Monday, October 19, 2009

Creamy Goat Butter

Fresh Goat butter

Making butter from cow's cream is a fairly easy task but making goat butter adds a few new twists to the process. So, I thought you might like to see how I make mine and while I'm showing you, I throw in a few interesting facts along the way.

"I'm waiting! Milk me and quit taking pictures." Leta let me know as I waited and waited for just the right shot as she stood in the milking stanchion. Note her lovely beard, very characteristic of a Saanen doe.

The picture of Leta begins our story of butter making for of course you need milk and in our case it comes from our goats: Leta, Pudge, and Chicory.

This pail of milk is courtesy of Pudge and even though I've been careful, a speck of hay has fallen into the bucket and a stray white goat hair or two may be hiding in the froth. That's why the next stage is straining the milk. I use a commercial pad that is designed to fit inside my goat milk strainer. If the thought of foreign matter is upsetting to you, don't worry, goat's milk is extremely high in antibacterials for the first hour after milking. Long before the hour is up, those strays are no longer in my milk. I figure those antibacterials have to be pretty good for my digestive system. That's why I try to drink a glass of fresh warm goat's milk every couple days.

On the left a cow milk filter and on the right a goat milk filter.

The large milk strainer on the left is to accommodate the average 6 gallons of milk a day that the average cow produces. Where as the average Nubian goat produces 3 quarts of milk a day and so the goat milk strainer on the right is much smaller. This is why we have Saanens who produce on average a gallon to two gallons a day. Ours give a gallon and a half to two gallons a day at the peak of their production cycle. Chicory, the Nubian, is a year old and therefore has not established a milk production pattern but was purchased because Nubians give more cream than Saanens.

Lest you cow milkers race ahead of me, I need to warn you that making goat butter is a bit different than making cow butter, partially because goat's milk is naturally homogenized. Which means, with your goat's milk there won't be but a light skimming of cream that will rise to the top of your jug, unlike the inch or two of cream that sits on top of cow's milk. The reason is goat's milk has smaller protein molecules and fat molecules making it far more easier to digest but alas a more challenge to make butter with.

My table top milk separator. The cream comes out the top spout and the milk the bottom one.

But now some of you are wondering how do I make butter with only a light skimming of cream that rises to the top of the milk jug? Well, a milk separator if you want a serious amount of cream. I had a huge antique hand crank separator when all the kids were home but I've not the stamina nor desire anymore to crank and crank to rev the machine up to speed and keep it there. Nor, do I want to clean the fifty some parts that went with it. So I purchase a electric counter top sized one this last spring. I can tell you about how to get more cream to rise to the top to collect but it doesn't come anywhere close to what you get with a separator.

Before I place the milk in the separator, it has to be warm, about 98 degrees Fahrenheit. By the time I get the milk to the house, the milk has already cooled down below this temperature. It is a mile and a half walking distance to the corrals and back. More if we drive. I figure since the milk is already too cool to use the separator, I might as well put it through the strainer and keep it in the fridge. I prefer to collect a couple milkings worth before I use the separator and have to clean it. This means first heating the milk in a large pot on the stove but I'd have to do that anyway.

I'd like to say I do this every couple of days but I don't, even though we have more than enough milk, especially this time of year, since the bump calf is weaned. The bottom line is my health at this time does not allow me enough energy. So I'd rather feed the excess milk to the pigs and chickens. Then make butter and cheese when I can push past my lack of energy. Once a week is about as often as I separate. I don't make butter quite that often, though I probably will as soon as a few more of our fall chores are done. Too much to do with too little time. Doing things this way gives me about 1- 3/4 quart of heavy cream a week.

As a tip to first time butter makers. Goats produce more cream as their freshening progresses. Since our girls kidded in April they are producing quite a bit of cream now. And in hopes that my doctor will someday in the near future figure out my rare health issues, we purchased a Nubian because of the higher cream content in their milk.

I prefer extra heavy cream. To get this I separate the milk. Then the cream that comes from this first separation, I put through the machine one more time. The skim milk isn't very skimmed then and definitely does not look like the stores blue tinted, watery stuff. But non the less, I feed it back to the pigs and chickens giving them a boost of calcium hence, more nutritious meat and eggs for us. Milking only once a day now cuts down on milk production to where I can manage it and lessons the strain on my two old goat's bodies. I'd like them to last as long as possible.

This heavy cream, I usually pasteurize. Yes, I said the dirty word but according to authorities they recommend if you keep your butter more than two or three days, that you pasteurize your cream for safety. Well, actually that probably isn't the real reason I do it. Its that long wait it has to make in the fridge, usually a week, while I decide whether it will be used for whip cream, Alfredo sauce, cream biscuits, or butter. Butter is what happens if it isn't used for other things.

My next process in making butter is to take the chilled cream from the fridge. It needs to be at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit (where as with cow's it' 60.) Experience has taught if it isn't cold enough, it doesn't make butter even when it has started to clump. If the cream becomes too warm, it unclumps and become all liquid once more. I've never had cow's cream be quite so fussy. But their are health benefits to goat's milk that makes it worth it. We'll talk about those in another blog.

My butter churn ready to crank.

I have a hand crank butter churn but there again my laziness or maybe it's my screaming tennis elbows that dictates that I first put the heavy cream, not more than a quart at a time, into my Kitchen aid blender and push the mix button. The second you hear the motor start to bog down slightly, turn it off. The butter becomes pretty expensive if you have to buy a new blender. By now, the heavy cream is whip cream. This I place into the butter churn while I finish up the rest of the cream in the blender. Then with the two batches in the butter churn, I begin to crank rapidly.

Whip cream from the blender into the butter churn.

I've used the butter churn exclusively without the blender, only a few times and learned I had to keep some ice cubes on hand. Because unless you can crank faster than myself, butter may not happen since the cream rapidly warms up. To get around this, I placed my butter churn inside a pot of ice cubes floating in water after I'd churned a little while. I've read that you can get the cream too cold and that impedes progress also but that hasn't happened to me. If you don't have a butter churn you can do small batches by shaking a jar half full of cream. I've done that a few times also and prefer the churn since it does two quarts at a time.

You will have arrived at your destination when the cream becomes grainy, thick, and sticks to the sides of your butter churn. The butter churn will also be much harder to crank and I'm not referring to the fact that I may have grown tired. The dasher in the butter churn will also by now be make a different sound than before. The results won't be yellow like cow's butter because goat's are more efficient at converting carotene to vitamin A.

This grainy mixture is then dumped into a strainer and I let it drain into a the milk pail so I can use the buttermilk to make bread or feed back to the chickens or pigs. Don't confuse this buttermilk with the stores as it is not cultured. You can of course do so if you wish and that's a project I'm going to try sometime.

My instructions say to pour off the buttermilk from the butter churn and pour in water the same temperature as the butter so it doesn't melt and keep cranking. Repeating this procedure a couple more times. But if you've read my blog for a while, you know how well I follow directions. I did try it and didn't like doing it this way so I improvised. My way is to gently paddle the butter for a couple minutes in the strainer and then remove my milk pail and pour cold water over the grainy butter. This thoroughly rinses out the buttermilk that can cause souring. Then after turning the water off, I continue paddling to remove the water from the butter. I've never removed every drop but I do my best and this is an area I wouldn't mind having some tips on. They say a butter paddle does wonders. I need to buy one.

The half pints are butter and the quart is buttermilk.

And then I place the butter in these handy 1/2 pint wide mouth canning jars and put it in the fridge or into the freezer for future use. You never know with me.

My conscious tells me that I had better tell you that the instructions, I kind of follow, say to use up your unpasteurized butter within a few days. That is another reason why mine isn't unpasteurized. I need more flexibility. I must confess, I've yet to bake with my butter. After all, I started consistantly making butter in the summer and maybe you bake a lot then but I don't, so that little experiment is coming up hopefully this week. I love blogging. It is a real motivator to get things done so I can blog about them.

Also for those of you that want to try souring your cream before making butter by setting it on the counter overnight, the instructions say to use unpasteurized cream because it has some protective chemical in it that impedes unwanted bacteria where as pastuerized I guess welcomes them. I've never done this because remember, my cream usually sits in the fridge while I'm trying to decide what I'm going to do with it. I figure that's kind of aging it, isn't it?

Can you make butter without a cream separator? Yes, but you won't be making very much. A Mother Earth News blog said that it took five days and they had maybe a pint to shake in a jar to make butter. It didn't say how much milk that took. If you leave your cream uncovered in a wide dish in the refridgerator, more cream will rise to the top. Be careful not to have foods in the fridge with strong odors or the milk will absorb them. I've done this a number of times so I could have a little cream for whip cream. But, if your really serious about butter, you'll have to at least buy a separator, if not a butter churn also.

I'd love to hear about your butter making experiences.


  1. Hello just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you know a few of the pictures aren't loading correctly.
    I'm not sure why but I think its a linking issue. I've tried
    it in two different web browsers and both show the same results.

    1. I will take a look and see if I can figure out what has happened. Meanwhile please feel free to take a gander at my new blog site I think you will like the format much better. The site is still in the working stage but it is coming along nicely. The latest article about goats is one on whether to milk at all, milk partially, or milk out when a doe is nursing kids. Thanks for stopping by.