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Nov 1, 2005 11:08 AM

Heavy Cream vs. Butter vs. Whipped Cream vs. Frosting

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A post on the SF board got me wondering: how does one make butter at home? I remember as a kid my sisters' teacher told them to bring home a jar of cream (and salt?) and shake like crazy until they made butter.

So, is butter just whipped cream without all that air whipped into it with a whisk? This is the closest I can figure, since butter becomes something fluffy and creamy (aka. frosting) when you whip sugar into it.

A website explaining the scientific process would be wonderful, unless someone can explain it quickly here in laymen's terms. I Googled homemade butter and got all kinds of complicated processes without any explanation of how cream becomes all these different products.

See, America? This is what happens when home ec and a healthy appreciation for making your own food disappears from the culture. You get people like me, who don't really know where butter comes from.

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  1. I'm a home-eccy. What your sisters teacher was having them do was a simple churn and yes the heavy cream does solidify into butter. You can do it salted or un depending on what you like. There should be a small amount of whey or water to drain off too after the butter forms. I have not tried to do this with ultra-pasturized cream so I cannot tell you what would happen there. You can also just whip it with a mixer until it turns to butter too, that is what you get when you go past whipped cream. It will turn to whipped butter. See if you can get some regular heavy/whipping (not the ultra pasturized stuff if you can avoid it) cream and have a home ec project. The butter will need to ripen a bit to develop some flavor.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Candy

      Ooooh, butter is overwhipped whipped cream! It all makes sense now. Thank you so much.

      Time to get some Strauss heavy cream and get to work. Honey whipped butter for my dinner guests.

      1. re: nooodles
        Melanie Wong

        If you have time to plan ahead, buy your non-ultrapasteurized cream a week before you need it. It will whip up much easier and have better flavor. Then if you have more time, age the butter a bit.

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          How do you age it? Just let it sit in the fridge? Or on the counter?

          Mr. Taster

          1. re: Mr. Taster

            Wrap it in foil or waxed paper and refrigerate. Let it sit a day or two.

      2. re: Candy

        I was wondering if I can use "cultured" unsalted butter in buttercream frosting recipe. The Magnolia recipe calls for "unsalted butter", but I bought "cultured". Is that OK?

        1. re: goodnavy

          Hi goodnavy, the original post is almost 5 years old so you might not get a quick reply from the folks you are asking! :)

          Cultured butter is cultured in the same way that yogurt and buttermilk are. It has a rich, tangy, full flavor. Unsalted butter is simply that -- butter without salt. The two are not interchangeable necessarily. I wouldn't waste cultured butter in frosting personally (it's SO delicious on bread and in other cold applications), but I don't know why it *couldn't* work.

      3. b
        Becca Porter

        My very nonscientific answer is, friction causes all the fat globules to stick together. You are left with butter and true buttermilk. You can do this in the food processor or mixer or by hand. That why they warn to be careful when making whipped cream, it will turn into butter. Hope this helped.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Becca Porter

          Yes, it happened to me once. Was I surprised!

        2. If I may ask, what is whey butter? I have never seen it for sale in NYC, but every trip to Toronto I bring back as much as I can carry. It has a deeper, tangier taste to it, and I think it has something to do with the byproducts of making cheddar cheese.

          I wish some US producer would make it.

          4 Replies
          1. re: josephsm

            Do you mean cultured butter? When I used to live on the shore of Lake Champlain Cabots made it. We used to get big tubs of it from a local farmstand. It was cheesy and delicious.

            Restaurant Tallent here in Bloomngton, IN uses it in the restaurant. The chef owner says that there is a maker south of here in the next county who produces his. I keep meaning to go to our Sat. farmer's market to see if it is being sold there.

            1. re: Candy

              I've never heard of cultured butter, so maybe it is the same thing. They call it whey butter in Toronto. I wish it were available in NYC - it's great on bread.

                1. re: josephsm
                  Caitlin McGrath

                  I've never heard of whey butter, but if you want to try cultured butter and see if it's the same thing, try some Vermont Butter and Cheese Co. cultured butter. You can buy it at Whole Foods.

            2. I remember reading a memoir of somebody who had a really good time in the sixties, who used to drop acid, put a pint of cream in the blender until it turned to butter, then spread it on bread and eat and eat.

              1. When you overwhip cream, it will turn to butter and whey.

                Making your own butter is an interesting experiment for kids, but not worth the time or money.