The Best Butter in America Will Be for Sale for One Day Only

published Nov 20, 2017
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Butter connoisseurs speak in whispers about Diane St. Clair, the maker of arguably the best butter in America. She lives in Vermont, and the butter she produces there is said to top even butters from Normandy and Ireland. It’s rich and creamy, and it’s virtually impossible to get your hands on unless your name is Thomas Keller. Now her world-renowned, handcrafted butter will be available for sale for one day only, and it’s expected to sell out in no time. It costs $50 a pound, but devotees say it’s more than worth it.

Diane St. Clair, author of The Animal Farm Buttermilk Cookbook, started making butter by hand 10 years ago at her Animal Farm dairy, in Orwell, Vermont. It’s a slightly disturbing name, but St. Clair’s 11 Jersey cows are doted upon like giant children. St. Clair told Saveur she chose to raise Jersey cows because their milk has the most milk fat of any cow. She milks them twice a day, and because they are grass-fed, their milk varies with the seasons.

Butter should be “a seasonal product that proudly proclaims where it was made,” St. Clair says. Butter produced in the spring has the strongest flavor and most color — St. Clair’s butter is bright yellow, like a daffodil. In the fall the cows eat hay with their grass, and the butter takes on a softer hue and milder flavor, but a richer texture.

St. Clair developed her technique by studying old dairy manuals, to get as close as possible to what great butter would have tasted like before the advent of the modern industrial creamery. Not long after she started producing butter, St. Clair sent a sample to chef Thomas Keller, to see if she was on the right track. According to The Napa Valley Register, Keller reportedly responded, “Who are you?!” and said he wanted to buy everything she had. He didn’t even ask the price, he just said it was the best butter he’d ever had.

Keller asked St. Clair to get more cows so she could produce more butter, but she is still a very small-scale producer with a handmade, labor-intensive product. There is not much of the butter to go around, and what does exist is precious.

Ninety percent of St. Clair’s butter is already spoken for by Thomas Keller, who uses her butter at The French Laundry and Per Se. Chef Barbara Lynch of Menton and No. 9 Park in Boston, and chef Patrick O’Connell of The Inn at Little Washington in Virginia, also managed to claim some. Most of the time, the only way to taste St. Clair’s butter is to book a table at one of those restaurants, but every now and then some becomes available for the rest of us to purchase.

Now The Daily Meal reports that there will be a limited amount of St. Clair’s butter available this year. It will go on sale at exactly 9 a.m. EST on December 15 from New York’s Saxelby Cheese. It costs $50 a pound, and quantities are extremely limited. If you manage to try some, let us know how it tastes.