When butter goes on sale, I love to stock up, but I don’t like it taking up room in my freezer. So instead, I can it. Canning butter with a pressure canner makes it shelf stable for up to 5 years, making it perfect for emergency preparedness also.
With the way that prices are going up these days, I have been putting extra effort into watching for sales on items we normally purchase at the grocery store so I can stock up.
As a family of 5, we go through a lot of butter, but at $6.00 a pound now, I try to only buy it when it’s on sale.
The last time butter went on sale, it was on for $3.57 per pound at 2 different stores. So I bought the maximum number of pounds from each store (they typically limit butter purchases to 4 per person), so I purchased 4 pounds of salted and 4 pounds of unsalted from each store. That gave me a total of 16 pounds of butter.
I put the butter in the freezer temporarily, until I knew I would have time to can it.
Why Can Butter Instead of Freezing It?
The one question I get asked most frequently about canning butter is… WHY???
Why on earth would you go to all the trouble of canning butter, when it freezes perfectly well, and you can just take it out of the freezer as you need it??
Well, there are a few reasons, actually!
1. Freezer Space
We have limited freezer space, so anything that I can can instead of freezing, I do.
I try to use my freezer as temporary storage until I get around to canning things.
For instance, in the summer, as my tomatoes are ripening on my tomato plants, I toss them in gallon-sized ziplock bags and put them in the freezer. I keep collecting them that way until I have enough to can, and then I pull them out and defrost them.
We buy meat in bulk in the late fall/early winter, and it all goes into the freezer. Throughout the winter I pull it out and can it – either on its own, or in various soups, stews, and chilis.
As I pull things out to can them, it makes space for other bulk purchases or sale items as I pick them up.
By the time the summer garden rolls around, most of the meat has been canned, which frees up space for summer produce.
It’s a continuous process! But it means we don’t have to have multiple freezers.
2. Less Reliance on Electricity
For preparedness reasons, I try to limit our dependence on electricity as much as possible – freezers require electricity to run.
So anything I can make shelf stable instead, increases our resilience, and decreases our reliance on electricity.
3. No Defrosting Needed
Really… is there anything worse than realizing you’re out of butter, and you take a rock-solid brick of butter out of the freezer? Have you ever tried spreading that on bread? Or baking with frozen butter?
Canned butter is always defrosted and ready to use!
4. Garlic Butter
I love to chop up some fresh garlic to add to some of the jars, for ready-made garlic butter! Almost everything that tastes good with butter on it, tastes even better with garlic butter.
5. It Comes in its Own Butter Dish
Canned butter conveniently comes in its own butter dish… known as a mason jar! It even has a lid and everything. 🙂
When we use up the butter in the jar, I just pop it in the dishwasher and open another one. I no longer have to wash a butter dish before getting out a new (frozen) block of butter.
It’s also easy to grab a jar of butter to take with you on a camping trip or a picnic!
I like to can butter in various sized jars – from the mini jelly jars right up to pints. That way if we only want a little jar for something, we can just grab that and take it with us.
6. Canned Butter Spreads Nicely
Canned butter has a slightly different consistency than regular butter. It almost takes on a fluffier texture due to the shaking process you need to do after canning it. (You’ll see what I mean when I show you the instructions for canning butter).
Canning Butter: How I Do It
Important note: Canning butter is NOT recommended by the National Centre for Home Food Preservation, nor anyone else who tests for safe canning practices. In general, canning dairy is not a recommended practice.
However, people have been canning butter and various other dairy products in their home for decades, if not longer.
As with anything, I highly recommend doing your own research and deciding for yourself what you feel is safe for your family.
Therefore this is not a tutorial on canning butter, I’m simply sharing how I can butter for my own family.
Pressure Canning Butter
The method I use for canning butter, is the pressure canning method.
There are other methods out there, such as water bath canning, or no canning at all (simply pouring the melted butter into hot jars with hot lids, and letting them self-seal.
However, I consider butter to be a meat product, so I personally didn’t feel comfortable with these methods. (That doesn’t mean they’re wrong – I always use the expression “My Kitchen, My Rules”) – there are many who use these methods with great success. I personally choose to go ahead and pressure can it, for peace of mind. Also, pressure canning extends the shelf life of canned butter considerably.
Therefore, I would only recommend this method to those who are already experienced with pressure canning. Since this is a non-traditional canning recipe, you definitely wouldn’t want to start with canning butter.
If you’re new to pressure canning, I recorded a video of unboxing my pressure canner. I used chicken broth as the first item I canned, as it’s pretty simple and doesn’t require a lot of prep work. You can see that video here:
This post may contain affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase through one of these links, I make a small amount of commission at no extra cost to you. See full disclosure here.
Supplies Needed for Canning Butter
Extra Canning Racks – If your canner allows for double-stacking (the Presto canner I linked above does), you’ll need an extra rack to put between the 2 levels of jars. I always try to run a full canner, so if I’m doing pints or smaller, I always double stack!
Stock Pot – If you don’t already have a good stock pot, it’s a must-have, and a workhorse when it comes to canning! I only have one, but I’m planning to purchase a second one this year, since mine gets SO much use.
Mason Jars (Your choice of size – I like to use a combination of pints, half pints, and 1/4 pints. I wouldn’t recommend anything larger than a pint). I also like to use jars that have straight sides – it makes it easier to get the butter out of the jar.
Canning Lids – Please only use NEW lids for canning butter. This is not a recipe where you will want to use previously used lids.
Canning Rings – I have a bajillion of these since they come with the canning jars. It is perfectly fine to re-use canning rings, as they are just holding on the lids while you are pressure canning. They don’t come into contact with the food inside the jar.
Jar Lifter – You will have boiling hot butter inside those jars, so a jar lifter makes it safer and easier to remove your jars from your pressure canner.
Stainless Steel Funnel – Some people use plastic funnels for canning. I prefer stainless steel for anything that is hot, as I don’t want hot food coming into contact with plastic.
Stainless Steel Ladle – Same as above, many people like plastic ladles for canning, I prefer stainless steel
Tongs or a Magnetic Wand for lifting lids out of simmering water – we want everything to stay sanitized so you don’t really want to be picking them up with your fingers (plus, they’re hot!)
Tea Towels – I always like to place my hot jars on tea towels, both to prevent placing hot jars on my countertops, and also provides a little cushioning to reduce the risk of jar breakage when I set the jars down.
A Clean Rag or Paper Towel for wiping the rims of your jars, plus a small dish with vinegar in it.
Ingredients for Canning Butter
Ok, a bit simplistic, but that’s really it.
My canner will hold about 16 pints, which equates to roughly 14 lbs of butter. (I am somewhat guessing at this, because I used 16 lbs and it was a little too much, but when I did a batch of 12 lbs, it wasn’t enough. So 14 should be just right, you might have a little leftover, but you can just pour it into a jar and use it first.
I like to use half salted and half unsalted. You can use all salted if you want, but know that the saltiness intensifies with the canning process, and can create a bit of a grainy texture in your butter.
You could also can some unsalted butter if you prefer that.
Steps for Canning Butter
Remember that since there is no approved method for canning butter, this isn’t really a tutorial. But below I will share the steps for how I do it.
I would only recommend trying this if you are already experienced with pressure canning. Always read your pressure canning manual for specific instructions.
1. Prepare Jars and Lids
When pressure canning, your jars and lids don’t need to be sterilized. I just washed them in hot soapy water.
I then placed the clean jars in the oven at 225 degrees to dry them and keep them hot. (You don’t want to pour hot liquid into cold jars).
Then I placed the lids in a pot with some simmering water to keep them hot.
2. Get Tools Ready
I washed all my other tools, and got my little bowl of vinegar and a cloth ready for wiping my rims.
3. Prepare Pressure Canner
Next, I prepared my pressure canner. Remember to follow the instructions for your own canner. Mine requires 12 cups of water, so I put that in, and then turned the heat on low to start heating up the water.
4. Prepare Butter
Once all the equipment was ready, I moved on to the butter.
I should mention that I pulled my butter out of the freezer a couple days ahead of time to defrost it. (We have an extra refrigerator in our garage for this type of thing, since I would never have enough room in my main refrigerator!)
There are 16 lbs of butter here, but next time I would only do 14, as I believe that’s what would fit best in my canner. Depending on the size of your canner, you may be able to do more, or less. You can fit slightly less than 1 lb of butter per pint sized jar. So make your calculations based on that.
One at a time, I peeled off the wrappers, and placed them in a stock pot at medium-low heat. You don’t want to boil your butter, just melt it and get it hot.
I kept stirring the butter as I was adding it, to make sure nothing would get burnt at the bottom of the pot.
Once the butter is fully melted and hot, it’s ready to ladle into the jars.
5. Fill Jars
I pulled my jars out of the oven only 2 at a time, to ensure they stayed nice and hot. Placed the funnel into one and began filling.
I made sure to stir the butter with the ladle before each scoop, to make sure I was getting both the cream and the fat into each jar.
I filled the jars to about 1″ headspace, which is right around the bottom thread of the jar.
I continued pulling out and filling jars, until I had enough to fill my canner.
You’ll notice that as the foam settled, the level dropped slightly below 1″ headspace, so I topped those jars off with a little extra butter before putting on the lids.
I wiped all of my rims with a little vinegar on the cloth.
6. Place Lids & Rings On The Jars
Using the metallic wand, I picked up each lid from the pot of simmering water. I tried to drip as much water off the lid as possible before placing it on the jar. I wanted to avoid getting any water into the jar, since butter is a fat.
Once all the lids were on the jars, I put on the screw bands, finger tip tight.
7. Place Jars Into the Pressure Canner
One by one, I placed the jars into the pressure canner. This is where the jar lifter comes in. Hot butter is HOT!
Once the bottom level was full, I placed the second rack on top of the jars.
And then filled the top level.
I then attached the lid, turned up the heat, and vented the canner for a full 10 minutes. (Remember to follow the instructions for your own canner).
After venting, I placed the weight on, waited for it to start jiggling, then set my timer for 75 minutes. This is the amount of time needed to pressure can pints of meat, so I used the same amount of time for the butter.
8. Remove Jars from the Pressure Canner
Once the canning was complete, and the pressure dropped, I removed the jars from the canner.
You’ll notice the butter is separated, and looks like it has a weird texture!! That’s ok, this is where the fun begins.
9. Shake The Butter!
You’ll want to leave the jars alone until you hear all the lids seal, and the jars are cool enough to handle.
Then, every 15 minutes or so, you’ll need to shake your jars! Since the fat separates from the cream, you’ll need to continue shaking in order to re-incorporate them.
This is where teenagers come in handy. We all took turns giving the butter a shake every time someone walked by the kitchen.
This can take a couple hours, depending on the temperature of the kitchen and how quickly the jars cool down.
We basically continued shaking, until they wouldn’t shake any more. The butter was basically solidified and everything was incorporated.
By this time, it was late at night, and I went to bed, and then finished up the next day.
10. Remove Rings & Clean Jars
The next morning, the butter was well solidified in the jars.
The outside of the jars can be a little greasy if you had any syphoning happen in the canner.
After canning anything, I ALWAYS remove my rings and wash the jars really well. This ensures that there is no residue or anything on the outside of the jar that could attract mold over time. Plus, clean jars are needed for labelling.
You’ll notice there are some smaller jars on the right. After filling my canner with the pints, I still had plenty of butter leftover. So I decided to make some garlic butter with what was left.
I just chopped up some of my fresh garlic and put a little in each jar, topped with butter and followed the same process as I did for the regular butter.
The garlic butter is AWESOME for making garlic powder, adding to mashed potatoes, or smearing over hot veggies. I have a feeling I’ll be canning a LOT more garlic butter in the future!
11. Label and Place Into Long-Term Storage
After washing & labelling my jars, they got moved into our cold room for long-term storage.
They don’t necessarily have to be stored in a cold room if you don’t have one. It’s just where I store all of our home-canned goods. Because it always stays slightly cooler than the rest of our house (even in summer), it helps extend the shelf life of our home canned food.
It’s also completely dark in there since there are no windows, which is important for anything that is in glass jars.
Canning Butter for Increased Self-Reliance
Every little thing we can do to make us less reliant on our ‘Just-In-Time’ supply chain system, helps us move one step closer to self-reliance.
Our family’s goal is to keep a one-year supply of food on hand at all times.
We use about a pound of butter per week, plus extra when we do occasional baking, so my goal is to keep 60 pints of butter in our food storage.
So each time butter goes on sale for a great deal, I’ll be repeating this process until we have our year’s supply.
Then we will continue to replenish our supply, always following the ‘First In, First Out’ rule.