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Clockwise from upper left : Kirkland, Strauss Creamery, Kerrygold, Jana Valley

My first butter epiphany was 10 years ago in Sydney. “What was that?!” after the waiter put a small dish of deeply yellow ‘thing’ on the table. “Butter.” my Australian co-worker looked at me incredulously. “But why is it so YELLOW?“ “Because here we don’t bleach our butter like the Americans do.”

After tasting it, I took absolutely no offense of his sarcastic tone. It was good.

Most of the time I feel, color is a good indication of the quality. Pale white = waxy and blah; Deep yellow = Better mouth feel and more flavorful.

Technically, what makes a big difference in taste, texture is probably butter fat. The American law requires butter to contain at least 80% butter fat. In France 82%. French AOC butters the minimum is 84% and often they push 86%.

It is so true that great ingredients make a great dish. Some times no cooking is required. On the menu at Momofuku, New York City, “Bread & Butter” is just that.

When I had it, the bread was Sullivan Street Bakery (Jim Lahey of the No Kneed Bread fame), along side a goat butter from Scotland and sea salt butter from Vermont Butter Company. I recall the bread’s lacy, resilient crumb of big wheaty flavor, and its crackly, deeply caramelized crust. Then you spread this 86% butterfat butter onto it. Never mind that the act of doing that felt sensuous enough, the taste started to emerge. Both butters tasted … pasture. I literally had flashbacks of grazing cows on rolling hills. The goat butter was true to its name, with a distinctive gamy flavor which I adore. As for the Vermont butter, the salt crystal added another dimension to the texture. It was superb.

In tasting butter, I find that I taste more when it’s at room temperature. Once melted, they all taste the same. Make sure your bread isn’t hot from the oven.

Here’s yesterday’s impromptu line-up:

  • Strauss Creamery from Point Reyes: Most local and my long time favorite as a ‘eating’ butter. 85% butter fat.
  • Kirkland (Costco): From Anytown, USA. It’s what I use in baking/cooking to save money. 80% butterfat.
  • Kerrygold from Ireland. It’s famous and I’ve never had it. 80% butter fat.
  • Jana Valley from Czech: It’s the only one at Whole Foods with its butter fat number prominently printed (82%.) It seems to care so I want to try.

 

Judging from the visual, both Kirkland and Jana Valley are very pale. Strauss and Kerrygold are rich yellow.

Strauss has great mouth feel, it’s flavorful, perfectly salted and the only one that invokes meadow when I taste it (yeah, very scientific.) Kerrygold is simply too salty with 100mg sodium per serving versus Strauss’ 45 mg. The salt masks any other flavor it might have. Jana Valley has excellent mouth feel but its flavor seems to lack depth. Its whitish color is a put-off.

Kirkland tastes like wax.

Anyone knows where to get beurre de Pitou-Charentes or beurre de d’Isigny locally?

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2 Comments

  1. Perhaps it has to do with whether or not the cow is grass or grain fed. I have made my own butter from raw cream on multiple occasions and it’s always been a very pale yellow. Most American butters aren’t bleached, and some actually have color added.

  2. @Sandi: My coworker was being sarcastic … he knows there’s no bleaching in butter making. 😉 I think u r absolutely right about the color is an effect of the cow’s diet … It’s probably not only just grass vs. grains but also the types/mixture of grass which varies depends on locations and seasons. Dairy farmers understandably supplement some grains for feeds in the winter. Here in Northern California even tho the winter is mild, they probably eat mostly hays so I can only imagine the winter milk’s flavor won’t be as interesting as summer milk.


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