Kirsty Wark makes her own butter for dinner parties – so can you, here’s how

“’Is it true that you churn your own butter?’

‘Yes, although it is mostly just for dinner parties. It is very easy to do and it tastes delicious!’”

Interview with Kirsty Wark in Good Housekeeping, July 2018

I’ve always been a great admirer of Kirsty Wark, the feisty, piercing Newsnight presenter, and, being a woman of a ‘certain age’, I now have even greater respect for her, standing up as she does, not just for equal opportunities per se, but also on behalf of the older woman.

And in addition to that she’s an enthusiastic cook, a Celebrity MasterChef finalist, who even churns her own butter.

As she comments in the quote above, it’s not difficult to make butter as I discovered at a recent cookery course at the Woodspeen restaurant. For more on that course, which was a true tour de force, follow this link.

Why make your own butter????

And as she also comments, homemade butter does taste delicious. It’s lighter, smoother, and it doesn’t have the added water content that so many butters have – see paragraph below on which butter to buy if you give up and decide to stick with ready-made. The best butter has less than 20% water.

It’s particularly worthwhile if the butter is the main event effectively – for example with flavoured butters – follow this link for some ideas on what works best.

how to make butter
Serve it sprinkled with black lava salt

What equipment do you need? Arnold Schwarzenegger’s biceps…or is there a short cut?

Ideally you need a mixing machine like the one in the photographs in the method, below. You can also make butter using an ordinary hand held electric whisk but you will need the biceps of Arnold Schwarzenegger and the patience of Job…or at the very least, an entertaining pal to chat to as you toil away.

how to make your own butter
Aside from biceps what other means are there?

How can you present it professionally?

If you want it to look prissily professional you can serve it sprinkled with some black lava salt (I get mine from the fabulous Icelandic salt company, Norður & Co – see this post for an interview with owner, Søren Rosenkilde, where he describes how it is made. Ordinary Maldon salt is also good, and so is ordinary Cornish smoked salt.

Can you make butter using a stick blender?

Do I, like Kirsty Wark, make my own butter? VERY RARELY. Making your own butter falls squarely into the Saucy Dressings’ philosophy regarding Life being Too Short, especially since I don’t own either a mixing machine or Arnold Schwarzenegger’s biceps.

And, it’s likely to remain that way, in spite of the gallant attempts of James Devonshire, one of the chefs at The Daylesford Cookery School. I explained that I didn’t have a mixing machine (he could see I lacked the biceps) but that I did have a stick blender, and he picked up the gauntlet without a how’s-your-father. He had a go. BUT, sorry to say, not successfully. The reason – he was using a professional blender with a large head which didn’t allow for enough movement. Not enough buttermilk was produced and the resulting ‘butter’ would never keep that long. He’s inspired me to have a go using my trusty heavy-duty, but smaller-headed Bamix – keep you posted.

how to make butter
“Hmmm….so, anyway, onto the steak Tartare….”

You give up? Which, then, is the best butter to buy?

So most of the time, for a special occasion, I will buy French (from Brittany,the Auvergne or Charente) or Irish butter with over 80% fat content – Waitrose sells a log of Lescure unsalted butter, which is dreamy; its own brand ‘Brittany butter with sea salt crystals’ (‘made to a classic Breton recipe’ – so it’s a moot point as to where it is actually comes from) is also good. Longley Farm produces some fabulous British butter.

how to make butter
If you buy truly excellent butter it can be just as good.

What can you do with the bi-product, buttermilk?

If you do make butter, bear in mind that you can use the bi-product, buttermilk, to make ice cream, or doughnuts.

What are the variations? Double cream or crème fraîche?

You can make different types of butter. If you use double cream you will get ‘sweet’ butter. Alternatively you can use the same volume of crème fraîche which will produce a more acidic butter – good for combining with savoury flavours.

How long will it keep?

It will keep for some time (a month or so) in the fridge, but it also freezes well.

Further reading on butter

Bread & Butter: History, Culture, Recipes, Richard Snapes, Grant Harrington and Eve Hemingway

Recipe for how to churn your own butter

All you need is double cream – 2.4 litres (4 large cartons) will give enough butter for about fourteen. If you use double cream you will get more butter. Also the fresher the cream the larger the volume of butter made. 

  1. Put the cream in the bowl of the mixing machine which you are lucky enough to have, and set it going, using the whisk attachment, for about five minutes.

  • When it starts to split into a liquid and a solid – the liquid is buttermilk and the solid is butter – reduce the speed of the whisk, or the contents will splutter all over the kitchen. When separated, stop the machine.
    how to make butter
    stop the machine when it starts to split
  • Meanwhile, put a colander over a bowl, and put a muslin in the colander.
    how to make butter
    Drain it in a colander, ideally with a muslin….
  • Put the split mixture into the muslin-lined colander.
  • Use a saucer or small plate to press on the butter in the colander to squeeze out any residual buttermilk.
  • At this stage you have what the Americans refer to as ‘sweet butter’.
  • If you want to salt your butter, weigh it in your mixer bowl and add 1% salt. Taste. Alternatively you can serve it sprinkled with interesting-looking salt, as described above.
  • Roll up in baking paper into a log shape, and put in your fridge.
  • how to make butter
    roll it up in baking paper into a log shape and put it in the fridge

    “I was a kitchen cook before I went on Masterchef, and then I became a bit more refined, and now I’m back to being a kitchen cook. I love cooking, it’s how I relax – cooking, and reading, and listening to music.”

    Kirsty Wark

    Mound of butter by Antoine Vollon
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