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

With the continuous legalization of cannabis in North America, consumers look to edibles as part of their cannabis experience. Ahead of 4/20, DINE is presenting weekly recipes for our readers to try at home. This week, a staple you'll need for many of them: Cannabutter

Cannabutter
Credit: @littlemaryandjanelife

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 4.20pm, to look for it. After a number of failed attempts, their 4.20pm meet-up just became an excuse to smoke weed.

A lot has happened since. Followers of The Grateful Dead adopted the 420 moniker 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 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 one 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 your 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 colour 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:
  1. Grind the cannabis coarsely with a hand grinder. A fine powder makes it more difficult to activate the cannabinoids. That is why we do not recommend chopping it in your food processor or coffee grinder.
  2. Add one cup of water and the 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.
  3. Once the butter is melted, add your cannabis.
  4. 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. Note: The steam emitting from the pot has a potent cannabis smell. If your landlord does not condone use in your building, consider making this at a more tolerant place.
  5. 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. Many other recipes will tell you to really squeeze out every bit of butter once the dripping has stopped. We recommend against that. It may push some not-so-great tasting plant material through your cloth.
  6. Close the lid on your container and refrigerate. If you’re afraid that there is still water left over 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.
  7. 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 crock pot 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.

Dosage and Potency

It is very hard to measure how potent your homemade cannabis edibles are going to be. For an exact measurement you would have to get it tested in a lab. The potency of the strain, as well as the conversion percentages achieved in the process vary widely. We will show you in a calculation below what the highest potency for this recipe is likely to be. If you can’t be bothered following our math, try half or a quarter teaspoon of the butter on a cracker or a piece of toast.

Note: It takes far longer for THC edibles to take effect. Wait for an hour before you consume more. If you want to feel a stronger buzz, take some more after that. The effect of edibles are longer than when you smoke weed. Highs can last anywhere from 1-12 hours. You should not be driving or operating heavy machinery for at least 12-18 hours.

If you feel like you have taken too much, don’t panic. Lie down and continuously hydrate. Contrary to popular belief, do not eat fatty foods. Studies have shown that eating prolongs the effect. Other tips on what to do can be found here.

Let’s Do Some Math

The recommended dose for an inexperienced consumer of THC edibles is between 10mg of THC. In our calculations (which are again nearly impossible to get right) we’d like to err on the side of caution. We are taking idealized numbers and are confident you can adapt your calculations accordingly.

Your purchased-cannabis should say the THC potency on the packaging. Sometimes the THCA value is printed on the label, which is a little higher than the effective THC percentage (THC% is smaller by a factor of 0.88). We will disregard this fact, since we want to be careful anyways. To make our calculations easier we use a cannabis strain with a THC percentage of exactly 20% (a rather common value.)

Experts say that THC extraction into fats and oils is highly ineffective, only transferring between 40-60% of the cannabinoids. Manufacturers say that number is even lower, around 30%. As a compromise and to make it easier on us, we say that we manage to convert 50% of cannabinoids into our cannabutter. As mentioned in the recipe, we use a cup of cannabis buds, which is around 10g – the number we’ll use for the calculations.

Calculation:

Ok, let’s get started. These are the numbers we need to know:

  • 10g (=10,000mg) of cannabis
  • The cannabis has a potency of 20% THC
  • The ideal conversion rate used here is 50%
  • Recommended dose per person is 10mg

Since only a fifth of the bud is THC, we have 2g (2,000mg) of THC in the plant material. Only half of the THC infuses into the butter. This leaves us with 1g (1,000mg) of THC in our cannabutter. In the recipe we use 250g (250,000mg) of butter, which means that in every gram of butter we have 4mg of THC. If you follow our guidelines of only ingesting 10mg of THC, you should use 2.5 grams (or half a teaspoon) of cannabutter per person.

Doubling the amount of butter in the recipe to a pound would weaken the cannabutter by half. In that case, you could cook with a teaspoon of cannabutter per person.

Did this go over your head? Summary: About half a teaspoon of butter per person should be enough for the euphoric effects you seek. If it is not, try a little more the next time.

Let us know how it turns out!

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