There's no vegan alternative… Or is there?
Butter is fantastic. It gives fried meat a great texture, it gives cakes a lean buttery flavour, and it’s amazing on a piece of bread. Swedes eat a lot of butter, but none-pasteurised artisan varieties are very rare. In France you’ll find all kinds of great butter, salted and none-salted. Mass produced, and great artisan varieties. The Swedes have mostly salted butter, and they’re proud of their different varieties of such. Sea salted, salted, extra salted, and if you’re lucky you’ll find the none-salted too. Southern Italians use butter very scarcely, while the northern Italians use it relatively often in their cuisine. Pretty much never salted.
Most people who like cooking, are very much aware of butter being a milk product and that margarine is made from vegetable oil. So whenever a recipe calls for butter, use butter!
That was the crash course in butter.
Making your own butter is as simple as whisking double cream in a cold, sterilised mixing bowl. Homogenised cream will whip, but not as well as raw cream (which tastes better anyway). Whisk it until the whipped cream separates into butterfat and buttermilk. You won’t miss it, I promise. Then put the almost ready butter into a clean sieve and drain it. Don’t throw the buttermilk away, it tastes great and you can bake with it! Now knead the butter in fresh water, and clean it from all buttermilk. If you don’t, it will go bad quickly. Shape it into a cube, loaf, or into whatever shape you like you butter, and refrigerate it. Oh, and if you don’t want to be Italian, season it with salt. If you want to be Swedish, season it with extra salt.
Another option is to buy a piece of really good butter. The good stuff is usually found in the cheese section. I just ate a piece of sour dough bread smeared in hand churned butter from France – La baratte du Crémier. My eyes are still closed, and I’m wondering if it’s all just a dream.
And it’s good for you. At least that’s what the studies now days say. The fatty acids help your metabolism do its job. And if you ask pro-LCHF fanatics, they’ll tell you to scoop up butter and chew it; No bread with that!
Butter is amazing.
But wait… Is there really no vegan substitute? When I first wrote these thoughts a few years ago, I'd answer no. But I've changed my mind. Although I haven't found anything vegan that perfectly substitutes butter in taste and properties, I have found vegan alternatives that do an ok job. Margarine, in the traditional sense, isn't such a product. However, there are "nut butters" that do brown and give you that caramelised nutty flavour of browned butter. And I've seen variations with cultured (i.e fermented) nut butter mass, that gives it a nice flavour as is on bread. So while none of these are perfect, the world of vegan alternatives have gotten a lot better the past few years.