Butter Making



Students will learn how to make butter


Where does food come from? Where does butter come from? What is butter? How can we feed ourselves? What happens on a farm in winter?


An old-fashioned butter churn or picture of one
Per group:
• Whipping or heavy cream at room temperature, approximately one cup or a half pint
• Plastic peanut butter jar or other container that seals securely
• Two or three marbles
• Colander
• Bowl
• Wooden spoon
• Butter knife
• Crackers
• Small paper cups


An hour before beginning this activity, remove the cream from the refrigerator. Cream at room temperature will turn into butter more quickly than cold cream.

  1. Tell the students that many food products are made from milk. Ask them to list as many as they can. Explain that you will be reading a few riddles and they need to guess which milk product you are describing.
    • Cold and creamy; a frozen treat; in a cone or a shake; it can’t be beat! (ice
    • A thick, tart, custard; fruit flavored or plain; curdled or cultured; with a
    funny name. (yogurt)
    • Rich, creamy, yellow; salted or sweet; on toast or corn; it’s good to eat. (butter)
  2. Explain that they will get a chance to make their own butter. Ask the students how they think butter is made? Record their ideas. Show them an old fashioned butter churn or a picture of one. How was it used?
  1. Divide the class into two or three groups of eight to ten students each. Give each group a half-pint of cream, a plastic peanut butter jar and two or three clean marbles. Direct them to add the cream and marbles to the jar and fasten the lid securely. Ask the students why marbles are put in the container with the cream.
  2. Now it is time to begin shaking. Have one student in each group shake their jar and ask everyone to listen to the sound of the cream and the marbles in the jar. What do they think will happen to the sound as the cream begins to thicken? Ask the students to predict how long it will take to make butter. Have each group record their predictions and starting times.
  3. Since it can take 5-10 minutes to make a batch of butter, teach the class a traditional butter making song to sing while shaking the (see Butter Cake below). Explain that as the butter was passed from child to child they sang this song, changing the name each time. When the next verse begins, the jar is passed to another student who continues the shaking. Or teach the class a more lively modern song, Shake It! (see below), passing the jar after each chorus. Take breaks periodically to listen to the sound of the marbles in the jar. When do they notice a difference in sound? You can also turn the process into a competition to see which group can make butter first.
  4. When the students see a lump of butter surrounded by a thin liquid, have them record the finish time. Ask whether they know the name of the liquid that is formed when making butter? (buttermilk) Direct the students to place a bowl beneath a colander and carefully pour the buttermilk off. Pour the buttermilk into another container and chill for tasting later.
  5. With the colander over the bowl, have the students wash the butter by pouring cold water over it to rinse off any traces of buttermilk. Direct them to gently press the butter against the side of the colander with a wooden spoon to be sure all the water is out. Then have them place their butter in a small bowl. A half-pint of cream will make approximately a quarter pound of butter.
  6. Now it’s time to enjoy the taste of fresh homemade butter. If the students will be eating the butter on salted crackers, they do not need to add salt. Otherwise, each group can add a pinch of salt and mix it into the butter


  1. Do From Farm to You (Project Seasons, page 37) using only dairy products. Have the students use their descriptive words and phrases to make short poems or riddles similar to those used at the beginning of this activity.
  2. Make several flavored butters to sample. Honey butter is made by adding some honey to your butter. Try raspberry butter and add fresh or frozen raspberries and a bit of sugar. Chill them in small crocks and serve with homemade bread or rolls. You can even make bright red tomato butter that tastes great on corn on the cob by
    mixing 1 tablespoon of tomato paste to ¼ lb. of butter.
  3. Have the students chill their butter in old fashioned butter molds. Or have them decorate their butter with sprigs of fresh herbs, clover, or edible flowers. Invite another class or parents in for a sample.
  4. Try making yogurt or ice cream with your class