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Baking delicious edibles begins with making cannabutter. This cannabis-infused butter, also called weed butter and cannabis butter, holds the chemical that gives edibles their effect. Creating cannabutter at home takes at least seven hours and could take longer, so factor in an extra day if you plan to bake edibles.

What Is Cannabis Butter?

Cannabutter is regular butter that's been transformed into something more potent. The main active chemical in cannabis is THC. When cannabis is cooked with butter, the fat in the butter absorbs THC from the weed. Then, when the cannabutter is used in baking edibles like cookies and brownies, the person eating the treats feels the effects and benefits of the chemical.

But don't imagine that all cannabutters are the same and have the same effect on the eater of the edibles. Levels of THC vary across the different strains of cannabis, so naturally this affects how much of the chemical transfers during the cannabutter cooking process. What's more, to have the maximum affect, the THC must be pre-activated, and not all cannabis has been prepared in this way.

Cannabis that has been through the THC activation process is called decarboxylated. You can buy decarboxylated cannabis or you can activate the THC in the weed yourself before making cannabutter. The decarboxylation process involves baking the weed in an oven to supply the heat to activate the chemical. If you don't use decarboxylated cannabis, the THC is somewhat activated when you bake the edibles, but the effect is patchy and unpredictable.

Homemade Decarboxylating Cannabis

If you can't buy decarboxylated cannabis, you can make it at home using untreated cannabis. Decarboxylating cannabis takes about 1 1/2 hours. The first step involves drying out the buds to make them easier to break apart. Then cook the broken-up buds on a low heat to activate the THC.

Set your oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit, then spread parchment paper on a baking sheet. Place the cannabis buds on the sheet in a layer one bud deep, grouped loosely together. Bake the buds for 20 minutes until they are slightly brown. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the buds to cool for 10 or 15 minutes before breaking them into pieces with your fingers.

Turn up the temperature of your oven to 260 F, and cover the baking sheet with tinfoil, sealing it around the edges. Return the sheet to the oven and bake the cannabis for another 45 minutes. Remove the baking sheet and check to see that the buds have broken down to the texture of dried oregano. If they're still a little chunky, place them in a blender and blend until they reach that dried-herb consistency.

Tip

Don't be tempted to save time by cooking the cannabis on a higher heat. You'll only end up with burnt buds, which won't taste at all nice in your cannabutter, and will create a nasty smell in your home.

Potency Control of Edibles

To avoid taking your chances with the potency of edibles, a little math is required. Some cannabis strains contain around 15 percent THC, while others contain as much as 30 percent. If you're using decarboxylated cannabis, you can be fairly certain the potency of the THC will transfer to the butter. So, if you use cannabis that has a high percentage of THC, the cannabutter will be potent, too.

Adjusting the ratio of cannabis to butter in your cannabutter recipe helps to control the cannabutter's potency. Imagine that your cannabis is 30 percent THC. A ratio of 1 ounce of cannabis to 1 pound of butter is going to result in a very potent cannabutter. On the other hand, if you use only 1/4 ounce of this strong cannabis to 1 pound of butter, the effects of the cannabutter will be milder.

Bear in mind that once the weed butter is made, you can't reduce or increase its potency. However, you can affect the strength of your edibles by adjusting the amount of regular butter you use in proportion to cannabutter. So, if a brownie recipe requires 4 ounces of butter, you can decide how much of that will be cannabis butter and how much will be regular butter. Increasing the ratio of regular butter to cannabutter reduces the potency of the edibles.

Tip

If you're unsure about the strain of your cannabis and its potency, ask your supplier.

Cannabutter Recipe

Before you begin making cannabutter, it's best to be aware that the cooking process will fill your house with the odor of cannabis. The butter, water and cannabis mixture boils for hours, creating plenty of steam that permeates your home. If the smell is likely to cause problems, you can cook cannabutter in a Crockpot, or slow cooker, where the steam is more contained and the smell reduced. However, the resulting product isn't as potent as cannabutter cooked on a stovetop.

Total Time: 3 hours | Prep Time: 10 minutes | Makes: 1 pound cannabutter

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 pound unsalted butter, or 4 sticks
  • 1/2 ounce decarboxylated cannabis, ground to the texture of dried oregano

Directions:

  1. Add 2 cups of water and 1 pound of butter to a saucepan and heat the pan on medium heat.

  2. When the butter starts to melt, add the cannabis and stir it in.

  3. Turn the heat to low and stir the mixture every 20 to 30 minutes as it simmers, scraping any solids from the bottom of the saucepan. 

  4. Add water if the mixture begins to dries out and try to maintain a temperature no hotter than 250 F, or the butter may scorch. You can check the temperature with a cooking thermometer.

  5. When the surface of the mixture turns thick and glossy, after 2 to 3 hours, turn off the heat.

  6. Place a sieve across a medium bowl and spread a cheesecloth inside the sieve, allowing the edges of the cloth to hang outside.

  7. Pour the cannabutter mixture from the saucepan into the sieve, taking care not to splash yourself with the hot liquid. 

  8. Wait a few minutes for the liquid to drain into the bowl, then fold in the edges of the cheesecloth to make a package.

  9. Press the folded cloth firmly with a rubber spatula to squeeze out the remaining liquid.

  10. Remove the sieve and cheesecloth from the bowl. Discard the contents of the cloth.

  11. Wait for the mixture to cool before covering the bowl in plastic wrap and placing it in the refrigerator. The cannabutter will form a solid block surrounded by the remaining water in about three hours. You could also just leave it overnight.

  12. Remove the solid block from the bowl and throw away the remaining liquid.

  13. Dry the block of cannabutter with a paper towel and scrap off any discolored patches.

  14. Wrap two layers of plastic wrap around the cannabutter and place the block in an airtight container, ready to use to bake your edibles.

  15. Store cannabutter in the refrigerator for no longer than two months, or six months in the freezer.

Tip

If you're making cannabutter in a slow cooker, the mixture takes eight to 24 hours to turn thick and glossy, so check it regularly. After that, proceed as you would for the stovetop method.

Cannabis Oil Is an Alternative to Cannabutter

Vegans and lactose intolerance sufferers don't have to miss out on enjoying edibles. Cannabis oil is a dairy-free alternative to cannabutter that can be used in recipes calling for oil rather than butter. You can also rub the oil into sore parts of the body as a pain reliever and add it to smoothies or coffee. Another advantage of cannabis oil is that it can be stored at room temperature.

The same principles apply to making cannabis oil as apply to making cannabutter. However, it isn't necessary to add water to the mixture of cannabis and oil when you're cooking it. Decarboxylated cannabis gives the most predictable and potent results, and the percentage of THC in the cannabis strain corresponds to the potency of the cannabis oil. Cooking cannabis oil also creates a strong odor in your home.

This recipe uses coconut oil, which is effective at absorbing the THC in cannabis and, in fact, is more effective than butter. The reason for the superiority of coconut oil is its 90 percent saturated fat content; butter contains only 60 percent saturated fat. A second important ingredient used in making cannabis oil is a natural substance called lecithin, which works as an emulsifier. Emulsifying the cannabis oil makes it easier to absorb by the digestive system.

Total Time: 8 to 12 hours | Prep Time: 10 minutes | Makes: About 1 cup cannabis oil

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon lecithin (you can add up to 1 tablespoon if you don't mind the taste)
  • 3/4 cup decarboxylated cannabis

Directions:

  1. Add the coconut oil, lecithin and cannabis to a slow cooker.

  2. Set the Crockpot's temperature control to low or warm, whichever gives a temperature of about 160 F. Put on the lid.

  3. Stir the mixture every half-hour or so. This is a long cooking process, so set a timer if you think you might forget when to stir. Carefully scrape the bottom of the slow cooker to prevent the cannabis from sticking and burning.

  4. Turn off the slow cooker after 8 to 12 hours of cooking. Longer cooking results in a more potent oil. You may have to turn the pot off regularly to prevent the temperature from rising too high, causing the oil to smoke. 

  5. Place a sieve on top of a medium bowl and line the sieve with a piece of cheesecloth.

  6. Pour the mixture into the sieve.

  7. Wait a half-hour to an hour for the mixture to drain through and to cool enough to touch with your bare hand.

  8. Draw the edges of the cheesecloth together and tie them with string so the remaining mixture is held in a pouch. 

  9. Wash your hands and then squeeze the pouch over the bowl to extract all the remaining cannabis oil.

  10. Remove the cheesecloth pouch and sieve, and pour the cannabis oil into a glass jar with a tight-sealing lid.

  11. Put the lid on the jar and place the sealed jar in a cool, dark place or in your refrigerator.

  12. Store cannabis oil for up to three months at room temperature. 

Don't worry if the cannabis oil mixture smokes as it's cooking. All is not lost. High temperatures will evaporate some of the active compounds in the cannabis, but you can rescue the mixture. Turn off the Crockpot and wait for the oil to cool before continuing the cooking process.

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About the Author

Jenny Green

Jenny Green has a Masters in English literature and has been a freelance writer since 2008.