Robin Anish | The Table is Set: Why you should buy better butter

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Butter has been and continues to be subject to debate as to how good or bad it is for you. Given that it's not just fat, but saturated fat, we have been encouraged to steer clear in favor of more heart healthy fats, such as olive oil. But, it takes two to debate and there are studies that show that there are, indeed, benefits to consuming butter and so, the battle of the minds continues with no concrete evidence to come to a solid, mutual decision.

The most reasonable approach to using butter seems to be moderation. A sensible plan, but one that is all about deprivation and not about the culinary pleasures of butter; or, so it would seem. However, this is an opportunity to appreciate butter in a new way, a way more fitting for a food that should be elevated to higher culinary levels and not just seen as something left in a covered dish on the kitchen counter handy to mindlessly spread on toast or fry up a couple of eggs.

Consider butter as you would a succulent piece of prime rib or a decadent dessert, an indulgence you look forward to on occasion and thoroughly enjoy! Choose the best butter you can find. Do not bake with it, fry in it or spread it on toast. Eat it straight up on a chunk of crusty, locally made bread and you'll enjoy it with a new appreciation as an indulgence to be savored.

Choosing the best butter you can find? What does that mean? Aside from salted or unsalted, butter is butter, right? Nope! There are differences certainly in quality, but also in flavor. A few locally made butters have been popping up in markets. High Lawn Farm in Lee, Mass., makes an excellent butter and I have been enjoying Kate's homemade butter from Maine available in supermarkets. They are fresher and usually packaged better so to not absorb off flavors from other foods in refrigeration.

Take note of the number of European butters readily available and try them. European butter, unlike American butter, is cultured meaning the cream is left to sour just a bit before it is churned, giving it wonderful flavor that is noticeably different than American-made butter. Kerrygold and Plugra are most notable imports you'll find in supermarkets; and, closer to home, Vermont Creamery makes a true European-style butter that can be found in specialty food stores and some markets locally. These butters are a little more expensive, but worth the splurge.

I could write many articles about butter and perhaps I will, but my word allotment is dwindling, so I'll save my fabulous butter-rich recipes for another time; but, I will share my favorite way to indulge in a bit of butter and that would be as my mother often did ... whipped, unsalted butter in a tub served chilled and still firm on a thick slice of dark pumpernickel bread. So simple and so good!

Robin Anish is a former caterer who lives in Lenox, Mass., where she continues to cater to her enthusiasm for cooking. She can be contacted via The Berkshire Eagle at 75 South Church St., Pittsfield MA 01201.


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