A butter paddle is a tool used in traditional butter making; it is also sometimes called a butter hand or Scotch hand. Typically made from wood, the utensil has a broad blade and a short handle. In some cases, the blade of the paddle may be marked with a series of small ridges, which make the tool more versatile around the kitchen. Some kitchen supply stores sell these, and the tool can also be custom-ordered from companies which specialize in butter making utensils.
When butter is made by hand, the process has multiple steps, starting with allowing the milk to sit so that the cream rises to the top. The cream is churned to solidify it, causing chunks of butter to start floating on the top of the liquid in the butter churn. These chunks are pulled out with a ladle and worked with a butter paddle to remove all of the excess liquid which might be trapped inside of them. The butter is rinsed with clear, cold water while the butter is worked.
Using a butter paddle ensures that the butter is pure butter, without pockets of liquid or air. This is extremely important, because residual buttermilk can cause butter to go rancid. It also firms the texture of the butter, allowing it to be easily packed into butter molds. When packing, the paddle is used to firmly tamp the butter down so that it evenly fills the entire butter mold.
Many consumers do not make their own butter, because it requires a great deal of milk and butter is readily available in grocery stores. Learning to make butter can be an interesting experience, however, and it can give consumers a new appreciation for the work which goes into butter making. Many consumers cheat and use a food processor instead of a butter churn for the churning process, but the butter will still need to be worked with a butter paddle to yield a storable product.
There are other uses for a butter paddle around the kitchen. Ridged paddles are often used to create ridged patterns or lines in other foods, ranging from cake frosting to pasta. The tool can also be utilized in the production of other foods which need to be worked, such as doughs. In pasta making, the butter paddle is used to make the classic lines in gnocci and garganelli pasta, which help these pasta shapes retain sauce.