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bottling-butterBy Kellene Bishop

June 12, 2007.  That was a day I experienced a moment of euphoria as a concern of mine had just been satisfied completely.  That was the day I discovered you could bottle butter.  It was a very, very happy day for me, until I began doing research on it.  There were an abundance of comments surfacing on the internet stating that bottling butter simply wasn’t safe because it was “impossible” to get rid of any botulism.  My joy was squashed.  But after speaking to many lifetime emergency preparedness folks who swore that bottling butter was just fine, I decided to do more research on the matter.  The good news is I’ve decided to fully embrace bottling butter.  The thought of butter on my homemade wheat bread, even in the midst of a crisis, is just too enticing to pass up.  So here’s how I’ve come up with my rationale for bottling butter in spite of what some information on the internet has said.

1)      History: I interviewed no less than TWENTY individuals who have been bottling butter and using it without any instances of illness or food poisoning.  Most of these individuals have been bottling butter for longer than a decade.  The key is to use clean and sanitized jars and lids as well as to bring the butter up to the boiling point. (Instructions follow)

2)      The Source of the Bottled Butter Controversy: The bottom line is that oxygen and bacteria are the primary culprits in the deterioration of foods.  Just as fire can’t live without oxygen, bacteria doesn’t do so well without it either.  The bottling butter process eliminates oxygen from the butter.  However, nothing—not the canning of any item—can  be certain to  “kill” botulism.  You simply need to make sure that you do not provide a source for botulism in the first place.

Botulism is a muscle-paralyzing disease caused by a toxin made by a bacterium, Clostridium botulinum.  Such bacteria are commonly found in soil.  Butter is not a substance harvested from soil.  Additionally, instances of botulism have been mostly eradicated in the U.S.  Each year, the CDC records roughly 25 cases of food borne botulism poisoning.  Most of the findings originate in some fermented whale and other traditional foods prepared by Alaska natives.  There has not been a case of commercially prepared foods containing botulism since the early 1970s.  (Click here for a link of warning)

I have found that the majority of those who state that bottling butter is dangerous are relying primarily on a report issued by the USDA as linked for you above.  In other words, the primary entity stating NOT to bottle your own butter is the Department of Agriculture.  While I may sound a bit like a rebel, I don’t give that much stock.  After all, the FDA, Surgeons General, etc., have made a whole lot of big mistakes over the years such as “smoking IS NOT hazardous”, “Laetrile will not help with cancer”, “Ephedrine is perfectly safe”, just to name a few.  I’ve found that a great deal of “government studies” always tend to benefit the person who’s paying for the study.  Clearly it would not be financially beneficial to the commercial dairy manufacturers if folks were bottling their own butter. 

While you’ll have to make this decision for yourself, I for one will be bottling my own butter and stocking up on it any time I can get it for less than $1.50 a pound.  After all, does the USDA tell you that you can store cheese on your own for 25 years, or that you can store “fresh” eggs for 9 months?  I think not.  And yet I KNOW that these methods work.  I’ve also seen several “butter storing” canisters for sale on the shelves at kitchens supply stores.  Again, the concept is that you can store the butter on your counter by eliminating the oxygen that gets into it.

I have a confession to make.  I keep my butter on the counter by the toaster for when I have toast.  I don’t refrigerate it.  I’ve done it ever since I was a little kid, ’cause that’s just what Mom and Grandma did.  I’ve NEVER gotten food poisoning—ever.

When it comes to using your bottled butter, I have a recommendation.  In an emergency situation where you’re having to make your supplies last for “who knows how long” I don’t recommend using your bottled butter for anything other than buttering.  Applesauce, pie fillings, oils, and so many other items will suffice as substitues in your other baking and cooking endeavors.  So don’t think that you have to bottle enough butter to use in everything to last you for a year.  Save the butter moments for when it really counts.

Here are the bottled butter instructions.  You’ll see that they are VERY easy.

  • As an extra precaution, I place all of my jars, rings (no seals), utensils, pots, funnel, etc., that I am going to use for this project out in my solar oven for about 30 minutes at 200 to 250 degrees so that they are all sanitized.
  • You can use any butter available, but I don’t recommend bottling margarine.   The less quality of butter that you buy will take a little bit more “shaking’ but I’ll get to that later.  The results are the same regardless of how much you spend on the butter.
  • (One pound of butter slightly more than fills one pint jar, so if you melt 11 pounds of butter, heat 12 pint jars.  A roasting pan works well for holding the pint jars while in the oven.)
  • Heat up your clean, pint jars in a 250 degree oven for 20 minutes, without rings or seals.
  • While the jars are heating in your oven, melt your unwrapped butter slowly in a pot on your stove until it comes to a slow boil.  DO NOT DO THIS IN THE MICROWAVE.  Be sure that the pot you are using is EXTRA clean and sanitized.  (I always like to make sure the pot I use has gone through the sanitize cycle of my dishwasher or the sanitation recommendation above.)  Boil the butter for 5 minutes like this.  Using a clean utensil, stir the bottom of the pot often to keep the butter from scorching.  When you rest the utensil, be certain that it is NOT placed on any area that may have germs.  Being sure to do a slow boil will make the necessary shaking time shorter.
  • Place the rings and lids in a pot boiling water for about 10 minutes, or until needed.  Use tongs to pull them out of the water to avoid burning your hands.
  • Once the butter is finished boiling, remove it from the heat.  Using a ladle or small measuring cup, scoop the butter from the pan and pour it into the jars.  I like using a funnel to ensure I don’t leave a mess.   Fill the jars leaving a ¾ inch of head space in the jar.  This allows room for the shaking process.
  • Wipe off the top of the jars with a clean, sanitized towel or wash cloth. Place a hot lid and ring on the jar.  Secure lids.  The lids will seal as they cool.  Once a few lids “ping,” shake the entire jar while the jars are still warm, but cool enough to handle safely.  You are doing this because the butter will separate and become foamy on top and white on the bottom.  You want to blend it as much as possible while it cools.  Repeat this every 5 minutes for about 15 minutes.  You will begin to see a the same consistency in the entire jar.
  • Now place your jars into the refrigerator.  While they are cooling and hardening, shake again every 5 to 10 minutes for a half hour.  The butter will begin to look like firm butter.  Be sure that you don’t skip this step as the final shaking is very important!  Check every 5 minutes and give the jars a little shake until they are hardened in the jar.  Leave the jars in the fridge for a total of one hour.

Canned butter will store for 3 to 5 years or longer on a cool, dark shelf.  I’ve had butter as “old as 7 years” with no problems or compromise in taste.  Know that your bottled butter will not re-melt after you’ve bottled it so you won’t need to refrigerate it after opening (yet another plus, in my book), though you should still plan on using it up within a reasonable amount of time.

Ultimately, if you don’t want to bottle butter, you can store it in your freezer and then use it up if your electricity dies.  If you decide that THEN would be a good time to try to bottle the butter after all, you can do so with a solar oven or simply by the power of the sun in your backyard.  But that’s another story.

Copyright 2009 Preparedness Pro & Kellene Bishop.  All rights reserved.  You are welcome to repost this information so long as it is credited to Preparedness Pro & Kellene Bishop.

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