Tuesday, October 19

All the butter: how cooks are transforming the largest expanse in the world | Food

IIt sounded like another passing fad, like the cereal coffee in East London, or the crispy bar in soho. “This Colorado bistro is the world’s first stick of butter,” read the headline of an article announcing the opening of Bella La Crema, an American restaurant serving “flights” of handmade butters flavored with spices or herbs. The comparison to beer and wine tasting boards was rattled at first, but butter in its truest form is perhaps closer to wine than crisps or cereal: there is terroir in the pastures; technique in the shake; magic in adding bacteria cultures and flavors (optional). And Bella La Crema, who has been delivering her beloved bourbon butter, rosemary and sage butter, house butter, and chocolate butter to the US throughout her run-ins, and has since begun searching for her Second site could possibly be the next step in a move. which has been quietly going on in some farms, dairies, and restaurants for years.

“It was at the Fat Duck that I first noticed it, around the turn of the millennium,” says Jay Rayner, restaurant critic for the Observer. “There was a handmade goat’s milk butter with a pronounced cheesy twist. Then, in 2006, Stephen Harris of The Sportsman in Kent showed him churning butter with local milk and seasoning it with salt that he made by boiling seawater off the nearby coast. “From then on it became” a thing. ” Not content with bulk-bought packages, restaurants began buying cream, growing it, and whipping it in-house. Chefs pushed the boundaries of flavored butter, wrapping herbs, spices, vegetables and meat in their golden folds. Those who did not produce butter locally, they began to source it directly from small-scale dairies, and as demand grew, so did the number of butter producers.

Grant Harrison of Ampersand Dairy.
Grant Harrison of Ampersand Dairy. Photography: Patricia Niven

Butter is the cornerstone of classic cooking: the first food to hit the pan and, most of the time, the final flourish, used to top dishes or as a base for sauces. It’s a vehicle for flavor, but it’s also delicious in its own right. Grant Harrison of Ampersand Dairy in Oxfordshire makes his butter “as buttery as possible. We didn’t add any flavor, just cream from British high welfare cow’s milk grown, aged and traditionally barrel-whipped. “Harrison, a former chef, now makes butter for luminaries like Le Manoir in Oxfordshire and Chiltern Firehouse in London.” In summer , I can taste the wildflowers, “says Harris.” When you mix butter from hundreds of different farms in a factory, it loses its specificity and character, but if you make butter from the cream of a field of cows on your own and lush meadow, it’s amazing. And when you cook with it, when you spread a fish or a piece of meat in your own butter, seasoned with your own sea salt, you get a dish that no one else can prepare. “

In part, the return to handmade butter reflects a more general shift toward ingredient-based cooking and away from the molecular gastronomy of the 1990s. However, the fact that Heston Blumenthal, founder of Fat Duck in Maidenhead and A pioneer in taking a more scientific approach to cooking, Leading the Way with his Cheesy Butter, along with Harris, suggests there’s more to the trend than this narrative. suggests. To make his leek butter, Tom Simmons, from his eponymous London Bridge restaurant, mixes homemade leek oil and smoked salt into a whipped butter, then burns the tops of the leeks to make a smoked ash, which is sprinkled to finish. At Moor Hall in Lancashire, Mark Birchall prepares his own raw butter with a mix of local Jersey and Holstein Friesian cream and a sour cream culture, while at Oklava in London, Selin Kiazim makes his addictive date butter with medjool dates, spiced black rice vinegar and sugar.

Heston Blumenthal, owner of the Fat Duck and butter pioneer.
Heston Blumenthal, owner of the Fat Duck and butter pioneer. Photograph: Ander Gillenea / AFP via Getty Images

When Robin Gill opened his first London restaurant, The Dairy, in 2013, his smoked bone marrow butter was legendary, but when it came to his second restaurant, The Manor, Gill’s head chef wanted his own spread. So did the cooks at later openings. “The chef wants to express his own individuality,” he tells me, “and butter is his first port of call.” Bread and butter is the new amuse bouche, the “first impression a diner will get from a restaurant and a great way for the chef to have a little fun,” says Simmons.

Gill and Simmons have noted public enthusiasm for the growth of butter over the years, as sales of spreads like Flora and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter have declined. “The problems related to mass production they are more exposed, ”says Gill. In his book Fat, Jennifer McLagen makes a compelling and well-proven case for butter, in terms of taste and nutrition. “As food has become cheaper and more abundant, we have increased our calorie intake and the sources of those calories have radically changed … Our experiment to reduce [our consumption of animal fats] it has not made us healthier and robbed our food of flavor. “Human nutrition is complex, he writes,” but for most of us, eating animal fat is not the death sentence we have been led to believe. ” In fact, the facts about butter haven’t changed much, says the NHS: It is still a saturated fat; it should still be eaten in moderation. But popular opinion is increasingly of the view that “pre-industrial” foods, from the farm At the table, like butter, they trump “industrialized” foods, like butter-mimicking spreads.

“Good butter brings a tangible link to our farmers, our landscape, which is deeply ingrained in our psyche,” says Trevor Gulliver, one half of London’s St John restaurant group. For Gulliver and his business partner, Fergus Henderson, butter (they use Glastonbury butter from Somerset) is “as essential as a knife and fork on the table.” “Spreading butter makes you stop and participate,” he says. The taste and process of spreading good butter on good bread “conjures up images of cows and fields,” he continues, insisting that “these strange substitutes served under the butter banner” can never compete.

Oklava medjool date butter from Estate Dairy.
Oklava medjool date butter from Estate Dairy.

Of course, these romantic ideals should be taken with a pinch of salt – even Gulliver acknowledges that butter should be enjoyed “in moderation.” “Butter is still a treat. It’s not something to eat on a daily basis, ”says Rebecca McManamon, spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association. Butter from grass-fed cows may have more omega-3s, but make no mistake about the health benefits: If you’re looking for essential fatty acids, “it’s best with salmon and mackerel.” Instead of slathering on the Lurpak, save your buttery moments for meals out and when you do eat it, eat it not for the nutrients, but for its flavor, its history, and the pleasure of simply spreading it on bread.


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