Making and Storing Farm Butter for Winter Use
Making and Storing Farm Butter for Winter Use

Making and Storing Farm Butter for Winter Use

by William White, Dairy Manufacturing Specialist, Bureau of Dairy Industry

On many farms where butter is made for home use it is desirable to put away some of the surplus summer butter to use during the late fall and winter when production is sometimes not sufficient for the family needs. Many farmers, after using special care in making summer butter that they think will keep well, have put it away only to find a few months later that it has become strong and rancid. This experience is not confined to farm butter. The city dealer in creamery butter has had the same experience even when he stored it in a good cold-storage warehouse. Experimental work in the United States Department of Agriculture a number of years ago showed that the sourness of the cream greatly influenced the keeping quality of the butter and that butter of the best keeping quality was made from perfectly sweet Pasteurized cream. Many creameries in recent years, therefore, have adopted the practice of making all their butter from Pasteurized sweet cream, churned without being ripened or soured in the least. Such butter, when made under proper conditions, may be held for many months in cold storage with only very slight deterioration.

Butter for storage on the farm, therefore, should be made from Pasteurized sweet cream. This cream should be sweet enough to use in hot coffee without curdling.


The first step, then, in making butter for storage on the farm is to select fresh, sweet cream. This cream must then be Pasteurized, as butter made from Pasteurized cream keeps much better than that made from raw cream. Pasteurization is not a common practice on the farm but is a very simple process. It consists of heating the cream to a temperature that will kill most of the bacteria present.

Cream may be Pasteurized on the farm by putting it in shotgun cans or pails, placing these in a large kettle or other suitable container partly filled with water, and setting it on a stove. The cream should be stirred frequently while being heated and should be brought to a temperature of from 145 degrees to 150 degrees F., and held at that temperature for 30 minutes. It should then be cooled as quickly as possible to 50 degrees F., or lower, and held at that temperature for at least three hours before being churned in order that the butter granules may be firm. The cream may be cooled by running cold water into the kettle or by setting the cream cans in a tank such as is commonly used for cooling cream, or, better still, by running the cream over a surface cooler.


After the cream has been Pasteurized to destroy organisms that might produce bad flavors in the butter, it is essential to prevent such organisms from getting into the cream while it is being cooled or churned. All utensils that are to come in contact with the cream or butter, such as the surface cooler, stirring rod or spoon, churn, worker, paddles and jars, should be cleaned with a dairy cleanser and rinsed thoroughly with boiling water a short time before they are used.


When fresh, sweet cream is used, the butter-making process is practically the same as when sour cream is used. A few points, however, should receive special attention. One of these is the churning temperature. At the proper temperature the butter granules come firm but not hard.

When making butter in the summer for fall or winter use, it is especially desirable to have it come firm enough so that the body will be waxy. When butter comes soft and slushy both the flavor and body are likely to be greasy or oily, and this undesirable characteristic increases with age. It is also important that the butter come in firm granules in order that the buttermilk may be washed out easily. When the granules are the size of kernels of wheat the churn should be stopped. To continue churning until the butter is in large masses causes buttermilk to be so incorporated in the butter that it can not be washed out. Too much buttermilk in the butter causes bad flavors to develop.

The proper churning temperature may be as low as 52 degrees F. on one farm or in one section of the country and as high as 60 degrees F. on another farm or in another section of the country, depending mainly on the feed of the cows and the length of time they have been in milk. In order that the butter may come in firm granules, a churning period of about 30 minutes is usually required. When the churning temperature is such that the churning period is 30 minutes or longer, more of the butterfat is churned into butter than when the churning period is shorter than 30 minutes. This is especially true when churning sweet cream. It has been found that when the churning period is less than 30 minutes buttermilk from sweet cream usually contains more butterfat than that from sour cream. When the buttermilk is used for human food, however, this is a matter of minor importance.

By using a thermometer to take the temperature of the cream at churning time it is an easy matter, after a few churnings, to determine just what temperature gives best results.


In washing the butter careful attention should be given to the temperature of the wash water and the handling of the butter. The temperature of the water should be taken with a thermometer and, if necessary, it should be tempered by the addition of either warmer or colder water. Usually the temperature of the water should be about the same as that of the cream churned. However, if the butter granules are too soft or too hard the temperature of the wash water may be either a few degrees colder or warmer than the cream. Warm wash water has the same effect upon the body of the butter as high churning temperature.

Only pure, clean water should be used and the quantity should be twice that of the cream churned. After the buttermilk has drained off, one-half the wash water is poured into the churn. The cover of the churn is then replaced and the churn given about four rapid revolutions. The water is drawn off and the washing repeated, two washings being sufficient. When proper temperatures and methods have been used the butter, after being washed, is still in small granules and contains very little buttermilk.


After the salt is added the butter should be worked just enough to distribute the salt evenly. Excessive working destroys the wax-like texture of the butter and makes it like salve. It also injures the keeping quality of butter.


Creamery butter in a cold-storage warehouse is held at a temperature of about 0 degrees F. On the farm, however, the butter is usually kept in a cellar or other places where the temperature during the summer may reach 70 degrees F. or more.

To determine the keeping quality of butter made from Pasteurized sweet cream and stored under farm conditions, a number of churnings were made in the Bureau of Dairy Industry, United States Department of Agriculture. Some of the butter was packed in stone crocks and some made into rolls and put into strong brine. To protect the top surface of the butter in the jars, some of the jars were covered with parchment paper, some with dry salt, and some with paraffin. All the butter was stored in a dark cellar from August to January. The temperature of the cellar ranged from 76 degrees F. in August to 56 degrees F. in December and January.

The butter covered with paper and that covered with dry salt developed a very bad flavor on top. In some cases it had a tallowy flavor and the color had bleached for a depth of one-fourth inch. Some mold was found on the top surface of the butter in several jars. The butter covered with paraffin had similar defects, but to a slightly less degree. The interior of all the jars of butter was of fair flavor, except in a few cases where a moldy flavor had penetrated throughout the butter. But the deterioration on the top surface was so great that none of these methods is recommended.


The rolls of butter submerged in brine kept very well. There was some stale flavor, but no strong or rancid flavor, and the surface was just as good as the interior. The butter was considered, on the whole, as a fair grade of table butter.

To store butter in this way, it may be made into rolls of any convenient size and should be wrapped in parchment butter paper. The rolls should then be packed in a large stone crock and completely covered with brine. If the rolls are not packed tightly in the crock some of them will float. In this case a weight should be used to keep the butter entirely submerged.

The brine should be made of one part salt to three parts water. It is better to use too much salt than not enough.

The crocks of butter should be put away in the coolest place available. On most farms, during the summer, the cellar is the coolest place. The butter, however, should not be placed where it may absorb the flavors of other materials, such as fruits and vegetables.

When the weather becomes cool in the fall it is well to move the butter to some place, such as a shed on the north side of the house, where the temperature is lower than that of the cellar.


To keep summer butter for winter use, it should be made from Pasteurized sweet cream, churned at a low temperature, and the buttermilk thoroughly washed out. All butter-making utensils and crocks should be cleaned with a dairy cleanser and well rinsed with boiling water a short time before they are used. The butter should be only moderately worked and then made into rolls or prints, which should be wrapped in parchment paper, packed in crocks, and the crocks filled with strong brine. The crocks of butter should be kept in the coldest place possible.