Hi All -
I recently read a rhapsodic article in the Los Angeles Times on the many splendors of butter; in it, author Emily Green essentially writes a love letter to butter, but pauses to reflect upon some useful matters: comparing American and European butters, and proper storage of butter. As someone who has mostly bought and used Land O' Lakes and Challenge butters over the years (after a long and lamentable period of using margarines that my parents would buy!), I found the article rather intriguing. Emily writes with such obvious passion for the stuff - it inspired me to reconsider my relationship to it. She'd surely whack me upside the head with a rolling pin for saying so, but I used to think that, quite simply, butter was butter - there wasn't much difference in the way of taste and texture. I never paid attention to exotic imported butters or the difference between salted and unsalted.. I just bought what I had always bought.
Well, never again, my friends. Emily's words have "buttered" me up, and I'm ready to explore the wonderful world of butter. However, I've got some questions first, and I was hoping one or two of you here could help me out.
To begin with.. what are the best brands to seek out? Emily suggests that American butters lack the complexity of European butters, but notes that Vermont Butter & Cheese brand is a worthwhile exception. Anyone had it? Anyone know where to find it in Los Angeles? Of the European varities, which do you fancy? Thus far, I've seen the following brands in L.A. specialty markets: Lurpak, BEURRE DE BARATTE D'ISIGNY, Kerrygold, President, and Jana Valley. Any recommendations? Also, I've heard great things about Cabot, Anchor, CELLES SUR BELLE, and especially Echire. Haven't seen these in the store, but perhaps someone knows where to find them. And is Echire really as spectacular as I've heard? In her article, Emily writes that, with many great French butters, you can practically taste the grassy meadow on which the dairy cow dined.. true? And this is a good thing, I take it? (Forgive my being a total novice here.. remember, for me, Land O' Lakes was fine all these years..)
Finally, I have a question about storage. According to the article, butter should be wrapped tightly (either in plastic wrap or tin foil) and kept in the coldest part of the fridge, or, alternatively, stored in the freezer. She quotes chef Nancy Silverton as saying that butter should be frozen and "grated as needed." Do any of you do this.. or perhaps something similar? Very different from what I'm used to, but I'd be willing to try it. My only problem is, I often use butter for toast, and if it's too cold - or frozen, no less - it makes for some pretty tough spreading.. in fact, it usually tears the toast up. For those of you who freeze your butter, do you cut a pat and let it acclimate to room temperature?
Also, I know a family that neither refrigerates nor freezes their butter. Sounds crazy, I know.. but they swear by it. They take a stick of butter from the package (and refrigerate the rest), place it in a covered butter dish.. and just.. leave it out. You'd think the butter would melt, but it just stays in this semi-soft state. And they use it up within a week or so, so it doesn't really go rancid.. according to this family, at least. They say it makes for easy cooking and suprememly easy spreadability. But I wonder.. is it not a health risk, leaving a dairy product out like that? This family claims to have never fallen ill from it, but it seems a bit unhealthy to me. Any thoughts on this?
Thanks for any and all input - greatly appreciated. I look forward to reading your replies and suggestions.