Butter is one of those essential pantry items we often take for granted--and we shouldn't. If you buy butter, you can't control the fat content, and the salt content of salted butters is dependant on the dairy or creamery where it's made, or even on the season. Oh, and one more thing: your favorite butter might become unavailable.
The butter I preferred over all others was only available at one chain market in the Portland metropolitan region, and they quit carrying it because of slow sales. I could have gotten it online--at more than twice the price--but I refused to spend $8 for a pound of butter, plus shipping. I managed to get the price down to $5 plus shipping, but only if I would buy at least 24 pounds at a time.
The solution? I made butter myself. One quart of heavy cream yielded about one pound of butter plus a cup-and-a-half of uncultured buttermilk. Cost? $4.69. Time involved? About 20 minutes, including 15 minutes of waiting while the mixer did all the work. Equipment required? A Kitchen Aid stand mixer for the method I used, but I'm sure it could be done with a hand mixer, a butter churn, or even a glass jar.
This may be the easiest thing I've ever done. I knew from my previous experience as a pastry chef that if I didn't pay attention to cream when whipping it, I'd end up with butter. So I did that on purpose. I poured a quart of room temperature heavy cream into the bowl of the mixer, turned the mixer on low to get started, and then speeded it up when the cream started to come together a bit. After about 10 minutes, it was almost butter, so I slowed the speed down. After another minute or so, the near-butter solidified rather quickly.
Next, I washed the butter, then pressed the water out. I probably should press a bit more next time, because there's still a bit of buttermilk present in the butter, but it's absolutely delicious!
Making butter this way is impressively easy. It might be a bit spendy to use for cooking and making clarified butter, but for spreading on some good bread--or impressing guests--nothing can top homemade butter. I might even try making Vanilla Shortbread Cookies with it.