December 2009

BUTTER!

Joy isn’t the only thing getting spread over the holidays

Lora
Zarubin

mad for, butter Anita Calero

Thank goodness an annual excuse to throw dietary caution to the wind and enjoy some of the really good things in life, like butter. This is the season when it plays a starring role in the kitchen and on the table. But remember, all butters are not created equal. This year, think about introducing one of the domestically produced Euro­pean-style varieties to your repertoire. They seem to have a longer shelf-life, are higher in fat and have a creamier texture and more sumptuous taste. Whether cooking, baking or smearing it on your favorite bread, choose a butter that complements your preparation. Here are some of my favorites:

VERMONT BUTTER & CHEESE CULTURED, UNSALTED
My workhorse—this all-purpose butter, which hails from, yes, Vermont, is salt free and made with cultured cream that results in a complex, not sweet flavor. Ideal for sautéing because it won’t burn at a high heat, and it’s also good for sauces and baking. Try it in your best Christmas cookie recipe, and you’ll taste the difference. Whole Foods citywide, butterandcheese.net.

VERMONT BUTTER & CHEESE CULTURED, SEA SALT CRYSTALS
In France, butter is available with different percentages of sea salt, not to preserve it but for flavor. The delicate texture of the salt blends well with the creaminess of the butter. It’s wonderful slathered on toast, in potatoes and on anything where the butter is not cooked. This is the best I’ve tasted on these shores. Whole Foods citywide, butterandcheese.net.

SPRING HILL CHEESE
This Petaluma creamery has long been known for its cheese, but its butter is fit for a gastronome. The fat content—up to 80 percent—is reflected in its rich color. Available in salted and unsalted, it stands alone. For a special treat, I’ll serve my guests bread with this butter and an array of salts. Burbank, Santa Monica and Holly­wood farmers’ markets, springhillcheese.com.

CHALLENGE DAIRY, EUROPEAN STYLE
For a commercial product, this is a contender. Produced with more butterfat than the company’s regular variety, even the unsalted version is faintly salty. And it’s a crowd pleaser. When eaten with bread, it has a very slight waxy finish compared with the other butters, but that makes it a great choice for dough and pie crusts. Gelson’s citywide, challengedairy.com.

RAWSOME FOODS BLUE
Not the easiest butter to get your knife into—you have to join this raw-foods co-op. It’s rich and complex, with a transcendent creaminess. It’s great for cooking and baking and also on toast. And no, the butter is not blue—the name refers to the wrapping. 665 Rose Ave., Venice, 310-452-2244.

STRAUS EUROPEAN-STYLE, SWEET
The quality of the products from this creamery on Tomales Bay begins at the beginning, with milk from 100 percent organic grain–fed cows. The cream is then spun in tried-and-true churns from the 1950s. A great all-purpose butter with a unique flavor. Most Gelson’s citywide, strausfamilycreamery.com.