Sunday, April 10, 2011

homemade butter with herbs

It's lucky that I took a library-worn copy of Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires (can't put it down!) with me onto the porch yesterday. Because without a reason to stay on the porch, I might not have noticed little green flagpoles poking up from the black soil of the clay herb garden. Little baby chives!

My mind started scheming immediately, and I settled on homemade butter, which is infinitely creamier and more flavorful than regular store-bought butter. A friend of mine told me that she once made butter by pouring cream into a jar and shaking for what seemed like eternity; one by one, little nuggets of golden butter formed and sloshed about in the churned buttermilk.

I haven't gone to the gym in months, so my triceps, which are not unlike butter themselves, are most decidedly not up to that challenge. I used my stand mixer.

I like to drape my mixer in plastic wrap, for when cream breaks,
it can break spectacularly.
I've used my stand mixer to make butter for years, but I've heard you can also make it with a hand mixer and even a food processor.

The truth about butter is: it's just whipping cream, pushed to it's breaking point past "whipped" and into "solid." The yellow bits are solidified fat; the liquid that runs off is buttermilk.

Forge on, brave soldier! This is just whipped cream.

Now, that's more like it.
When your butter breaks, drain the soft yellow crumbles out of the buttermilk. Work the butter with a spatula to get all the buttermilk out; buttermilk left within can turn the butter rancid. Give it a cold water rinse, working it with your spatula.

Then, turn the butter out into a bowl, sprinkle in a bit of salt and your choice of herbs, and knead the butter with your spatula to distribute the herbs evenly. I used one tablespoon of those precious new chives, and one tablespoon minced lemon basil, which lent a very fresh, spring-like taste.

You may continue to get some water runoff (see that big droplet in my picture below?). Just pour the drops into the sink and keep working until the herbs are mixed through.

The butter is best enjoyed at room temperature, or near to it. A little spread on a fine baguette will make your appetizer plate proud.

Homemade Butter with Herbs
Makes about 1 cup

You can vary this recipe with any number of fresh herbs (don't use dried herbs, I implore you) or other ingredients; I think some minced oregano and roasted garlic would make an amazing garlic bread.
I've yet to try honey lavender butter, which I think would be amazing on a scone.

1 pint heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons minced herbs
¼ teaspoon salt
1. Pour the cream into the bowl of a stand mixer and whip on high speed, past the point of whipped cream, until the cream breaks (yellow globules of solid butter will separate from the buttermilk).

2. Pour the butter and buttermilk into a strainer set over a bowl, and prod the butter with a rubber spatula to make sure all the buttermilk drains out. Reserve the buttermilk for another use. (Pancakes, anyone?)

3. Rinse the butter under cold water, working it with your spatula, until the water runs clear.

4. Turn the butter out into a medium bowl and sprinkle your herbs and salt over; work the butter with your spatula until the salt and herbs are evenly distributed.

5. Lovingly spread the butter on a fine baguette and eat with gusto. Share your newfound culinary powers with the masses of store-bought-butter followers.


  1. Girl. This blog is AWESOME! i'm so glad I just saw this posted on facebook! isn't ruth reichl the best? I read comfort me with apples a few months ago and tender at the bone is one of my all time faves. I can't wait to read more of your blog! I love the seasonal idea behind it :-)

  2. Now that's one thing I could eats lots of. What a super idea.........mercy but you are a whiz.
    G Tep

  3. Hey Molly, thanks for visiting! I love Ruth; can't believe I didn't get around to reading her books sooner!

  4. Thanks, G Tep!! Maybe I'll make some with you next time I see you!