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Everything's Better With Butter
August 2, 2009 10:43 PM   Subscribe

'Artisanal butters' are favored and appreciated by cooks and gourmands -- especially those crafted by "garage entrepreneurs" from Maine [video]* and Vermont (churned by Diane St. Clair and favored by Thomas Keller at his noted restaurants, The French Laundry and Per Se). Butters from Canada, France, Ireland and elsewhere are also cherished.

In related news:
"With enough butter, anything is good."

Nora Ephron Talks About The Joy of Butter.

No Michael Jackson Sculpture in Butter at the Iowa Fair.
posted by ericb (36 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ah, butter.

One of the best parts about making one's own butter is the buttermilk. We put the cream out Friday night, pour it into the mixer to make butter the next afternoon, and then enjoy buttermilk pancakes for Sunday breakfast.

A speciality shop downtown has a wonderful sea-salt butter, which gives toast another layer of crunchiness.

Then there's the ghee, that makes Indian food a magical spice ride.

Can't go too far wrong with butter.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:53 PM on August 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


No?
posted by pracowity at 11:02 PM on August 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


HURF DURF?
posted by trip and a half at 11:07 PM on August 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


Gourmets like food a lot, gourmands like a lot of food.

... maybe you're right ...
posted by Phanx at 11:27 PM on August 2, 2009


As a Brit, I'm surprised to see Anchor, Kerrygold and Lurpak (ubiquitous mainstream butters) listed as gourmet butter. Perhaps we're just lucky in England, and every corner shop stocks gourmet butter.
posted by athenian at 11:37 PM on August 2, 2009


As a Brit, I'm surprised to see Anchor, Kerrygold and Lurpak (ubiquitous mainstream butters) listed as gourmet butter.

Yeah, it's often like that with foreign products, isn't it? Mystique. Here in Japan, the French Bonne Maman jam is highly prized as gourmet stuff, but is pretty run-of-the-mill in France, if I'm not mistaken.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:19 AM on August 3, 2009


As a Brit, I'm surprised to see Anchor, Kerrygold and Lurpak (ubiquitous mainstream butters) listed as gourmet butter. Perhaps we're just lucky in England, and every corner shop stocks gourmet butter.

Maybe they are great butters but you just can't tell because they end up on English bread.
posted by srboisvert at 12:26 AM on August 3, 2009 [10 favorites]


I would really love to get ahold of some of these artisanal butters described in the Canada article, but of course they're all secret and distant majesties of Quebec. Anyone know where one can obtain such butters on the west coast, short of keeping your own flock of lactating mammals, which, hot damn, I really now want to do.
posted by kaspen at 12:28 AM on August 3, 2009


Here in Japan, the French Bonne Maman jam is highly prized as gourmet stuff, but is pretty run-of-the-mill in France, if I'm not mistaken.

Yeah, here in the UK as well. It's good, but it's no Wilkins Tiptree. Tiptree's Little Scarlet is the jam James Bond prefers (though I'm a TinyTip Raspberry man myself).
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:39 AM on August 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I hear you on the Wilkins Tiptree, Peter. I love their "Tawny" marmalade. Gotta pay a hefty 700 or 800 yen for it here in Japan, but it's worth it.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:04 AM on August 3, 2009


Oh! I loooove butter. The smell of melting butter warming up in the pan makes me purr like a kitten! I imagine heaven smells like melting butter.

Kerrygold isn't any good, though. It has a very high water content, useless for cooking or baking. It just sells well because it's soft even at fridge temperature. I've had good artisanal butter from Normandy and from Devon. Bavarian artisanal butter can also be very good, but unfortunaltely it's always unsalted (Germans find salted butter disgusting).

(Oh, and the best jams are definitely d'arbo from Austria. Try this one, and you'll never go back to crappy Bonne Maman stuff!)
posted by The Toad at 1:37 AM on August 3, 2009


was just reading about the french laundry and artisan butters today. simpatico!
posted by nadawi at 2:07 AM on August 3, 2009


As a Brit, I'm surprised to see Anchor, Kerrygold and Lurpak (ubiquitous mainstream butters) listed as gourmet butter.

Seconding (or thirding) that. Anchor is probably the cheapest and nastiest butter out there and regarded by many as excessively salty and rather coarse tasting, Kerrygold is marginally better and Lurpak, especially in its unsalted guise, is the best of the lot, but still a supermarket staple and hardly gourmet shit. I'm surprised they didn't include "I can't believe it's not butter".

Like so many things foodie, you're probably better off buying something that is made locally, rather than going for the mass market products foreigners buy. Find a farmers' market and buy it from someone who slices it off a big butter blob and sells it buy the pound or kilo.
posted by rhymer at 2:13 AM on August 3, 2009


As a Brit, I'm surprised to see Anchor, Kerrygold and Lurpak (ubiquitous mainstream butters) listed as gourmet butter.

The sad thing here is, Kerrygold is about the best butter you can buy at most supermarkets. And it's at least twice as expensive as the normal butter. Luckily, a few stores around here carry Organic Valley European butter which I feel is a little better (and slightly cheaper). But the standard variety of American butter tends to be lacking in any sort of substantial dairy flavor.
posted by timelord at 2:17 AM on August 3, 2009


Germans find salted butter disgusting

I think of salted butter rather the way I think of sweet wine. I wouldn't by any means say it's disgusting, but these days I'd only choose it where it seems particularly called for.
posted by Phanx at 3:34 AM on August 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would really love to get ahold of some of these artisanal butters described in the Canada article, but of course they're all secret and distant majesties of Quebec. Anyone know where one can obtain such butters on the west coast

Heck, I live in Quebec, on the Ontario/Quebec border, and _I_ want to know where I can find these butters. Short of driving to Montreal, of course, which I never like doing.
posted by splice at 3:35 AM on August 3, 2009


I will only use one kind of butter. I'm not going to tell you the name of it, because then you'd use it and it wouldn't be cool anymore. But it's made by Mennonites, and they churn it specially with their horses' erect penises. It turns out that horse dick is the best thin to churn butter because of the size of the bubbles, or the karma, or some shit.


I'm not really sure what makes it better, especially since butter has one ingredient (two if it's salted), but it's the most expensive and hardest to find and therefore best.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:36 AM on August 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


I realize that I'm railing against one bourgeois affectation with another, but the idea of truly gourmet butter coming from far away seems so silly to me. While it's preserved, most of the subtle flavors that make a great butter so great really don't seem to travel or store well. I mean, sure, yeah, Land o' Lakes is only good for community theater reenactments of Last Tango in Paris, but to get the great part of local butter, you have to go to the locality or hey, just enjoy what's around you.
posted by klangklangston at 3:54 AM on August 3, 2009


Working for Butter
posted by Patapsco Mike at 4:05 AM on August 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


We get all of our butter from the wide plain that stretches between the Baltic Sea and the Carpathian Mountains.
posted by pracowity at 4:34 AM on August 3, 2009


Make your own cultured butter?
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:39 AM on August 3, 2009


Don't get too obsessed with butter, there are other fats out there, and the chef that forgets is likely to get marscap0wned.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:01 AM on August 3, 2009


Lucky for us we live in VT and have great choices for locally made butter. Haven't tried the butter from Animal Farm as it's all exported, but Cabot and VT Butter & Cheese Company are excellent and readily available. On the 30 Great Butters list, VT is recognized for these three excellent choices. Yum!
posted by garnetgirl at 5:30 AM on August 3, 2009


Apparently butter matters for those who bake cookies.
posted by emhutchinson at 6:38 AM on August 3, 2009


Back when I could tolerate lactose, I enjoyed Kate's butter because it tastes really good and also because it's a pleasure to buy local. I wish I could buy locally produced cream that wasn't ultra-pasteurized. Not raw, but that extra cooking of ultra-pasteurizing really alters the flavor substantially, and it's only done to extend for shelf life. It's okay if cream lasts less than a month; if it tastes great, it won't need to last that long.
posted by theora55 at 6:38 AM on August 3, 2009


I remember eating at the French Laundry and having the waiters come out with our bread and butter basket. The recitation of the lineages of our various breads and spreads: which type of milk was the base for the butter, the dairy that produced it, the owner of the dairy, the grain in the bread, the location of the bakery, the age of the bread, etc. all given in a very serious manner ... took ten goddamn minutes. It was like a foodie version of the Silmarillon and seemed a parody of the locavore/slow food movement.

The rest of the meal was fabulous and tasty, but my girlfriend and I couldn't stop giggling at the butter introduction ceremony.
posted by bl1nk at 7:35 AM on August 3, 2009 [9 favorites]


I'm afraid to read the links. I have a life-long passion for butter, starting with the stuff my grandmother had delivered to her house, by the farmer. Of course, I've never experienced anything as good as that was, since.

German butter is not only unsalted, it's also soured. It tastes like a dirty dish cloth smells, one that has been used to long without washing. Very nasty.

Having been raised on salted butter, I find unsalted doesn't even taste like proper butter, to me. At least in Switzerland, the markets always have one sort of salted butter, and it isn't bad.
posted by Goofyy at 7:42 AM on August 3, 2009


Can we please retire the word "artisan" and it's nightmarish offspring "artisanal?"

Essentially, "artisan" more or less means "expensive, insincere product over-packaged in twee brown paper packaging with excessive use of breezy-typefaces printed in thick green ink to simulate letterpress printing" or "obscure Euro/UK/foreign niche product that has been magically blessed with foodie wonderment by overseas transportation," and fails on every point except clever marketing because it's really just a way to avoid calling the mass-market renditions of said items what they really are.

Instead of "artisan butter" and "butter," we should talk about "butter" and "waxy, flavorless, margarine-tainted simulard spread," and pass down the responsibility for proof of authenticity to the manufacturers of the latter. There's no "artisan bread," there's just "bread," or maybe "good bread," and "foamy, formless, ass-clogging de-natured industrial starch product."

I can't help but think that all these "artisan" items succeed primarily because we're so emotionally-starved these days that we feel like buying something from an "artisan" connects our lives to daydreams of the simpler lives we can't have because it means surrendering so many of the distractions and diversions we keep around specifically to avoid those quiet moments when we might actually have to endure our own company. A little time spent churning is only boring if you're boring.

That said, get a butter bell or a non-branded rendition of the same thing, which works great and makes the whole butter experience much better.
posted by sonascope at 8:33 AM on August 3, 2009 [8 favorites]


I never watch cooking shows, but the other day as I was doing something else with the TV on, one came on and I was too lazy to switch the channels. It was some low budget thing, I don't even know who the host or the chef was, but she was this chatty woman in her seventies who didn't do any of the cooking, and the chef was a burly, taciturn guy (why he was on such a show, I don't know). Anyway, the first step of the process (they were making pork cutlets, as I recall) involved sauteing some veggies, and as the chef put a pat of butter into the cooking oil, he was asked by the host why he did so. His reply, which caught my ear, was that it tastes better if you add butter.

Well, that's pretty much my philosophy of life.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:26 AM on August 3, 2009


Kate's is good, and luckily is my local butter.

Also, all the butter in France is unbelievably good. Anyone know why?
posted by rusty at 9:34 AM on August 3, 2009


David Lebovitz: "A Parisian chocolatier I know had some hot-shot investors lined up to open a confectionery shop in New York City. He went, looked at locations, did the rounds, had meetings with everyone, and came back.

When he returned, I asked; "So, are you going to open in New York?"

"Non," he told me, "c'est pas possible. The butter is pas bon."
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:51 AM on August 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Most of what I know about butter is from a Japanese baking anime.
posted by spec80 at 12:08 PM on August 3, 2009


Maybe they are great butters but you just can't tell because they end up on English bread.

As an aside on this: the biggest shock for me on moving to the US was how dreadful American bread is. Oh, there are good ones from craft bakeries; but your average supermarket loaf is hugely overpriced ($3-4 a loaf? really?) and hugely, massively over-sweetened.

I never would have imagined that Tesco's 69p granary loaf would be the thing I'd miss most.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:14 PM on August 3, 2009


Well boohoo re: "artisanal" nomenclature. The fact is we live in a market of 98% garbage, and if I am to be required to have some special, derisive and exclusionary term for the vast majority of normal food, well that's just not going to fly. Yes the marketing is ridiculous and often false, and obscures what the ideal product would be, which would be the independent small-scale producer hacking off a slab of their stuff and putting it in your hands, but. But, dammit, I want these fine butters! And without a word, I can barely begin my search, which frankly looks dishearteningly unpromising in my area.
posted by kaspen at 12:44 PM on August 3, 2009


because we're so emotionally-starved these days

No, we're nutritionally starved. I am distressingly lacking in Vitamin Subtle Clover Aromas!

However, seconding the butter bell. An essential.
posted by kaspen at 12:50 PM on August 3, 2009


Also, all the butter in France is unbelievably good. Anyone know why?

It's the grass the cows eat. Mmm, lemony Norman butter.
posted by Wolof at 4:52 PM on August 3, 2009


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