Testing Williams-Sonoma's Make-Your-Own-Butter Kit

Just add cream.
Just add cream.
Photo by Joanna O'Leary

Eager to tap into the metro yeoman hipster market, Williams-Sonoma now offers a line of "DIY" kits for smoking salmon, making your own nut milk, fermenting your own mead, etc., etc. These kits are, unsurprisingly, fairly expensive and the end-product, of course, highly subject to user error. You're better off going to the grocery store or just researching methods and equipment online if time and money are a priority.

However, when a kit is on sale and there's an extra 20 percent off clearance plus shipping, purchasing one becomes almost conscionable. Almost.

In the spirit of "butter makes everything butter," I bought the butter-making kit, which included:

  • a BPA-free plastic shaker container
  • 2 porcelain butter crocks
  • 2 hand-carved teak butter paddles.
  • .75 oz of Herbes de Provences (.75 oz).
  • 1 oz of French sea salt (1 oz.).
  • 1 muslin bags for storing herbs and spices

Alas, no cream, the most crucial ingredient. For that, you have to go to the store, or, if the case may be, the dairy cow resting inside the barn in your backyard.

This story continues on the next page.  

Milk, pre-massage.
Milk, pre-massage.
Photo by Joanna O'Leary

Testing the kit in Houston proved immediately advantageous as the directions clearly state that the cream be brought to room (a warm) temperature, which in other climates can be accomplished by leaving it out on the counter for 45 minutes, but here in Texas is achieved simply by driving home from the grocery store without the air conditioning.

Once your cream is sufficiently not cold, Williams-Sonoma instructs you to pour it into the plastic container and "shake it up and down vigorously." Note, "vigorously": at first I shook overzealously and almost dropped the container on a passing kitty.

At about the 20 minute mark, the fateful color change from white to yellow as promised in the directions actually occurred! The cream sloshed a bit indicating the formation of butter and the release of a buttermilk head. Because the butter still seemed a bit gloopy, I kept shaking for another five minutes before straining out the liquid.

Warning: If you take out the butter before the buttermilk separates, its consistency will be too fluid. Just be patient and keep shaking.

Butter, post massage.
Butter, post massage.
Photo by Joanna O'Leary

The final, somewhat bizarre step involved pouring some cold water on the butter (after buttermilk had been drained) and massaging it to flush out any remaining liquid. This process leaves the butter very relaxed and your hands oily...but it works!

Then the butter was ready for taste test. Even before the addition of some sea salt, it smelled lovely. The flavor was rich and fatty and uneven but in the wonderful way indicative of a food made in a small batch by an amateur rather than mass-produced by machines.

Butter made by hand tastes better and is good for you.
Butter made by hand tastes better and is good for you.
Photo by Joanna O'Leary

Because it is generally considered unacceptable to just eat butter by the spoon (that proscription needs to change, btw), you're better off transferring it to the two mini crocks, refrigerating one for later, and using the entire whole other one on a toasted sesame bagel.

In addition to producing a darn tasty product, this kit is also reuseable, which means many more crocks of hand-shook buttah to come.


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