Monday, June 7, 2010

Canning Butter


 
     
Now you can purchase canned butter from The Internet Grocer http://www.internet-grocer.net/butter.htm or make it yourself using the directions below.
1.   Use any butter that is on sale. Lesser quality butter requires more shaking (see #5 below), but the results are the same as with the expensive brands.
2.   Heat pint jars in a 250 degree oven for 20 minutes, without rings or seals. 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.
3.  While the jars are heating, melt butter slowly until it comes to a slow boil. Using a large spatula, stir the bottom of the pot often to keep the butter from scorching. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes at least: a good simmer time will lessen the amount of shaking required (see #5 below). Place the lids in a small pot and bring to a boil, leaving the lids in simmering water until needed.
4.   Stirring the melted butter from the bottom to the top with a soup ladle or small pot with a handle, pour the melted butter carefully into heated jars through a canning jar funnel. Leave 3/4" of head space in the jar, which allows room for the shaking process.
5.   Carefully wipe off the top of the jars, then get a hot lid from the simmering water, add the lid and ring and tighten securely. Lids will seal as they cool. Once a few lids "ping," shake while the jars are still warm, but cool enough to handle easily, because the butter will separate and become foamy on top and white on the bottom. In a few minutes, shake again, and repeat until the butter retains the same consistency throughout the jar.
6.   At this point, while still slightly warm, put the jars into a refrigerator. While cooling and hardening, shake again, and the melted butter will then look like butter and become firm. This final shaking is very important! Check every 5 minutes and give the jars a little shake until they are hardened in the jar! Leave in the refrigerator for an hour.
7.   Canned butter should store for 3 years or longer on a cool, dark shelf. [It does last a long time.  We have just used up the last of the butter we canned in 1999, and it was fine after 5 years.] Canned butter does not "melt" again when opened, so it does not need to be refrigerated upon opening, provided it is used within a reasonable length of time.
  A lovely glow seems to emanate from every jar. You will also be glowing with grateful satisfaction while placing this "sunshine in a jar" on your pantry shelves.
We have canned over 75 pints of butter in the past year. Miles loves it and will open a jar when I'm not looking! I buy butter on sale, then keep it frozen until I have enough for canning 2 or 3 batches of a dozen jars each
Now please read what the USDA says about “canning” butter and use your knowingness before embarking in this process.  Remember there are canned butter products on the market.

Should I use directions for canning butter at home that I see on the Internet?
Indeed, there are some directions for 'canning' butter in circulation on the Internet. Most of what we have seen are not really canning, as they do not have Boiling Water or Pressure Canning processes applied to the filled jar. Jars are preheated, the butter is melted down and poured into the jars, and the lids are put on the jars. Some directions say to put the jars in the refrigerator as they re-harden, but to keep shaking them at regular intervals to keep the separating butter better mixed as it hardens. This is merely storing butter in canning jars, not ‘canning’. True home canning is when the food is heated enough to destroy or sufficiently acid enough to prevent growth of all spores of Clostridium botulinum (that causes botulism) and other pathogens during room temperature storage on the shelf.

Additionally, when you consider the economics of the process (energy costs involved with heating, cost of jars and lids, etc.), even if the butter is bought on sale, it may not be economically viable to prepare butter to store for years in this manner. Good quality butter is readily available at all times, if butter is needed for fresh use. If the concern is about emergency food supplies, there are dry forms of butter that can be purchased and stored, oils that can be used in an emergency, or commercially canned butter in tins (although we have only seen this for sale from other countries). Melted and re-hardened butter may not function the same as original butter in many types of baking anyway.

There are a few issues with the common directions circulating on the Internet at this time (Spring 2006):
1.      Physical safety and food quality: In the provided directions, the jars are preheated in an oven (dry-heat), which is not recommended for canning jars. Manufacturers of canning jars do not recommend baking or oven canning in the jars. It is very risky with regard to causing jar breakage. There is no guarantee that the jars heated in this dry manner are sufficiently heated to sterilize them, as we do not have data on sterilizing jar surfaces by this dry-heating method.
2.      The butter is not really being 'canned'; it is simply being melted and put in canning jars, and covered with lids. Due to some heat present from the hot melted butters and preheated jars, some degree of vacuum is pulled on the lids to develop a seal. It rarely is as strong a vacuum as you obtain in jars sealed through heat processing. The practice in these 'canned' butter directions is referred to as 'open-kettle' canning in our terminology, which is really no canning at all, since the jar (with product in it) is not being heat processed before storage.
3.      Although mostly fat, butter is a low-acid food. Meat, vegetables, butter, cream, etc. are low-acid products that will support the outgrowth of C. botulinum and toxin formation in a sealed jar at room temperature. Low-acid products have to be pressure-canned by tested processes to be kept in a sealed jar at room temperature. It is not clear what the botulism risk is from such a high-fat product, but to store a low-acid moist food in a sealed jar at room temperature requires processing to destroy spores. A normal salted butter has about 16-17% water, some salt, protein, vitamins and minerals. Some butter-like spreads have varying amounts of water in them. We have no kind of database in the home canning/food processing arena to know what the microbiological concerns would be in a butter stored at room temperature in a sealed jar. In the absence of that, given that it is low-acid and that fats can protect spores from heat if they are in the product during a canning process, we cannot recommend storing butter produced by these methods under vacuum sealed conditions at room temperature.
4.      Some other directions do call for 'canning' the filled jars of butter in a dry oven. This also is not 'canning'. There is not sufficient, research-based documentation to support that 'canning' any food in a dry oven as described on this web page or any page that proposes oven canning is even sufficient heating to destroy bacteria of concern, let alone enough to produce a proper seal with today's home canning lids.

In conclusion, with no testing having been conducted to validate these methods, we would NOT recommend or endorse them as a safe home-canning process, let alone for storing butter at room temperature for an extended period. We do know that the methods given for preheating empty jars, or even filled jars, in a dry oven are not recommended by the jar manufacturers or by us for any food. Aside from the physical safety and quality issues, and the fact that it is not canning at all, if there happened to be spores of certain bacteria in there, these procedures will not destroy those spores for safe room temperature storage.

11 comments:

Katidids said...

THANK YOU!!!!! I've heard of this bit havn't found a recipe/directions. I stock up while its on sale and it takes up so much freezer space. This will help a lot. Have to try it in the next few weeks & let you know how it goes. Again thank you!!!!

Tammy said...

Thank you so much for these instructions!

The Apple Pie Gal said...

Wow! This is NEAT! I am going to have to try this!!!

Laura @ Laura Williams' Musings said...

Hi. I just found your blog. I am an avid canner but I have never canned butter.

I do need clarification on the butter. You are talking about "REAL" butter right and not the margarine junk that my mother would call butter? lol

Frugal Canner said...

Real butter is used! I never use margarine or the altered stuff. A jar of this and a jar of quick bread would be an awesome present. Look up quick breads and you will get the canning instructions on my site.

Laura @ Laura Williams' Musings said...

Thank you! What I call butter (and you too apparently) is not the true butter vocabulary for many. They think margarine is butter (gag).

Anonymous said...

I'm game for trying this method but am curious if anyone has ever pressure canned butter? I was thinking about melting the butter enough to get in in jars and pressure canning... Has anyone tried this? If so how long did you process it?

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