Taste test of eight butters shows there is a difference

04/29/2014 3:32 PM

04/29/2014 3:32 PM

Standing in the cooler section with my feet firmly planted in front of the butters, my stern focus for a simple butter was railroaded by the realization I was looking at over a dozen styles of butter.

This couldn’t be the first time I have seen the different styles so artfully wrapped with paper and distinctive branding, just the first time I have noticed the variety.

Butter makes everything taste better. The velvety texture helps other flavors hang on to the taste buds transferring the ultimate sensation of a meal.

A mere shrug of my shoulders and I dropped eight butters in my basket. More than interested, I reached for brands from Italy, Ireland, all over the U.S., from cute and adorable to utilitarian looking.

If there is a space for all these butters on the shelves, there has to be a demand, which means all of these are ultimately distinct.

With curiosity at an all time high, let’s commence the butter tasting based on color, spreadability, taste, mouth feel or rate of melting in the mouth and aroma.

On the first taste test, I set out all the butters for 30 minutes. On the second taste test, they remained at room temperature for two hours.

Kerrygold

We have all seen that eye-catching gold foil packaging with the cow grazing on the kelly green grass of Ireland.

• Color: Very yellow, Kerrygold says it is because the cows graze on a beta-carotene diet of rich natural grasses.

• Spreadability: Little tacky on first the first try, difficult to spread on bread, but after being out a while the golden butter spread perfectly on room temperature bread.

• Taste: If you have ever tasted grass fed beef, this is what Kerrygold tastes like. A bit minerally and gamey, green, good balance between sweet and salty.

• Mouth-feel: The first melting experiments did not go well. The butter broke off in pieces and did not melt congruently. On the second try, it was a very even

melt, which coated the entire tongue almost simultaneously.

• Aroma: Fresh cut grass, hay.

Use this butter for a little extra flavor with breads and finish cooked items with Kerrygold. It is distinct so celebrate it, don’t hide it. Make the grassy minerally flavor a part of the meal.

Ferrarini

Milk from grass fed cows in Italy. Attractive paper packing held together with eyelets. This milk comes from the same cows and process while Parmigianino Reggiano is being made.

• Color: Soft creamy white with a yellowish tinge

• Spreadability: Soft with a nice firmness to provide a good layer of butter on bread.

• Taste: First notes are a little grassy but then the rest is very neutral, not too sweet, not too salty and middle of the road. But the back end was reminiscent of paper. Probably the cute packaging that allured me hindered the taste a bit.

• Mouth-feel: This butter dissipated rather quickly almost leaving the tongue dry, well as dry as butters can be.

• Aroma: Papery followed by light cheddar cheese.

Use this butter on pastas and if using to spread on warm bread add a sprinkle of pink salt.

Breakstone’s

Bright red packaging with white letters and blue stripe. They are a kosher product from the U.S.

• Color: Pale yellow.

• Spreadability: A bit firm on the first try, it tore the bread a slight bit. On the second round it held it’s firmness but spread nicely.

• Taste: Sweet, with a bit of saltiness and then a twinge of acid, that threw me off guard completely.

• Mouth-feel: Beyond the firmness, it had a medium creaminess, dissipated rather uniformly but then it left the tongue dry, medium finish on the tongue.

• Aroma: Milky, a bit unremarkable.

Use this butter in recipes like baking, sautéing

Minerva Dairy Amish Butter

In 1894, Grandpa Max decided to make butter with

the leftover cream from cheese making. They use milk from Amish dairy farms.

• Color: A nice yellow with a bit of translucence.

• Spreadability: Firm and a bit tacky but did not tear the bread.

• Taste: Good balance between sweet and salt with a back note of hay, relatively well balanced.

• Mouth-feel: For as firm as the texture was, it melted slowly but evenly and created a silky texture across the entire mouth.

• Aroma: Fresh Straw with a bit of saltiness.

Minerva would be great as an every day butter, well balanced, good on bread, in pastas, baking and sauces without altering the flavor of the dish by much. The

texture will create a desirable viscosity.

Delitia

Beautifully packaged product from Parma Italy with thick lightly waxed paper. This too is sourced from cows and milk during the production of Parma and Reggio cheese.

• Color: White with a hint of yellow.

• Spreadability: Nice spreadability, more like a soft peanut butter.

• Taste: Very clean taste, a bit of straw finish, with a touch of gameness, sweet but once again it does have reminisce of the paper it is packaged in.

• Mouth-feel: This is possibly the best texture of butter. Easy, and even melting with a nice texture, lingers just long enough with still the mouth feel of liquid silk.

• Aroma: Straw, sweet with a little cream and sodium on the back.

Use Delitia for a finishing butter. It will add a little earthiness to the dish and wonderful texture.

Plugra

European style butter created by the Dairy Farmers of America and distributed from right here in Kansas City. This butter is known amongst the chef community as the best and here’s why.

• Color: Soft yellow on the whitish side.

• Spreadability: A bit firm, but coated the bread nicely.

• Taste: Super well balanced, a slight bit of earthiness and minerality combined with sweet and with the aroma of caramelization on the finish with a slight acidity of ripe pineapple, natural sodium pulls it all together.

• Mouthfeel: Very rich mouth feel with a slow melt and a clean finish with a light blanket of delight remaining.

• Aroma: Fresh cut hay, vanilla ice cream and toasted pecans.

If you want to change your life as far as butter in concerned, use this in everything. Finish sauces, sauté, spread on bread, it is well balanced with good flavor and texture. This is the cream of the crop as far as butters go.

Store Brand of Butter

• Color: Translucent soft yellow.

• Spreadability: Too firm, actually broke the bread in two pieces.

• Taste: Unremarkable except for the taste of cardboard and paper.

• Mouth-feel: Believe it or not this became tackier, the longer it set out. The butter melted in pieces never creating a soft blanket of flavor and the finish was almost watery.

• Aroma: Cardboard.

Side step the store brand if you care about your food.

Land O’ Lakes

This has been a staple in many households for years.

• Color: Soft pale yellow.

• Spreadability: A bit firm on the first try and did tear the bread, but perfect after being left out for two hours.

• Taste: Typical, soft sweetness with a good amount of salt.

• Mouth-feel: Short vanish and left the tongue dry

• Aroma: Buttered popcorn

The clear winners are Minerva Dairy Amish Butter for every day use; Plugra for absolute life changing nirvana in the butter world; Kerrygold for finishing all dishes and Delitia for finishing pastas.

Try one of these eight butters or do your own tasting, the differences are remarkable.

Renee Kelly is the owner of Renee Kelly’s Harvest in Johnson County. Her passion lies in changing the food system, one plate at a time. Her inspiration is Mother nature and the many growers in the Kansas City area.

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