into a solid.

I didn’t use cultured cream for these recipes, specifically because cooking with kids is often a spontaneous activity, and using cream straight from the market or refrigerator is just fine. If you are able to pre-plan, culturing the cream overnight (see the Cook’s Note below) before “churning” is a treat. Cultured butter has a tangy flavor missing from the store-bought butter we are used to.



“Compound butter” is a fancy name for doctored- up butter with stuff in it. Some people add chives or garlic or spices. You can easily make compound butter with store-bought butter just by mixing in fun ingredients – but making your own butter just feels more special.

After your butter is made you can even mold it into shapes. Use your imagination: Lollipop molds, ice cube trays and plastic wrap can work wonders.

For the plastic wrap method, after your butter is finished and rinsed, lay a large sheet of plastic wrapping or parchment out. Drop the butter in spoonfuls onto the wrapping and fold the wrapping over, shaping the butter into an even roll. Fold over the paper or tie both ends. Now you can leave the tube round, or press it into a square or even a triangle shape.

For extra-fancy compound butter, sprinkle any ingredient you’d like on the wrapping before adding the butter – I chose chocolate chips for the Mexican Chocolate Butter below.

Well-rinsed butter will keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator or months in the freezer.

Jennifer Carden is a chef, author and stylist. She is dedicated to helping families get excited about food, and with her creative recipes she inspires kids and adults alike. Her book,The Toddler Cafe (Chronicle Books, 2008), has received acclaim for its innovative approach to feeding children. She is the co-founder/instructor/partner of Dirt to Dine Adventure Camp for Budding Chefs at Napa’s Connolly Ranch and a regular contributor to numerous cookbooks, publications and websites. Her blog is


Perfect for a big bowl of warm oatmeal, warm muffin or thick piece of toast.


1 cup organic heavy cream

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1/4 cup cocoa powder

Pinch of sea salt


Two 1/2-cup jars with tight-fitting lids


Divide the ingredients between the two jars, then place lids on tightly.

Shake the jars up, down and sideways until the cream thickens and begins to come together. The butter will first start to look like whipped cream, then it will eventually begin to gather into a ball. When the cream has separated completely into a ball, floating in relatively clear liquid (the “buttermilk”), it is done.

Pour off the liquid and discard, or it may be refrigerated and saved to drink or used in another recipe.

Next, pour cold, clean water into the jar with the butter and continue to rinse until it runs mostly clear. This rinsing will help prevent your butter from turning sour.

Using a fork, mash the butter against the sides of the jar to release and remove any remaining excess water.

Cover and chill or freeze.

(Alternatively, you can place all the ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer with a whisk attachment and whip for approximately 10 minutes, working up to high speed. Once the buttermilk separates from the butter as above, it is done.)


This butter works great for waffles or spread on cornbread. Add a pat to a saute pan of carrots, along with a dash of red pepper flakes, for a sweetspicy side dish.


1 cup organic heavy cream

2–3 slices bacon, cooked to crispy and chopped

1/4 cup maple syrup

Pinch sea salt


Two 1/2-cup jars with tight-fitting lids


Follow the directions above, as for Mexican Chocolate Butter.

Cook’s Note: If you want to make butter using cultured cream, leave the cream out at room temperature overnight before “churning.” The natural bacteria that form will give your butter a deeper flavor and a bit of tang. Another easy way to achieve “tangy” butter is to use creme fraiche instead of cream. Use an equal amount and let it temper (come to room temperature) for about 30 minutes before “churning.”

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