Museum at Home: Let’s Make Butter!

Museum at Home is a new weekly blog series offering fun and educational hands-on activities for children to do at home over the summer. Each week throughout July and August, the St. Catharines Museum will post a new history-inspired activity aimed to spark curiousity and learning.

Let’s Make Butter!


  • Heavy cream
  • Clean mason jar with lid (any old secure container will do)

A Little History

Butter is a staple in so many recipes. But where does it come from? Where do you get your butter from?

Butter is made from cow’s milk! Lots of different products can be made from milk, like cheese. Butter is another one of those dairy products that has been around for centuries. Farmers in St. Catharines would have made their butter fresh for sale, either at the St. Catharines Farmers Market, or with the milk delivery, or for trade with other locals.

Making butter would have been a regular part of the week for many people living in St. Catharines, but luckily, it’s pretty easy and very straightforward. Women or young girls were usually the butter makers in the Victorian home or farm, and were the ones responsible for churning the cream into butter. There are lots of methods of churning: you could put the cream in a bag and swing it around until it became butter; you could use a mason jar and shake the cream (like we will today); or you could use specially made butter churns, which was helpful if you were making a lot of butter. The most common butter churn was the dash churn, which was a large wooden or pottery barrel with a wooden stick (with cross pieces on one end) sticking through the lid. By moving the stick up and down, and turning it through the cream, the churners could turn cream into butter.

Butter churning was pretty boring work since it might take 30-45 minutes, depending on how much cream you have to churn, so people composed little ‘Churning Songs’. Why not try this ‘Churning Song’ while you’re making your butter:

(Sung to the tune of ‘The Farmer in the Dell’)

Churn, churn, churn, this is churning day,
Til the golden butter comes the dasher must not stay
Pat, pat, pat, make it smooth and round,
Now the golden butter’s done, won’t you buy a pound?

Let’s Make Butter!


  • Heavy Cream
  • Clean mason jar with lid (any old secure container will do)


  • Pour cream into the jar/container. Seal it up tight!
  • Shake the jar/container for 15 or so minutes, or until butter begins to form.
  • Take turns shaking, but make sure to pass the jar quickly.

What’s happening here? As the cream is agitated by the shaking, the fat in the cream begins to separate from the milk liquid, and then globs together. This is why you need heavy (high in fat) cream to make butter: so the fat can glob together!

  • Tip: try to do in a cool place – warmer environments make forming butter more difficult and gooey!
  • Once most of the cream has formed into a glob, you’re done! There may be some ‘butter milk’ left over from the process. Pour off the excess
  • Add a pinch of salt for taste and form into desired shape
  • Enjoy!

Here’s a handy butter making video if you need extra information:

We’d love for you to share what you’ve learned with us, too! Share your story or picture of butter making on social media, and tag us on Twitter or Instagram at @stcmuseum #stcmuseum or find us on Facebook!

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