Cultured Butter and Buttermilk Recipe

Use culture to mimic high-quality raw cream for this recipe. Pure cream, which is hard to find in grocery stores, produces better butter.

| May 2019

Pressing the buttermilk from freshly churned butter.
Photo by Gianaclis Caldwell

Most of today's butter is made from pasteurized cream with no added culture. But in earlier times, a more flavorful variation was created using high-quality raw cream that contained natural wild bacteria that produced acid and flavor. You can mimic this product today by adding a touch of culture to pasteurized or raw cream. Only a small amount of acid results in the butter, but there is an added layer of flavor and complexity. It can be hard to find good-quality cream in the grocery store; most of it has been ultra-pasteurized and often has good-quality cream in the grocery store; most of it has been ultra-pasteurized and often has added thickeners and sweeteners. You can make butter from this type of processed cream, but if you can get your hands on pure cream, your butter will be remarkably better.

Butter can be churned from any high-fat milk. You don't have to separate out the cream, but doing so will concentrate the fat globules so that they can cluster more easily, and, thus, make your process much more efficient. When slightly cool milk or cream is heavily agitated, the fat globules smash and collide with each other and start clumping. Once the clumping starts, it finishes very rapidly. Then the remaining “butter milk” is drained and rinsed from the clump of butterfat, leaving you with butter.

What You'll Need

  • Cream: 1 qt. (250 ml) light cream (about 20% fat)
  • Culture: 1/6 tsp. (l g) Flora Danica or 1 tbsp. (15 ml) cultured buttermilk with live active cultures
  • Salt: Pure salt to taste
  • Equipment: 2 qt. glass jar with lid and/or but­ter churn, spoon, 2 bowls, ice, fine-mesh sieve or organdy (optional), 2 pairs of spoons or but­ter paddles (Scotch hands)

Process in a Nutshell

  • Time: 12 hr. inactive, 30 min. active
  • Steps: Heat cream, add culture, ripen, chill, churn, drain, salt, chill, store and use

Step by Step

Heat Cream: Pour the cream into the jar cover with the lid and let it sit until it warms to room temperature, 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit (20-22 degrees Celsius) Alternately, you can quickly warm the cream in a pan over low heat.

Add Culture: If using, sprinkle the culture on top of the cream, let it set for 3-5 minutes, and stir gently with a spoon for 2-5 minutes. Or stir in the buttermilk until evenly mixed.

Ripen: Cover with the lid and let the cultured cream sit at room temperature, 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit (20- 22 degrees Celsius), for 12 hours.

Chill: Place the jar in a bowl or pot of cold tap water and stir the cream until the temperature reaches 50 degrees Fahrenheit (12 degrees Celsius); this will only take a minute or so.

Churn: Pour the cultured cream into the churn or leave it in the jar. Churn or vigorously shake the jar using an up-and-down motion.

After about 5-10 minutes, flecks of butter will become visible on the sides of the jar. Continue shaking until the fat globules duster, usually just a minute or two more; you will hear a distinctive change in the sound and feel and see an obvious glob of butter forming.

Drain: Pour off the liquid (this is true buttermilk!). If desired, you can strain it through a sieve or a piece of organdy. Rinse the collected butter bits with cold water; this helps remove more buttermilk and encourages the fat to firm up.

Fill 2 bowls with ice and a cup with ice water; place two pair of spoons or paddles in the cup. Empty one of the bowls and transfer the butter to it. Set the bowl with the butter into the bowl with ice. Using a pair of the cold spoons, gently press and work the butter into a ball; pour off any buttermilk as it is pressed from the mass. (Alternate between the pairs of cold spoons to prevent the butter from sticking)

Salt: When the butter reaches the desired consistency and very little moisture remains, stir in salt to taste.

Chill: Press the butter into a tub or form, tightly cover, and place in the refrigerator until completely chilled.

Store and Use: Store in the refrigerator or in the freezer. Use the buttermilk right away or refrigerate for up to 5 days.


No butter forms: If butter doesn't form and you end up with whipped cream, the cream was too cold.

Butter forms but is greasy and soft: If butter forms but it is too whipped in texture and doesn't separate well, the cream was too warm and churned for too long. Chill the cultured milk a few degrees colder next time, as it will warm up a bit during churning.


Making cultured butter is a much longer process than making sweet cream butter. It may not be worth the time for each butter-making session, especially if you have a constant supply of cream, but it is worth doing as a way to compare the results and to try making another fermented dairy product. Think about the similarity between this recipe and the one for sour cream; they are almost the same with the exception of churning. It's pretty amazing what a little shaking up will do!


mastering-basic-cheesemakingThe craft of home cheesemaking is exploding in popularity. However most “beginner” books are essentially loosely organized collections of recipes which lack a progressive approach to teaching the fundamentals of this exciting and satisfying traditional skill. Mastering Basic Cheesemaking provides a complete hand-on guide to making cheese and other fermented dairy products from scratch, geared toward helping the novice cheesemaker to develop the intuition and abilities to position them for success, especially in the real world of the home kitchen. This well-illustrated, clearly written practical guide assumes no prior experience on the part of the aspiring cheesemaker.

Reprinted with permission from Mastering Basic Cheesemaking: The Fun and Fundamentals of Making Cheese at Home by Gianaclis Caldwell and published by New Society Publishers, 2016. Buy this book from our store: Mastering Basic Cheesemaking: The Fun and Fundamentals of Making Cheese at Home.



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