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My Bitter Battle Trying To Beat Out Butter

It was a bitter battle. And so far, the whipped cream is winning. It was supposed to be “easy.” Everyone says so. “Making your own homemade butter is so simple and easy, yet many do not know how to do it.”

Well, I still don’t know how to do it. Or I’m doing something wrong.

My battle started the other night, when I was in the dairy section of the supermarket. It has been a very long time since I’ve bought 35% butter fat whipping cream, but suddenly I was interested in seeing if I could make my own butter. My plan was to bake a loaf of bread that my ten year old son adores, and present it to him with a batch of homemade butter at the same time. Because I had read that butter making was a relatively easy process, especially today with the use of blenders, food processors or electric beaters, I was fairly confident. At over 7 bucks for a liter (about a US quart), I knew that it was far more economical to stock up on butter when it goes on sale for 2.99 a lb as it regularly does, but still.. home made butter was intriguing.

I don’t have a food processor and I don’t have an electric beater, but I do have a blender. Admittedly, my opinion of it is that it is the most expensive piece of stainless steel I have ever bought that does not really do what it is supposed to. It’s one of the better brand names – a Kitchenaid and it cost me almost $300.00 about ten years ago. I figured a blender that costs three hundred bucks would be a mighty fine blender, but I think in reality it’s an overpriced smoothy maker. It does a very poor job of dealing with food that is not already liquid. I originally purchased it after my son was born in order to make my own baby food for him instead of buying the crap in the store that is full of sugar and preservatives.

Years ago, when my older boys were babies – in fact it was about 24 years ago, we had a relatively cheap blender that did a far superior job than this Kitchenaid thing. I am not sure if it is the design of the blades (which aren’t even really sharpened), but when you put stuff in this blender and turn it on, the stuff you put it ends up sitting up above the blades as they spin. You have to keep turning the blender off and pushing the vegetables or whatever it is down, and try again. I should have just returned the blender and asked for my money back – but life goes on and you forget to do things sometimes.

Anyhow, I did think the blender would be able to handle cream. And sure enough at the beginning, it could. The blender has more than enough capacity to empty a full litre (1 US quart) of cream into it. I turned it on to the lowest setting, and it began whipping the cream. But as the cream was whipped, it would rise above the blades and sit there. Once all the cream had been whipped, (but it was more like foam at this point), it just sat above the spinning blades. I had to keep pushing the foamy whipped cream back down toward the blades. Over and over and over again.

After about half an hour of this, there came a point when I managed to get all the whipped cream to sit pretty low in the blender, and basically the blades turned the whipped cream around the inside diameter of the blender. I guess through some centrifugal force, I noticed that there was some thin milk coming out of the whipped cream, and the whipped cream seem to get thicker. I let the blender continue to do this for about ten minutes.

At this point, I was not entirely sure what I was expecting or looking for. This big blob of whipped cream had hardened somewhat.. was it butter mixed with buttermilk that needed to be pressed out? I was not sure, so I stopped the blender and managed to scoop out the big blog of stuff and began to try to press liquid out of it. Well… it was all still pretty liquidy, didn’t taste anything like butter, and squeezing it just .. made it ooze.

So, back in the blender for another go. Nothing changed. It just spun the blob around. So obviously, the blender is not really doing what it is supposed to do. Time for some research, when I discover that there is supposed to be some point of whipping whipped cream, where suddenly the fat separates and there is an obvious change where I should be able to see yellow lumps forming – and it happens quite quickly when it happens.

So then I think to myself, “Maybe this blender is just not whipping properly and I need to do something different.” With that in mind, I spoon out all the whipped cream which is pretty thick and stiff by now, into a bowl and I get out my whisk. And I whisk and whisk and whisk.. I whisk until my right hand arm simply cannot whisk anymore. I switch hands and whisk and whisk and whisk, with my left hand. Until my left hand cannot whisk anymore, but my right hand and arm have regained some of it’s strength.

I tell myself not to give up.. there will come some point when it will just happen – the fat will separate and suddenly I should start seeing bits of yellow butter appear. I do not want to give up just in case that point is about to be reached in the next second. I fear that if I give up, it will be the moment before it all would have occurred, so I keep going.

After more than two hours of whisking, I gave up. I had blisters on both hands from all the whisking I had done. My arms were fatigued. I was tired. The whipped cream had beaten me. It was so hard for me to accept that I had been beaten by whipped cream, trying to beat it into butter.

All told, I had spent in excess of three hours trying to make butter. Imagine beating the whipped cream for hours, but in the end, the whipped cream beats you.

Dejectedly, I spooned what I had in my bowl into a plastic container with a tight fitting lid and put in the fridge. I have no idea what to do with the stuff I have; I had no plans to make anything that made use of whipped cream. I suppose I could try it in my coffee.

So what went wrong with something that was supposed to be so easy to make? I don’t have many ideas. The next day, I did some more research and kept coming across websites that discussed “how easy” it is to make butter at home. “Yeah, right,” I thought. Something is wrong here. Then I looked at the carton label, and noticed that it said it was “U.H.T. Pasteurized.” What is that? I’m not exactly sure, but UHT stands for Ultra High Temperature. When I checked that out, I came across something that claimed that this ultra high temperature causes the fat globules to become much smaller than when they are in the raw or just “pasteurized” without the UHT. Could that have been the problem?

I’m really not sure. Maybe I tried to take on whipping too much quantity of whipping cream at once. Maybe if I divided the quantity into smaller amounts, I would have conquered. Maybe something happened with the dumb Kitchenaid blender not really doing what it should do properly and made it all the more difficult.

I do have another carton of whipping cream here, so I am going to try something else – I have access to an electrical hand beater, so when I get that, I will start with a smaller quantity of whipping cream in a bowl and give that a shot and see what happens.

The thought of being beaten by whipping cream when I’m trying to beat it is not that great for the self-esteem, especially when attempting something that is supposed to be so easy!

Now to figure out what to do with this stuff I have in the fridge.

5 Responses to My Bitter Battle Trying To Beat Out Butter

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  • Mary Gairdner says:

    Well, good for you for trying. I can’t help you figure out why you didn’t get butter as mine always turns out. Interesting that yours did not and you might be on to something with it being ultra high temperature pasteurized but I do not know for sure.

  • NORA says:

    I enjoyed reading about your battle with butter! I have made butter in a very traditional way, during my visits to the farm of my grandmother in Morocco, when I was a child. I had never had as much trouble as you did. However, we used fresh milk, just milked from the cows (which I did myself), so I am not sure if the commercially packaged milk would give the same results.

    I also think the food processor and the blender might be the problem, as they actually disperse and break down the fat instead of condensing it…

    Anyway, try putting the heavy cream in an empty bottle or container with an airtight lid. Fill it only halfway. Close the container and shake the container firmly, by hand. No need to shake it fast, do it at a pace you are comfortable with, because you will need to keep shaking it for one hour!

    After 40 minutes, add 1 cup of ice cold water to the heavy cream, close the container and keep shaking. After one hour, you should see small bits of yellowish chunks of butter floating. You can then use your hand to bull the butter together.

    I have made butter using this traditional method countless times, at a very young age, using unprocessed whole milk. It’s very easy. Now heavy cream must contain a lot more fat than whole milk. If this does not work, there is a problem with the dairy product you are using. Try getting milk directly from a nearby farm.

    Hope this helps!

    • Ian says:

      Thank you for your comment, Nora! Much appreciated. Ah, how I wish we could get milk directly from a farm here! But sadly, dairy farmers are prohibited from selling directly to consumers in Ontario, Canada.

      I finally did get butter using an electric hand held beater – but I’d like to try your method just for fun, as well!

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