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The Culinary Road to 4/20: Getting Started With Cannabutter

cannabutter e1552932379371
cannabutter e1552932379371
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Before we get to our cannabutter, a short history lesson… The origin story of 4/20 was cloaked in urban legends for a long time. First, it was wrongly attributed to a police code, then to the number of active ingredients in cannabis, or to the teatime in the Netherlands. The real origin of the term however, was coined by five Californian high school students, who called themselves the “Waldos”. The five friends were on the hunt for an abandoned cannabis crop that they had heard about. They would regularly meet after school at 4.20 pm, to look for it. After a number of failed attempts, their 4.20 pm meet-up just became an excuse to smoke weed.

A lot has happened since. Followers of The Grateful Dead adopted the 420 monikers and popularized it for the masses. With the growing legalization movement, April 20 (4/20), became an international counterculture holiday for the promotion of legalizing the recreational, and medical use of cannabis.

In Canada and in a growing number of states in the US, recreational use of cannabis has now been legalized. But many people are wary or turned off by smoking or vaping the plant. At DINE, we would like to offer a culinary alternative. Every week leading up to 4/20, we will post recipes containing THC. Since commercially produced edibles are not available for purchase in Canada yet, we will help you make your own.

A Little Science Lesson Upfront

While you are welcome to just ingest the raw cannabis plant or grate it over your food like oregano, it will not have a psychoactive effect on your body. In order to achieve these effects you have to activate the THC and CBD in the plant. If you smoke or vape cannabis, the heat from the combustion activates the cannabinoids in the plant. When cooking however, the process takes a little longer. THC has to be bound to fat cells. Oils and butter are some of the simplest ways to do that.

Today, we will give you a recipe for cannabutter, and next week, we’ll follow up with a vegan/lactose-free way to make the cannabis oil of your choice. Let’s start with our cannabutter. Many recipes on the internet will tell you that you can just heat ground cannabis with some butter in a saucepan for a couple of hours on low heat. While this is not incorrect, it will yield a weaker and worse tasting product. In our guide we will first decarboxylate your cannabis before infusing the butter.

Cooking with Cannabis
Credit: @merryjane
Let’s decarboxylate!

Cannabis buds produce a non-intoxicating, acidic cannabinoid called THCA. When we smoke or vaporize cannabis, the heat converts THCA into THC, the molecule that delivers euphoric effects. Since we cook with it, we have to “decarb” the plant. As said before, you could do this in the butter directly, but in our opinion, the cannabis and the butter shouldn’t spend more time together than absolutely necessary. We recommend putting your buds in the oven first.

  1. Preheat oven to 120°C (245°F).
  2. Line a non-stick baking tray with parchment paper and spread your cannabis (1 cup = 7-10g.)
  3. Insert into the oven and put a timer on for 40 minutes. Your bud might change color slightly during the process.

Note: Drier/older buds might only take 30 minutes, but we recommend the aforementioned 40.

Decarboxylating in the Oven
Credit: @herb.co
Cannabutter Recipe

You are now almost ready to start making some Cannabutter. We will show you two different methods: One with a saucepan and one with a slow cooker.

Ingredients and Equipment:
  • 1 cup of butter (250g)
  • one cup of decarboxylated cannabis flower
  • saucepan/slow cooker
  • cheesecloth
  • storing container (mason jar, Tupperware)
  • cannabis grinder
Saucepan Method:
  • Grind cannabis coarsely with a hand grinder
  • Add one cup of water and a half stick of butter to a saucepan and let simmer on low until the butter starts to melt. The water will prevent the butter from burning. If you want to forego the water, we recommend using salted butter, since it has a higher smoke point. Otherwise, use unsalted butter, since it can be used in any recipe
  • Once the butter is melted, add your cannabis
  • Simmer on low heat (ideally around 70°C=160°F). The temperature should not exceed 90°C (200°F), because at that point your butter will start to burn. Let the mixture simmer for 3 hours, stirring occasionally
  • Set a funnel on top of your storing container and line the funnel with cheesecloth. Pour the mixture through the cloth and let it strain freely
  • Close the lid on your container and refrigerate. If you’re afraid that there is still water leftover in your mixture, do not be. After an hour or two, the butter should have solidified and excess water will have sunk to the bottom. Scoop out the butter or create a hole to drain the excess water. Voilà
  • This refrigerated-butter should be good for one month. To make it last longer, freeze it.
Making Cannabutter
Credit: @tastecooking
Slow Cooker Method:
  1. Set your crockpot to low. If you can regulate your temperature exactly, set it to 70-75°C (160-165°F)
  2. Add your butter and ground cannabis to the slow cooker with a tablespoon of water (optional)
  3. Cook for 3 hours and stir occasionally.
  4. Let the mixture cool off a bit and then strain according to the instructions above.

Let us know how it turns out!

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Kevin Sachs

Written by Kevin Sachs

Kevin Sachs was born and raised in Zurich, Switzerland. As a former broadcast journalist for SRF, his previous works were featured in Haaretz, Le Matin, Tagesanzeiger, Süddeutsche Zeitung and AWE Magazine. With his passion for all things food and travel, it was only a matter of time until he ended up at DINE Magazine.

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