Ladies and gentlemen, we have a local butter. And it is good. Why does it matter? Well, most of the conventional butter we get in the supermarket is butter lite (misspelling intentional); it's the suggestion of butter, a sweet manufactured simulacra thereof. Stripped of its personality, it literally pales in comparison. Through pasteurization, all the good stuff—the cream that rises to the top, the microbes, the tang, the nuance—is gone.
Enter cultured butter, which emerges from old-fashioned, pre-industrialization techniques in which the cream is allowed to rise to the top after a day's milking, and that cream basically gets churned into butter. In this specific case, we're going local and talking about Ironstone Creamery. They're based in Riegelsville and a vendor at the Wednesday night Easton Farmers' Market. This is the nirvana, the zenith, of butters. For special recipes, I've periodically bought an herbal cultured butter from Kerrygold, which is decadent for Thanksgiving's mashed potatoes. Chefs and food enthusiasts often prefer imported cultured butter for its superior texture, complex taste and stellar performance in baked goods for example, no doubt related in part to its higher butterfat percentage (generally 82 to 86 percent versus about 80 percent). Just imagine it spread on a baguette or slathered on fresh corn. In fact, when I bought it I asked the rhetorical question, "Oh, why isn't there any corn yet?" (The new potatoes from Jett's produce got drizzled with it instead, a reasonable substitute given the constraints of Mother Nature at the moment.) I also did something entirely ridiculous at the behest of one of my sons, Desmond, a boy (like his brother) obsessed with the organic kettle corn from 4th Street Foodworks. He suggested we put butter ON TOP OF the kettle corn. I know, it already has coconut oil on it. (We had the simple sea salt at our disposal last week.) I melted about a tablespoon of it and then poured it over several ample handfuls of the popcorn. You must do this. It elevates popcorn to new heights.
Ok, back to business. Just because butter is cultured doesn't necessarily mean it's free from chemicals; we'll get to that in a minute. But if you are buying from the Easton Farmers' Market and perhaps other markets that promise foods that are grown organically, chemical free and/or pesticide free, it ought to be copacetic. Just ask your farmer. Typically, if we are talking about conventional supermarket sweet cream butter, we don't know what kind of toxic stuff the cows have been grazing on in those large industrial "farms." Nutritionally speaking, cultured butter is lovely because it contains more omega 3s and omega 6s, and the fermentation produces lactic acid, accounting for the more assertive taste. With Ironstone's butter, we're talking about a farm that works biodynamically and butter that come from cows who haven't been grazing on pesticide-laden grasses. That's just about all you need to know, right?
One other thing. Please buy it salted. I know, I know, you want to moderate your salt, you don't want to cook with salted butter. This butter is a luxurious finishing touch, a fancy condiment. You melt it over the popcorn. You toss it with those boiled new potatoes and some chopped chives or parsley. You spread it on a lovely baguette or slice of fresh homemade bread. You want to use it in situations in which the flavor will really shine. Salt just perks it all up. Trust me on this. Thanks. And please report back if you do buy it.