The Washington Post

Cultured Butter

Cultured Butter 24.000

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post

Mar 21, 2017

"Churning" your own butter via a food processor is surprisingly easy; culturing it means introducing a fermenting/acidifying agent that will make the end result richer-tasting and somewhat easier to spread at a cool temperature. Baking experts say it helps produce a more tender crumb.

During the 12 to 24 hours’ chilling time, the cream will be tempering, or, as "Butter" author Elaine Khosrova describes it, changing “the crystalline structure of its fats.” The buttery flavor and acidity also intensifies a bit more, she says.

Do not knead the final mass of butter on a wooden surface, to avoid picking up any residual odors. If you choose to add salt, keep in mind that 8 tablespoons of commercial salted butter contains about 1/4 teaspoon fine salt.

You’ll need an instant-read thermometer and cheesecloth.

Make Ahead: The cream-culture mixture needs to rest at room temperature for 16 to 24 hours, then be refrigerated for 12 to 24 hours before processing/churning. For best flavor, the cultured butter can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 month, or frozen for up to 4 months.

Where to Buy: We used a small amount of real buttermilk to act as the culturing agent in testing; cultures for making butter and buttermilk are available online via (New England Cheesemaking Supply).

24 tablespoons; makes about 12 ounces

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 24 tablespoons; makes about 12 ounces

  • 1/8 teaspoon freeze-dried Flora Danica culture, buttermilk culture (may substitute 1/3 cup creme fraiche or regular buttermilk; see headnote)
  • 4 cups heavy cream, preferably not ultra-pasteurized
  • Kosher salt (optional)


Combine the culture and 1 tablespoon of the cream in a food processor. Let the culture defrost for a few minutes and then work it into the cream so it’s grainy. (If you’re using creme fraiche, mix it well with 1/4 cup of the cream.)

Heat the remaining cream to 75 degrees in a saucepan on the stove top (low heat), then add it to the food processor; pulse until well incorporated. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit for 16 to 24 hours, during which time it will thicken a bit, like creme fraiche or sour cream. Then cover and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.

Just before you return the mixture to the food processor for “churning,” heat the chilled mixture to about 55 degrees by seating its bowl in a larger bowl that’s filled with warm water, stirring gently all the while; this should only take a few minutes.

Transfer the mixture to the food processor; puree for 5 to 8 minutes, during which time the mixture will thicken further and change color from off-white to pale yellow. (Once it starts to look pebbly, it’s almost butter.)

After another minute, the cream will look curdled and suddenly separate into a milky liquid and small curds of yellow butter. Transfer to a fine-mesh strainer and drain the liquid (reserve it, if you wish; some folks use it for baking bread and watering plants). Rinse the mass of butter curds briefly under cool water, to harden them a bit and get rid of further milky residue.

Wrap the butter in a few layers of clean, slightly damp cheesecloth, then place it in a clean bowl or on a non-wooden surface (preferably marble). Knead vigorously with your hands, or slap the hunk of butter against the surface repeatedly until the butter feels creamy and dense, about 3 minutes, stopping to unwrap and work in a little salt, if desired.

The butter can be served right away, or molded or pressed into a shape before you store it.

Recipe Source

Adapted from Khosrova's “Butter: A Rich History,” (Algonquin Books, 2016).

Tested by Kara Elder and Bonnie S. Benwick.

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Nutritional Facts

Calories per tablespoon: 110

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 12g 18%

Saturated Fat: 7g 35%

Cholesterol: 30mg 10%

Sodium: 0mg 0%

Total Carbohydrates: 0g 0%

Dietary Fiber: 0g 0%

Sugar: 0g

Protein: 0g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

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