We have all gone crazy for luxury bread in recent months. If you weren’t making sourdough, what were you doing with yourself in lockdown?
But to go with that delicious bread, you need a truly superior spread, which is why foodies in their droves have turned to gourmet ‘artisan’ butter. So, how does it taste and is it different from your standard Anchor or Lurpak?
WHAT IS BETTER BUTTER?
Whether butter is made in a factory on an industrial scale or blended by hand at home, it is all made the same way.
Cream is churned until it separates into fatty solids, which become the butter and liquid buttermilk. This liquid is drained, then the butter is rinsed and formed into lumps.
If you’re bored of your usual salted butter, there are plenty of alternatives available, including anchovy butter to pair with lamb and whiskey and bone marrow butter for steak
What makes artisan butter different is the quality of the milk it uses. It is made in small batches with strict ingredients controls.
Cow breed, time of year, and hundreds of other small factors can all have a profound effect on taste and texture.
For example, butter made with Irish milk often has a surprising, almost radiant yellow color due to the amount of beta-carotene in the grass, a factor determined by the local climate.
Ben Ambridge, chef and owner of The Fox’s Revenge restaurant in Newquay, Cornwall, says: “Cornish dairies are invariably on the coast, meaning rain clouds bring in nutrients from the sea to feed the grass. Their cows produce milk that makes incredible butter. ‘
According to Chef Ben Ambridge, cows living in Cornwall produce the tastiest butter
Butter once came in two flavors: salted or not. Beat in a little garlic and you have a culinary masterpiece.
But now, crafty butter makers are creating flavor combinations that make butter a highlight, rather than just a side dish.
This summer, visit upscale restaurants, local delis and farmers’ markets and expect artisan butter infused with everything from bone marrow to lobster, seaweed, rose petals or treacle.
Chef Ben Ambridge creates his own whiskey and bone marrow butter to enhance the flavors of his steaks, and anchovy butter for lamb.
GOOD FOR YOU
There are even spicy, cultured butters, which are fermented, which means they are full of bacteria that are said to be good for your gut. These have a stronger flavor than supermarket pasta.
To make culture butter, the milk is soured with lactic acid cultures – a bit like yogurt – before being churned.
In restaurants like The Court, a members’ club in Soho, and the restaurant The Dairy (temporarily closed) in South London, cultured butter has become a matter of course.
TAKE A TASTE TEST
Super fresh, most craft butters have a shorter shelf life than usual, so you won’t find them at the supermarket very often. But you can order online or try to make your own!
TRY A RECIPE
Plain Butter by Alan Kingston of Glenilen Farm, Co Cork
1. Put 400 ml of whipped cream in a kitchen mixer (or shake the whipped cream in a screw-top jar) until it begins to separate into balls of butter and buttermilk.
2. Strain the buttermilk and rinse the butter with cold water until it becomes clear.
3. Strain again and knead in the flavors. Two teaspoons of salt is traditional, or you can add marmite, spices, cinnamon or whatever else you like.
… OR GROWN BUTTER
Cultured butter by George Lang at The Cheese Merchant in Surrey
1. Put 500 g crème fraîche in a bowl and beat for 3 minutes until it starts to separate. Pour away any buttermilk.
2. The solids look like butter, but taste sour because of buttermilk residue. To get rid of it, put the butter in a bowl of cold water and mash with a fork for 30 seconds. Sieve.
3. Repeat this four or five times until the water no longer becomes cloudy during the pureeing.
4. Mix in sea salt or flavorings such as chives, garlic and parsley. Cool and use within a week.
USE A GADGET
Sound like hard work? You can buy a churn that can handle the thrill, such as the Kilner Butter Churner (£ 22.95, silvermushroom.com). Fill the jar with 300 ml of whipped cream, screw the lid on and turn the handle. It makes butter in ten minutes.
Kilner Butter Churner (£ 22.95, silvermushroom.com)
You can also try the Tescoma Butter Maker (£ 14.07, amazon.co.uk). Fill with whipped cream and a spoonful of sour cream and pump the plunger until the fat and buttermilk are separated.
Shape your product with wood butter paddles (£ 6, dunelm.com), or use a maple wood mold (125g round butter mold, £ 11.25, souschef.co.uk).
OR JUST BUY IT!
Netherend Farm Butter, £ 2.99 for 250g, netherendfarmbutter.co.uk
A creamy Gloucestershire butter for sale in dining halls and from your milkman, milkandmore.co.uk.
Dorset Dairy Company, £ 3.75 for 250g, farmdrop.com
Made from cultured milk, which gives it a distinctive, slightly spicy flavor.
Abernethy Smoked Butter, £ 2 for 100g, abernethybutter.com
Handmade and smoked, the family-owned Northern Ireland company claims this hand-churned butter has a barbecue-like flavor.