This past weekend, I was at my local Albertsons, an unremodeled throwback to the charmless 1980s that's located in a not-particularly-fancy part of town and sells a not-particularly-fancy array of products. Gelsons in some fancy South County suburb this is most certainly not.
I went to get a dozen eggs, and it had a coupon attached, advertising that I could get 55 cents off a package of butter that carried the “Real California Milk” seal. Out of curiosity, I looked over to see how much a pound of butter would be with the coupon, and this is what I saw:
This is unacceptable. This is BOLLOCKS. There is absolutely no reason in the world for a pound of butter to cost $8.19. This is the same store where a gallon of milk was $4.99. What on earth is going on here?
A pint of non-ultra-pasteurised whipping cream costs $1.99; two of them will set you back $3.98 and make close to a pound of butter . . . in about five minutes.
To make butter, you will need a mixer (either a hand mixer or a stand mixer), a big bowl in either glass or metal, and a large, clean T-shirt-type rag. You'll also need some plastic and foil wrap.
Put the cream in the bowl and start whipping, slowly at first. As it thickens into whipped cream, put the spurs to the machine–turn it all the way up. Cover the bowl with a towel, though–the cream will get thicker and thicker, and all at once, it will clot into butter and send buttermilk splashing all over your kitchen.
Turn the mixer down and make sure there's nothing left that looks like thick cream (there shouldn't be). Scoop out the butter and put in the (already probably soaked) rag. Squeeze the butter over the bowl, in order to catch the buttermilk you're squeezing out. Once it's stopped running buttermilk, take the rag over to the sink and massage the rag and butter under a thin stream of running water to get out any further buttermilk. Wrap the butter in plastic, then in foil (to keep out funky fridge odors), and use or freeze within two weeks.
Incidentally, if you want salted butter, you can either whip in half a teaspoon of fine salt (not iodized, though–you'll taste the iodine in it) at the start, or massage it into the finished butter at the end.
Huge props to Project Small for reminding me about this chore of my childhood; visit for a lesson on how to make that French- or Danish-style butter that costs more than $10 per pound, and save the money for things where higher prices might indicate quality. One note: While the Project Small recipe calls for culturing solution (available at places such as Mother's Market), using commercial buttermilk or plain, unsweetened yogurt will work; use a generous half-cup per quart of cream.
Even uncultured, the taste of butter you whip yourself is leagues beyond what $8.19 will buy you at the Albertsons on State College and South Street.