How to Make Butter in a Jar
Quick and Easy DIY Fresh Butter
Want to impress guests? Or educate your kids about the old days? Try making your own butter in a jar. You can even flavor it with my honey butter recipe which uses orange zest, and then mold it into fun holiday shapes in silicone ice trays.
This method is quick and easy to do! All you need is:
- a jar
- some marbles
- heavy cream
- pinch of salt
Add a bit of arm work and your masterpiece will be ready to try in no time. Better yet, gather your guests and make this part of the party activities!
Fun for Kids!
Make Butter in a Jar
How do you like this Butter in a Jar recipe?
- 1/4 cup heavy cream, (or whipping cream)
- 1 glass or plastic jar that holds about a cup, (make sure it has a tight lid)
- 3-5 marbles, (clean with soap and water)
- pinch salt
- Pour 1/4 cup of heavy cream into a jar. For kids, I often use a plastic jar so that they don't have to worry if they drop it.
- Add the marbles. Most recipes I've seen don't use the marbles but these act like mixers and make the butter form faster. Also, they imitate the mixing paddles in old-fashioned butter churns.
- Shake the jar. You may want to take turns shaking since it can make you tired.
- Generally, my kids like to check every 30 seconds or so. Depending on how hard you shake, it takes between 3 and 10 minutes.
- When you see the balls of butter separating, pour off the buttermilk (for pancakes!) and take the butter out of the jar with a spatula. If you want you can add a little salt.
Amount of Cream
Amount of Butter
Size of Jar
1/2 cup (4 oz.)
1/4 cup=1/2 stick of butter
8 oz. or larger
1 cup (8 oz.)
1/2 cup=1 stick of butter
16 oz. or larger
2 cups (16 oz.)
1 cup= 2 sticks of butter=half pound
Use two batches in 16 oz. jars
4 cups (32 oz)
2 cups=4 sticks of butter=1 pound
Four batches in 16 oz jars.
You can add all sorts of different flavorings to butter such as lemon, orange, honey, maple, and garlic. Add a small teaspoonful at a time and taste.
Make a fancy tray of molded butter for your next party. Silicone ice trays come in all sorts of fun shapes: hearts, pumpkins, flowers, butterflies and even Legos. Here is how to mold butter in them:
- Pat your butter into the mold with a knife.
- Push down to get out air holes, then use a knife to smooth off the top.
- Put the mold in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes, or if you need the molded butter faster, put it in the freezer until firm, about 5 minutes.
- Turn the mold over onto a place and push the top of the mold. If it is chilled, it pops right out.
- Serve right away, or put in a container in the refrigerator until the party!
To keep your butter soft and fresh, you can store it immersed in water in a Butter Crock, which is an old-fashioned way that the pioneers would use to keep butter tasting good for a long time. Most of all, enjoy doing something that people have done for many centuries!
I'm not sure when I first started making butter in a jar with kids, but I know that I have to do it every year for my own children. What I love about this activity is that you are able to use it to explain:
- Science: How things change when we add friction, and where our dairy products come from!
- History: How people in the past had to make their own daily items.
- Sociology: What it was like for children to have to do chores so the family could have food.
- Reading: I love to tie this into the Little House on the Prairie books or other books about pioneers in America like the American Adventure Series.
|Serving size: 1|
|Calories from Fat||99|
|% Daily Value *|
|Fat 11 g||17%|
|Saturated fat 7 g||35%|
|Unsaturated fat 4 g|
|Cholesterol 31 mg||10%|
|* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.|
How the Pioneers Did ItClick thumbnail to view full-size
Butter making is an old culinary technique. Butter Through the Ages gives extensive information about the history and how it has been made and stored. Here are some highlights:
- At least 4000 years old. They have found evidence of butter-making in the time of the Egyptians and in the Bible, where it records Abraham's wife Sarah as making butter for visiting Angels. In fact, the way we make butter today is similar to the way it was made in King Tut's time. However, the Egyptians did not use milk from cows. Instead, they used camel milk or the milk of water buffaloes.
- Always been made by churning. Actually, the word comes from bou-tyron which probably means "cowcheese" in Greek. In the Middle East, the earliest record of making butter shows that they made a churn for it from the skin of an animal which was tied up to hold the cream inside. The bag was swung until the fat separated from the whey (milk left over when butter separates out). Twenty-one pounds of milk are needed for one pound.
- Storage has evolved. In Ireland, archaeolgists find buried barrels in bogs. Apparently people would hide it there or maybe use the bogs to age and flavor the butter. Because the bogs are cool and anaerobic, it doesn't decay although over time it does tend to turn into something resembling cheese. Early ways of preserving was to wrap it in leaves. Pots or crocks which use water to preserve are found at least as early as the 1640s. In the 1800s, dealers in Philadelphia sold it covered in special cloths which the buyers would then wash and iron before returning to the dealer. Later cheesecloth was used as a cheaper alternative wrap. In the late 1880s, wax paper started to be used instead.
- Where sweet butter came from. The U.S. Navy can be credited with developing a way to package it in cans that can be stored for a long time in any temperature, they called this "sweet butter." In 1914, working with many manufacturers, they perfected the technique and eventually this type of sweet cream butter was produced commercially.