Given the title of ‘On Hot Buttered Toast’ it will be no surprise that I am out and proud as a butter-lover. I am more out and proud than ever, though, after the BMJ’s report that butter – and other saturated fats – are not nearly as bad for us to include in our diets as has been pedalled over the last thirty or so years.
I can’t think many of us in the food-writing community would have been at all surprised by this. Other than to be incredulous that it is still considered ‘news’ that our health and wellbeing are best-served by keeping as close as possible to the natural sources of supply of our foods.
It has become widely accepted over recent years that processed foods are one of the biggest problems in the modern diet. We have to get the message across properly that spreads are included in that too.
Last week I took part in a (very timely) workshop about butter run by the Guild of Food Writers. We tried some 30-odd butters from across Britain and Europe. The differences in their taste and texture were striking. It made me look forward to a time when butter isn’t just rehabilitated into the nation’s fridges but when we embrace and enjoy its diversity – and use it as a true flavour ingredient in the kitchen.
It is so easy these days to think that butter is butter is butter. The main distinctions made now seem to be between salted or unsalted. But before the industrialisation of our dairy industry there were more regional dairies and therefore regional butters. Their butters would taste of the region and the land that the cows were feeding on. The dairies identified themselves by using butter pats stamped with their name or logo.
There are still some great British butters available. With herds that feast on flavoursome pastures and using some traditional dairy processes. One of my favourites is the Abernethy Butter made by Will and Allison (Abernethy) in County Down. They are building upon generations of a family butter-making tradition. Abernethy Butter is sadly not as easy to get hold of outside Northern Ireland as it deserves to be, but can be ordered online.
Hook & Son specialise in raw milk without the worries unpasteurisation might bring to mind. They operate a local milk round for lucky folks in their part of East Sussex and you can also order for nationwide delivery – just without the gorgeous glass pint bottles.
The British butters below are each available through the supermarkets. They are well worth seeking out and trying. You might be surprised by their differences in colour, flavour and texture.
St Helen’s Farm (goat butter)