Vanity Fair. Butter.

A photo of a photo.

A photo of a photo.

I want to talk about making homemade butter–and I am going to talk about making homemade butter–but first I have to share something really exciting: I’m in this month’s Vanity Fair magazine, along with eight other (amazing) Atlanta authors. The VF people flew down from New York a couple of months ago, dolled us up, and shot hundreds of pics in front of the Swan Coach House, which is a gorgeous 1920′s mansion that is part of Atlanta’s History Center. The photographer’s name was Iris Brosch. She was amazing. She had such a light spirit she seemed almost ethereal, and yet she was absolutely focused and determined. The shoot was so much fun. I mean, how could it not have been? I was with author buddies of mine, dressed in this gorgeous frock I could have worn to my wedding, being photographed by a really smart creative woman. What’s not to love?

And what better snack goes with some juicy Vanity Fair reading than a nice cup of tea and a piece of buttered toast? (Hmm…me thinks that may have been the world’s worst segue.) What I am trying to get at is that butter is delicious and I have recently discovered how to make it homemade. Not that you need to make homemade butter, in fact butter is the last thing anyone needs to make, but if you are interested in doing it, I made it for the first time ever this weekend and I’m here to tell you it’s a snap. (Actually, I first made butter in kindergarten, when the headmaster of my elementary school dressed up like a pilgrim and we churned butter and ate corn muffins in honor of Thanksgiving break.)

The only ingredient is heavy cream. You take the cream, put it in a big glass bowl, and let it come to room temperature. Meanwhile take the butter paddles you have ordered off Amazon for $6.00 and soak them in ice water. Take an electric beater and whip the cream. First it will turn into soft whipped cream, then stiff whiped cream. Then it will turn lumpy and finally it will look like scrambled eggs. Keep beating. The amazing part is yet to come. You just keep letting those beaters spin, and suddenly your cream curds kind of burst and water (buttermilk, actually) starts sloshing around in the bowl. It’s kind of like a pregnant woman’s water breaking. Wait–scratch that–not very appetizing. It’s kind of like water bursting forth from a stone. Yes, that’s it. Water bursting from a stone. A miracle! Yes, it’s kind of like a miracle, that’s what it is!

After the buttermilk starts sloshing around in the bowl you strain the liquid from the solid (I used a Chemex coffee maker to do so), then squeeze the butter with your hands to get out every last bit of buttermilk. Wash the butter in a couple of rounds of cold clean water, kneading it with each round. Your hands need to be cold while you are doing all of this. Now take the cold butter paddles and shape the butter into a log or a roll or a little circle and voila, you are ready to spread the stuff on toast. Not including the time it takes for the cream to come to room temperature, the whole process takes maybe 20 minutes. Try it! It is so neat.

Here’s a pictorial guide:

Start with heavy cream:


Whip it like crazy thru soft peaks, hard peaks, and the “scrambled egg stage:”


See the buttermilk?


Tons of buttermilk:

Straining the buttermilk from the solids, via the Chemex coffee maker…

Don’t be afraid to squeeze that butter:


Knead and shape with the butter paddles

And voila. Butta!

I used an old cookie press for this little pat. See the donkey? See what a good little Democrat I am?


2 Responses to Vanity Fair. Butter.

  1. Anonymous January 12, 2011 at 1:25 am #


    I am SO going to make butter once the ice on my street thaws! I love butter! AND I love buttermilk. I use it for pancakes and biscuits. Have you used your buttermilk? Because the stuff in the grocery is just not real. And do you use special cream, like organic, raw, or goat’s? Does it matter if it’s been pasturized or superpasturized (? What’s that deal when the hit it with a super high temp for a few seconds?) – Maggie

    • Susan White January 12, 2011 at 2:14 am #

      Re: Amazing!

      I’d order a set of butter paddles off of Amazon. They cost something like $6 and were really helpful in shaping the butter. I just used organic whipping cream, but I want to get some raw milk, skim the cream off the top, and use that. But–that requires a special mission to acquire.

      Basically, I think the less the cream is messed with, the better. Have you tried Sparkman’s? It’s from GA, a small family farm. They sell it at Whole Foods and Sevanada, and I think it would make particularly yummy butta.

      AS for the buttermilk–I drank it straight after straining it from the curds. It was delicious, and surprisingly not sour at all. It almost tasted like boiled custard. And then when I made butter for the second time I used the leftover buttermilk to make Irish soda bread.

      I used cow’s milk cream, but man, I bet goat’s milk would be awesome. The only thing is–how do you get the cream? Can you buy it unhomogenized so you can skim the cream off the top?

      So many questions…so much butter to make!!