Today at homesteading camp, campers were shocked to discover that before modern grocery stores frontiersmen had to harvest, grow, and assemble their own food. Specifically, campers “churned” their own butter and learned the technique that early homesteaders would use to create butter and other dairy products.
Buttering Them Up
Although campers did not have access to a true butter churn, we improvised and poured about a 1/2 pint of half and half into a large mason jar. Since half and half contains half fat milk, as the title suggests, butter can be made by separating the fat from the liquid portions of the milk. This results in solid butter and liquid known commonly as buttermilk. Sound like it’s time to make pancakes!
Shake, Shake, Shake… Shake Your Butter
In place of a standard butter churn, the kids shook their half and half to stimulate separation. It was a very fun and vigorous activity on a rainy camp day. Campers enjoyed stirring and shaking jars with all their might. To increase the rate of separation, the mixture was chilled and swirled over ice. As the constructive chaos continued the sloshing of milk slowed and was replaced by strong efforts and loud gasps of exasperation. Campers found their half and half “goopy” and increasingly hard to churn. This process is known as “breaking the milk”, giving the end result of delicious homemade butter.
The End Result
After about 15 minutes of intense shaking, the half and half reached full separation. As pictured below, the butter is a large chunky solid floating in the butter milk. Campers added salt, chives and other spices to taste as they sampled their butter on bread slices. Additionally, campers tried buttermilk poured from their jars, however most of them were not a fan of the sour tasting milk.
In my personal opinion, this butter was much creamier and had a better consistency than store bought butter. As I prefer unsalted butter, this was a great alternative to heavily salted commercially produced butter. The campers and I also enjoyed mixing herbs and other ingredients to create a “personalized butter”.
For the sake of keeping this activity pioneer oriented, we did not use a stand mixer. If you would like to repeat this recipe at home feel free to use a stand or hand mixer to speed up the churning process. Additionally, you can use whole fat milk or whipping cream instead of half and half if you desire.
1 pint Half and Half
One large mason jar
Salt, chives, basil, or other herbs (optional)
Time: 15 Minutes
Serving: 8 oz of butter, 8 oz of butter milk
*The butter will keep for about ten days in a fridge*