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The Next Big Thing

October 13, 2008

Watch this one. I think it will be the next biggie. Freed from margarine and having lousy store butter, we are ready to overpay for the good stuff. App and I are working on a churn…me mum churned some in her youth so so she's a functional consultant

From the Toronto Star:::::

Artisanal butter better on rustic breads

GLENN LOWSON FOR THE TORONTO STAR
At Langdon hall, guests enjoy Rob Howland's creamy, sodium-free butter with a homemade loaf of bread.

Churning out flavour for 11,000 years 

According to historians, butter was discovered about 11,000 years ago in Mesopotamia when goat or sheep milk was shaken as the person or animal carrying it walked along.

All milk contains microscopic fat molecules, and cream contains significantly more. By agitating or "churning" the cream, the fat pools together to form globs of butter.

It was so tasty and nutritious that people began making it on purpose.

After that, it is believed that butter spread through trade or similar fortuitous incidents.Since butter didn't last long in warm climates, the Greeks and Romans rarely ate it. Their neighbours to the north loved the stuff, though.

Immigrants from northern Europe brought butter to North America, where it was a welcome source of fat, calories and flavour in diets that needed all three.

Butter factories appeared in North America in the 1860s, soon after cheese manufacturing.

In the 1950s, butter faced a competitor called margarine.

It became popular because it was far cheaper. In the 1970s, margarine, long made from vegetable oils, was considered healthier because it had far less fat and cholesterol.

When the trans fat scare came along, suddenly butter, which has high levels of saturated fat, gained the upper hand. But now that most margarine manufacturers are largely making nonhydrogenated versions with no trans fats, butter has once again taken a back seat.

While butter contains more calories, recent studies show that it gives people a satiety – a feeling of fullness – that margarine doesn't.

Jerry Langton

Indulge yourself with tastier – and pricier – artisinal versions
Oct 08, 2008 04:30 AM

 
SPECIAL TO THE STAR

Toronto is the kind of place where it's easy to find a $12 loaf of bread. It's good bread, no doubt, but what are you gonna put on it? You could dip it in oil, but that isn't anywhere near as satisfying as taking a big bite of bread and butter.

But butter is butter is butter, right? You might get that idea if you shop at supermarkets, but there are butters available in the GTA that not only match the best breads available, but transcend them. You'll have to pay a premium to enjoy them, but many find the extra cost well worth it.

"There is nothing more basic, more beautiful, than bread and butter," says Afrim Pristine, co-owner of premium food retailer The Cheese Boutique. "But if you have a beautiful, crusty rustic bread, are you going to put just any butter on it?" His face indicates that he'd consider that a terrible idea. "The right bread with the right butter can be incredible, almost a meal in itself." Pristine says people are now paying more attention to butter.

"Two years ago, we had two butters – salted and unsalted – that's all people wanted," he says. "Now we have 10 and they all sell. People are much more discerning about everything they eat now."

The consensus among chefs is there is a hierarchy of butter. At the bottom are regular, mass-produced butters.

Then there are butters from Quebec and small-batch local butters from dairies such as Forfar's, which is sold at Cheese Boutique.

At the top are cultured butters from Europe. One of Pristine's favourites is Isigny Ste. Mere's Beurre d'Isigny from Normandy. "It's subtle, it's beautiful," he says. "You could eat it every day." But at $18.99 for 250 grams, that's not an option for most people.

Pusateri's also stocks more butters than ever. The best, according to catering manager Rob Velenik, is Ancestral Butter from Fromagerie le Détour in Notre-Dame-du-Lac, Que. "Once I tasted it, I knew we had to have it here," he says. "And it's been well received."

Dozens of artisanal butters are available in Quebec, but since they are made by small producers, the cost of overcoming interprovincial trade regulations usually keeps them at home. A few are federally inspected, which means the butter can be sold outside the province.

Concerns about fat intake means people are eating less butter, but that's why they're buying better butter.

"When people reduce the amount of something in their diet, they work harder to make sure what they're getting is the good stuff," says Stephen Alexander, owner of Cumbrae's butcher shops.

 

When Pristine makes his finest foods, he uses butter from Langdon Hall Country House Hotel and Spa in Cambridge.

"This stuff is phenomenal," says Pristine. "You gotta taste it to believe it." Although it is made from pasteurized cream, Langdon Hall butter, made once a week by head pastry chef Robert Howland, cannot be sold because it is not federally inspected. He can use it in dishes served to guests, and he can give it away to people like Pristine.

"I had a taste demonstration for some truffles the other day, so I made pasta and truffles with Langdon Hall butter," Pristine says. "It was so flavourful, it didn't need the truffles."

Howland experimented with a number of methods before he came up with what he considered the best-tasting butter. "I found out that the cream should ferment for 24 hours at 14 degrees Celsius," he says. "Then we had to come up with a culture."

The culture is a specific set of bacteria introduced to the cream to add flavour. "The bacteria consume the lactose in the cream and create butyric acid," he says. "That's what makes butter taste like butter."

And he has a hard time keeping up with the demand. "The reaction has been phenomenal." Part of the reason premium butter is so popular is that commercially available butter is unimpressive.

"They use older cream and artificial colours – the colour in our butter comes from specific elements in the cows' diets," Howland says. "And our butter is never frozen. Almost all retailers freeze their butter at some point."

Canadians in particular have to put up with substandard butter. "The government says 80 per cent of the product must be butter, so retailers add 20 per cent water to boost their profits," says Howland. "Standards are much higher in the U.S. and Europe."

People in Quebec actually do get better butter, according to the experts. Pristine attributes it to Gallic tradition, while Howland says that provincial standards of manufacturing are tougher there.

But no matter how high the standards are, butter made in a factory just can't match butter made in small batches by someone dedicated to the art.

"Mass production is great for volume," Pristine's brother and business partner Agim says. "Not so great for the palate."

Comments on this story are moderated

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Juxtaposition

Interesting to read this article about discerning palates calling for artisanal butter immediately after the one on the front page about the food bank being short of hundreds of thousands of pounds and dollars to feed people in need.

Posted by RBW at 9:27 AM Wednesday, October 08 2008

 

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