Homemade Sour cream, Buttermilk, Butter and Ghee

So this post has been pending since the beginning of time 😎 and it is an important one since it talks about a few ingredients that are so crucial in several dishes, including my sourdough and other bakes.

Of course I have been postponing and procrastinating in my own delightful way 😏 but today I have decided to take the bull by its horns (or should I say cow, considering it is all about milk and its products) and deliver the goods.

It is a simple process that gives rise to basic items like sour cream, butter and buttermilk but yet there are many many people who are not aware or who have not tried out this method to obtain these at home.

Once you see how easy the technique is, you will never again buy any of these items from the store … at least not for your domestic use.

So let us whip up some excitement and see how the contents of an innocuous looking milk packet can bring forth some fascinating results.

Before proceeding with the process, I will have to give you a bit of a background of the milk that is available to me because the results that one achieves in this process are highly dependent on the kind of milk used.

I live in Bangalore, Karnataka, India where a large percentage of the milk supply is sold under the brand name Nandini which is obtained from the Karnataka Milk Federation (KMF), a state wide association run by farmers across Karnataka, on a cooperative basis (this is not a sponsored post).

The milk is available in plastic sachets in quite a few variants, depending on the fat and other content.

Apart from milk they also sell the same brand of butter, cheese, paneer, curds etc.

Our milk packet –

The variant that we buy at home is the blue pack which is the Nandini pasteurized toned milk, which has 3 % fat and 8.5 % SNF (Solids Not Fat). This is the ‘moderate’ one that falls between its other full fat and skimmed peers.

Boiling the milk –

‘He/she does not even know how to boil milk’. You have probably heard this line that is used to describe a person’s state of culinary skill or lack thereof 😀

Taking no chances here with absolute beginners, I would like to start with this very first step and while one imagines that it should be easy enough, one would do well to remember that people who have probably boiled thousands of liters in their lives, can still manage to have the milk overboil and make the most miserable mess 😀 (yours truly is a pro at this).

The milk is poured out of the sachet into an Aluminum or steel vessel and placed on high heat. Make sure that the vessel is big enough to accommodate the milk as it rises while boiling. Of course from my pictures you will see from the inadequate size of my vessel, that I like to live life on the edge … which also explains why the milk frequently goes Over the edge in my case 😀

A tip to reduce the incidence of the milk ‘sticking’ to the vessel or burning as it boils, is to wet/rinse the insides of the vessel with clean water before pouring in the milk.

The time taken for the milk to boil depends on several factors like quantity, ambient temperature, original temperature of the milk etc. In my house, 1.5 liters of milk take around 10 minutes to boil. The boiling is indicated by the milk rising up in the vessel in a rush, after slowly gathering momentum. This is where one has to be alert and switch off the heat as soon as this happens or else the milk will overflow and create a mess that no one ever has been happy to clean 😀

Cooling the milk –

The boiled milk can be left to cool at room temperature or under a fan. It is a good idea to cover it with a mesh lid/net cover while it is cooling. With the milk that I use, you will see a thin film of fat that forms on the top. Milk with higher fat content will have a thicker layer on top.

Once it reaches room temperature, cover it with a regular lid and refrigerate it till it is cold, preferably for 5-6 hours or overnight.

The film of fat that is afloat, now turns into a thicker sheet and can be moved aside easily.

Setting curds –

Basically curd is formed by adding a small quantity of earlier/older curds (setting culture, as I want to call it) to heated milk.

There are several ways of setting curds. Some people remove the cream and store it separately and set the curds with the skimmed milk and some use the whole thing to set curds and thus also obtain curd cream which is stored and eventually churned to get butter.

I prefer making curd cream because it can stay longer in the fridge without spoiling. I have friends who separate the milk cream but they have to freeze it after a few days or else it goes bad. The problem with that is then they have to defrost it before churning for butter. I do not have the patience for all that, so I prefer this method

Here I am going to explain my method in detail.

The chilled milk is removed from the fridge. It is very important to use chilled milk because the end result is very different (and not pleasant at all) if you use hot milk directly.

Into a steel vessel, pour out as much milk as you need to make curds, along with the fat layer and all. Heat the milk on a medium to high heat until it becomes ‘just hot’. You can gently stir the milk for a few seconds to ensure even heating of the milk and fat.

My tip (pun intended) is to literally stick my little finger tip into the milk. If the finger feels uncomfortable after a few seconds, then it indicates that the correct temperature has been reached.

At this point, turn off the heat. Add a tablespoon of old/earlier curds (setting culture) to the milk and gently stir through. The quantity of curds that you need to set the milk also depends of many factors like ambient temperature, humidity etc. The amounts given are suitable for my conditions. In a hotter place you would need a smaller quantity and likewise a bit more in a colder place.

Cover the vessel and leave it for 6 – 7 hours, preferably overnight. Again setting times depend on the above mentioned factors. A hotter place means a shorter time.

Once the curd is set, the contents should not appear to be in liquid form any more and shaking the vessel gently is a good way to identify that. Place the curds in the fridge till thoroughly chilled which will ensure that it further sets well and the top layer of fat also solidifies to an extent where it can be easily rolled off with a spoon and separated.

Points to note – 

Overheating the milk while setting curds, will result in either the milk breaking while adding the setting amount or will result in very poor quality curds or will also make the cream melt into ghee like blobs on the surface.

Adding too little ‘setting culture’ may result in the curds not forming well.

Adding too much ‘setting culture’ may result in over fermented curd that is very sour.

Collecting the curd cream –

Some people like to consume the curd cream, in which case the only butter that they will get is the one that is churned in their tummies 😀

I roll off this cream everyday before serving the curds, though at times my husband manages to steal some when I am not looking but to a large extent I win this daily battle 😎

This cream is collected in a container and kept covered in the fridge. In the moderate climactic conditions of my city, I can store this even up to 2 weeks without it going bad.

However since I get quite a large amount of cream I usually process it every week to obtain butter etc.

Churning butter – 

At the end of a week I collect approximately a volume of 750 ml of cream and this is ideal for me since my mixer jar (which I use for whipping the cream) can contain this amount easily.

Attach the whipper blade in the mixer jar and pour the curd cream into it, straight from the fridge. The cream should be chilled before whipping, for best results.

Run the mixer continuously. Initially you will hear a sluggish sound as the thick cream begins blending and it will look like this.

In a while the cream will start thickening and at this stage I use it as sour cream if I need it in any recipe.

After a minute or two, the sound changes to rapid bursts, indicating that the solids have separated from the liquid.

If you are in a very hot location, then you can also add a few ice cubes while whipping.

On opening the mixer lid, you will see that the butter is floating on top of the liquid. In case it has still not separated, then continue whipping in short bursts until you achieve the desired result.

With a help of a Silicon spatula, remove the butter into a vessel which contains some drinking water. The liquid that remains in the mixer is Buttermilk, which is used in all baking recipes that call for it. In India we also use the term buttermilk for curds churned with water but the one to use in recipes, is the one obtained after churning butter.

Cleaning and storing the butter –

The butter should be rinsed about 4 – 5 times using drinking water and pressing it gently with the spatula until the water eventually runs clear. You can add some ice cubes during washing, in case the butter tends to melt.

The cleaned butter should be compacted and can be stored in the fridge for a week or for much longer in the freezer.

Storing the Buttermilk –

The buttermilk should be stored in the fridge and can be kept for 4 – 5 days.

After a few hours of refrigerating, the remnant fats float to the top. I sometimes skim this to use in recipes but you can also stir up the whole thing and use.

The buttermilk can be used in several recipes right from baking to buttermilk curd curry and other dishes.

Buttermilk can also be frozen for several weeks.

Making Ghee (clarified butter) –

Heat the butter on a low flame in a kadai (wok) until it melts and starts bubbling. In a while (the time depends on the quantity), the bubbles will subside and the liquid will turn a bit darker. Switch off the flame at this point or else the ghee will burn. Add a pinch of salt since this is supposed to give a granular texture to the ghee. Some people also add a few curry leaves or a betel leaf to add flavor. The leaves are delicious to eat after they get crisp in the hot ghee.

After it cools, the ghee can be transferred to a metal or glass container and stored air tight. It need not be refrigerated.

The darker sediment in the kadai is called ghee residue and is also consumed.


Please do leave your valuable feedback or queries in the comments. I would love to hear from you.

For more pictures see My Facebook – Homemade butter

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Nov 3rd, 2020

About Currylines

A food and travel enthusiast who plays with words
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14 Responses to Homemade Sour cream, Buttermilk, Butter and Ghee

  1. Shari says:

    Will the ghee be sour? When I prepared fresh ghee with one week’s sour cream, the ghee tasted a bit sour. What could be the reason?

    • Caroline Radhakrishnan says:

      No my ghee is never sour. I don’t prepare ghee directly from cream. I churn out butter first and then make ghee from it.

  2. AL Pinto says:

    I seriously didn’t know the whipping blade could do this!
    Thanks to your illustrated instructions, I’ll make it with much less effort 🙂

  3. Vani seshadri says:

    Very well explained. It seems to be very easy. Cannot wait to follow the method. I will have to wait for ten days.. Oh !!
    Can I add a little salt to the better and then store it??

  4. Sujatha says:

    Well described. So much detail. The only instruction missing is dipping a finger in the butter and licking

  5. Divya says:

    so many interesting ‘tips’ thanks. i also had qs. so its better to make the butter out of the curd cream vs milk cream? i use an electric hand mixer to beat the cream, i’ve seen suggestions of bringing the cream to room temp vs chilled version before churning. does it just change the time to churn?

    • Caroline Radhakrishnan says:

      I prefer curd cream because it can stay longer in the fridge without spoiling. I have friends who use milk cream but they have to freeze it after a few days or else it goes bad. The problem with that is then they have to defrost it before churning. I do not have the patience for all that, so I prefer this method  

      I also find that chilled curd cream churns the best. I use my mixer and whipper blade. In fact in summer, I also add ice cubes while whipping.

  6. Sumana Sequeira says:

    Such a detailed explanation. You sure have the patience. Thank you so much

  7. Aruna H M says:

    You make every process so interesting and fun !!! So well described

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