Making Butter By Heating Instead of Cooling

I am trying to learn to make butter from unhomogenized milk. I skim off the cream, and after I make yogurt with the remaining milk there is a nice fat layer already separated on top, and I skim that off as well. So I start with a jar filled with fat skimmed off manually from milk.

There are various procedures online that ask you to put this fat into a blender and try to separate out the buttermilk. After you have a nice ball of butter, you then add chilled water and blend some more, or you can manually work the butterball with a strainer and try to get more and more buttermilk out of the butter. I find this whole procedure laborious, messy, and time-consuming. I am looking for a more time-efficient method.

As an experiment, I tried melting the starting mass of butter and then blending that liquid. I then put the warm blended mix into a refrigerator, and after maybe 15 minutes there was a very clean separation of golden fat on top and buttermilk on the bottom. I was able to then use a fat separator to pour out the buttermilk and I used the golden fat as a starter to make clarified butter.

This procedure seems to work, and I need to refine it further. But am I missing something important here? Why go through all the trouble to repeatedly wash or blend the butterball, when you can cleanly separate out the fat by heating it and blending it once?

Off the top of my head I’d guess the cold method maintains the emulsion of fat and water and keeps the butter creamy.

I’d think one key fact is whether you want butter (which has milk solids in it that add to the taste), or clarified butter. (Also, there’s clarified butter and clarified butter, as in ghee. The latter benefits from starting with regular butter and heating it till the milk solids separate and brown give the final product a toasty flavor.) The bottomline is that the milk solids are important, and you may be losing them. The hot process, as opposed to cold, is also likely to alter flavor in general.

I have been taught that (traditionally made) ghee should not be brown - it’s overcooked at that point.

Do I recall correctly that you had this posted over on CH as well?

My mom has been doing this forever. Cream collected over time off the top of unhomogenized milk (after boiling and cooling) is cultured, then churned (she uses an immersion blender and its whisk). The butter is removed and rinsed, then heated to make ghee / clarified butter.

I’m not sure I understand your question — because butter and clarified butter are not the same thing. (The “white butter” that results from this process also tastes very different than store-bought butter.)

(I love cream top yogurt btw!)

Did I say that the ghee should be brown?

True, my bad. I saw brown solids and in most places they end up in brown ghee.

“Brown” is a difficult word in cookery. When you “brown” meat are you looking for a light brownish hue or a dark brown crust? (With the proliferation of cooking videos in recent years it’s become easier to judge, but you have to watch the right videos.)

Anyway, the browning of the milk solids I was talking about was more a goldish hue than a deep, dark brown.

Hey, not to compete, but I appear to be a lot older than you (and possibly your Mom). My family did exactly the same as yours, but immersion blenders had not yet been invented. (In fact “milk” had barely been invented.) Our people – like all good upper-middle-class Indians, we had “people”, to use an euphemism – churned the stuff by hand to produce fresh, white (as you say) “maska”. Now, I’d kill for some. Then, gauche as I was, I complained when it was on the table and whined for commercial Amul butter.

And, to think I paid 60 bucks for a pound of Animal Farm butter in December 2020. (In my defense, I thought there was a chance we’d all be wiped out by disease soon, having just returned to Cambridge from a deserted Manhattan.)

You have complete control on the color of your final ghee. You can brown the milk and develop a smoky flavor, which some people like. I prefer to keep things purer.

The question on CH was different. This question is about using a heating method to produce butter instead of a cooling method.

You make butter. You feed butter as the input to the process of making clarified butter/ghee. You need butter as a starting point for the ghee-making process.

My method is to get a clean separation of fat from milk using heating then cooling, thus bypassing a whole lot of hassle and time. The separated fat from that process then becomes the input to the process of making clarified butter/ghee.

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Yes. but my confusion was that the title of your post says “making butter by heating”

You can’t make butter by heating — butter requires the cold process.

When it’s heated it converts to melted / clarified butter — and if you take it further, then ghee.

So if your goal is clarified butter, then yes heat the way you applied it will yield a similar result.

Haha yes to the whole throwback memory.

We always had both Amul and white butter - I’d never deign to put the latter on toast :joy:

(And no, you couldn’t be older than my mom, who just turned 80 — she just loves her Bamix and Braun — for this one job mainly — instead of the wooden churner :rofl:)

(On my part, I just buy cultured butter and heat it to make fake ghee…which often darkens when it shouldn’t because I lack patience…)

I see how the title is confusing. What do you think I am making when I skim cream off of milk, heat it, and pour off the buttermilk? That is not clarified butter or ghee. If I cooled it down it would look more like butter than like ghee.

@westes I don’t know if you ever got further with this.

I did ask my mom about the method you described, and she said she’s heard of it as a cheat/shortcut that some people use, but there is probably some nutritional difference in the outcome. The other step that shortcuts skip is culturing the cream, which changes flavor among other things.

The melting and cooling also doesn’t yield the same interim white butter, which we keep a portion of to eat as is (the rest becomes ghee). As you know, melting butter and have it solidify again does not give you back the butter you started with, as I experience every time the butter dish is left too close to a heat source… or during the summer just on the counter!

The other thing she said is that some people also melt the cream directly, skipping the melting/cooling step. Of course that’s not traditional ghee either (in the same way that my clarifying store butter doesn’t yield traditional ghee).

(You can go down a rabbit hole reading about anhydrous milk fat / AMF and butteroil.)