Homemade Butter: You Can Be A Homesteader!


The tomatoes have long ago been canned, or maybe you just ate them fresh. Last autumn’s onions, garlic, root vegetables and squash have been happily sitting in your root cellar, or even on your kitchen shelf, for months.

Perhaps you had the courage and the time to try your hand at fermentation. Perhaps last summer was a time of simply enjoying what was available, spending time with kids or family outdoors, and avoiding all things Hot and Sticky in the kitchen.

No matter the case, there is good news. You can make your own butter from a jar of milk anytime of year. Your children can help! For all the homesteading projects we simply never get to, here is one that can be tried whenever you feel inspired. What’s more, it need not sit in a crock for weeks!

All you need is an arm to shake, shake, shake the jar (the old fashioned way), a Lehman’s butter churn, or a stand mixer / beaters to do the agitating for you (the modern, not-less-legitimate way, but one which requires electricity).


glass pint jar and lid
arm to shake or Lehman’s butter churn (for a bigger batch)

whole, non-homogenized cow milk

The key to making butter from milk is to have whole milk with a separated cream line, a.k.a. non-homogenized whole milk. That thick cap of cream that you find on top of the milk is butterfat, and it’s what you want to scoop off when it comes time to make butter. Alternatively, you can use heavy whipping cream from the store, but where’s the fun in that?


Using this method—with just the cream from atop a jar of milk—will derive a very small amount of butter. But any butter is better than no butter, yes? It will be enough to butter a few pieces of toast or fry a big skillet of eggs. It might not yield much, but eggs will never taste so good as in golden butter you worked for yourself.

There is no match for the satisfaction from honest, hard work. And shaking butter this long is hard. You will think it is not working. Tiny fat globules will start to form in the milk jar—that’s chemistry at work!—but the globules won’t look like butter and you will think it is not working. Tell yourself that it’s working because it is working. Pardon the obviousness, but hard work is never easy.


Shake, shake, shake or churn, churn, churn (respectively) and eventually, golden butter will appear. Your jar will contain butter and viscous-looking milk, which is—tada!—buttermilk. If the transformative and healthful properties of milk were not enough, churning butter is a beautiful example of nature’s bounty.