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How to Make Butter in a Jar

VirginiaLynne has been experimenting in the kitchen for almost 50 years. She loves to share her recipes, cooking tips, and reviews.

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:

  1. a jar
  2. some marbles
  3. heavy cream
  4. 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!

how-to-make-butter-in-a-jar

Make Butter in a Jar

How do you like this Butter in a Jar recipe?

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

5 min

10 min

15 min

1/4 cup cream equals 2 Tb. butter

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Shake the jar. You may want to take turns shaking since it can make you tired.
  4. Generally, my kids like to check every 30 seconds or so. Depending on how hard you shake, it takes between 3 and 10 minutes.
  5. 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.

Making More

Amount of CreamAmount of ButterSize 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.

Flavored Butter

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.

For Kids!

Use silicone molds to make your treat ready for a party!

Use silicone molds to make your treat ready for a party!

Molded Butter

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:

  1. Pat your butter into the mold with a knife.
  2. Push down to get out air holes, then use a knife to smooth off the top.
  3. 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.
  4. Turn the mold over onto a place and push the top of the mold. If it is chilled, it pops right out.
  5. Serve right away, or put in a container in the refrigerator until the party!

Butter Crock

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!

 Bell-shaped lid holds butter, while bottom holds water.  Putting lid down into water keeps butter fresh and soft at room temperature.

Bell-shaped lid holds butter, while bottom holds water. Putting lid down into water keeps butter fresh and soft at room temperature.

Teaching Activities

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.

History

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.

Comments

Ashly Christen from Illinois on April 28, 2020:

Looks fun, educational & delicious!

Victoria Van Ness from Fountain, CO on March 11, 2014:

I've done this project with my first graders and it was a blast, but I had completely forgotten about it! Very fun!!

Hendrika from Pretoria, South Africa on January 20, 2014:

I am always looking for something fun to do with my granddaughter and this an excellent idea.

Marie Alana from Ohio on October 10, 2013:

I've done the "butter in a jar" with a group of preschoolers before. I had fun letting the most energetic kids shake it the most. They all had fun!

Kishore from Nellore on February 01, 2013:

Interesting

toknowinfo on December 17, 2012:

This is a great idea and it sounds like a fun thing to do. You brought back a memory for me too. I just remembered when I was in kindergarten, we made our own butter, but we used a big wooden churn, or at least it seemed big to me.

Keely Deuschle from Florida on December 10, 2012:

We did this over the summer and it was great showing the kids how on their own "power" they could shake the cream into buttermilk and then butter. Great lesson and boy was the butter delicious!

Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on December 09, 2012:

How fun bodylevive to have a real churn. I'd love to get one myself.

Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on December 09, 2012:

Audrey--I'm hoping to try to learn to make yogurt. I read a hub about it. Maybe that was yours! It sounded easier than I thought.

BODYLEVIVE from Alabama, USA on December 08, 2012:

Congrats on HOTD! This is interesting. I have my grand mothers churn and I use it to hold plastic grocery bags. It was handed down from my mother. I can remember when my grandmother passed but I don't recall her ever churning cream. I can recall another family member using this process, from the milk cow to the butter, she would share with my mother. Wow, this hub brings back some great memories. Thank you for sharing. voted up-interesting

go2sady on December 08, 2012:

VERY USEFUL WHO WANT TO MAKE IT AT HOME

Junaid Ghani Durrani from Karachi, Pakistan on December 08, 2012:

You have covered a lot stuff with a beautiful technique in this hub. Only by reading your lines, I got a taste of butter. Congrats on having your hub as the Hub of the day.

Aldene Fredenburg from Southwestern New Hampshire on December 08, 2012:

What a fun project for kids. I can see parents doing this with their kids or teachers doing it at school. Who knew there was so much to know? Voting up and sharing.

Comfort Babatola from Bonaire, GA, USA on December 08, 2012:

This is such a yummy idea, and a sure way to get the kids to burn off all that energy!

Congrats on winning the HOTD award.

Audrey Baker from Arizona on December 08, 2012:

I'm all about making your own of whatever you can. I've recently started making my own yogurt (when I have the time). I may have to give this a try some day.

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on December 08, 2012:

Congrats on HOTD! I never did this at home with my kids, but we did it a few times at Scout camp...and the jar got passed around to each girl in the troop, until it was done. All shaking--no marbles! Had not heard of the marble trick at that time.

Voted up and interesting.

Karen Silverman on December 08, 2012:

wow..you're my favorite HOTD'er...well actually - i think you're my ONLY HOTD'er..lol

good for you, my friend! Awesome idea!

Renz Kristofer Cheng from Manila on December 08, 2012:

I didn't know you can make your own butter at home. :)

This is brilliant!

Lynsey Hart from Lanarkshire on December 08, 2012:

Great hub! Very useful!!!

RTalloni on December 08, 2012:

Congrats on your Hub of the Day award! Should've seen it coming… :)

noorin from Canada on December 08, 2012:

Sweet sweet, I second carol7777, never thought of making butter on my own but shall give it a try one day :) Voted up

mjkearn on December 08, 2012:

Hi Virginia

Congrats on HOTD. Very well deserved for such a great hub. Fabulous lay out and pics. Voted up and up.

MJ.

Cindy A Johnson from Sevierville, TN on December 08, 2012:

This was a favorite in my kindergarten classroom. We made homemade butter (minus the marbles) and homemade bread. Yum!

livingsta from United Kingdom on December 08, 2012:

I remember doing this as a child...we used to help mum and grand-mum with churning butter :) was fun...thank you for sharing this!

Stephanie Henkel from USA on December 08, 2012:

Great idea! I remember churning butter in an old-fashioned butter churn as a kid, and I think it would be a fun learning experience to let kids make butter in a jar! We have to try this! Voted up and pinned!

Kari on December 08, 2012:

I always make my own butter. I have been doing it for at least a year. But I never thought about making it in a jar and making it fun! I use either electric beaters to make the butter (which takes me at least 5 minutes on high-speed) or I put it in the kitchen stand mixer, and that takes about 10 minutes. But I think to exert some kids energy, butter in jar would be better!

P. Thorpe Christiansen from Pacific Northwest, USA on December 08, 2012:

Wonderful idea, can't wait to try it.

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on December 08, 2012:

Never thought it would it be so easy to make butter. I'll be trying this. Thanks and congrats on a great HOTD!

RonnaPennington from Arkansas on December 08, 2012:

Shared!!! We are going to do this during Christmas break (and give homemade butters as a gift to some favorite aunts)!

Leah Lefler from Western New York on December 08, 2012:

I love the glass butter churn in the picture - it is so cool to actually watch the butter form! I am definitely trying this one with my kids - they would think it was really fun. Congratulations on HOTD!

Karen Shiley from Washington on December 08, 2012:

Very nice article. I have actually done this project with my children before but not with the marbles. We will have to try it again. Also I love the ice cube mold idea.

JR Krishna from India on December 08, 2012:

That sounds easy!!!

It is very creative...

OanaBoteanu on December 08, 2012:

That sounds like a lot of fun, my little cousin is going to love it!

Thanks for the hub. Voting Up

Suzanne Ridgeway from Dublin, Ireland on December 08, 2012:

Great hub on butter making! I have seen it done on tv chef /cookery shows but never tried it but definitely will give this a go now! Congrats a well deserved HOTD Votes Up, More and Pinned! Thanks for a great easy method with interesting flavour links and history!!

calculus-geometry on December 08, 2012:

We did this in elementary school. Sure made my arms tired.

Koi from New Jersey on November 12, 2012:

This took me back to the fifth grade where our class made butter in a jar. It's so simple and engaging!

Eiddwen from Wales on October 13, 2012:

So interesting and another for my recipe book.

Eddy.

Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on October 12, 2012:

Thanks carol, RTalloni and moonlake. This is really a lot of fun to do and kind of addictive. You are right RTalloni that it is very much like the kick the can ice cream!

moonlake from America on October 12, 2012:

I remember my aunt making butter. Very interesting hub enjoyed reading it. Enjoyed your pictures. Voted uP!

RTalloni on October 12, 2012:

A delightful hub on making butter! Sort of reminds me of Kick-the-Can Ice Cream activities. :)

So well done!

carol stanley from Arizona on October 12, 2012:

never even thought to make my own butter. How easy this is and of course knowing it is totally fresh. Thanks for sharing this unique way..Voting UP.