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Dec 2, 2003 05:37 PM

Cultured Butter

  • s

I have been reading about milk products lately. Cultured butter has been mentioned several times. When I did a search on google- European style butter came up. Are they the same thing?

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  1. (See my post below on Jana Valley butter).

    No, they are not the same, i.e. not necessarily.

    "European style" butter is simply butter with higher butterfat content than is common for U.S. butter. The difference can be 2% or more.

    Cultured butter is butter made from cultured cream, i.e. cream that has had live cultures added to it, making it more acidic (like creme fraiche). This causes both a different taste and different behavior in baking and cooking - e.g., the acid in cultured butter tenderizes the proteins in flour, resulting in more delicate puff pastry. And interesting article is linked below, courtesy of our own Caitlin McGrath.


    6 Replies
    1. re: Sir Gawain

      Thank you, Sir Gawain and Caitlin McGrath, for linking to that article and the recipes. I saved them (or thought I did) but have been unable to find them since, and I want to make the butter cookies for part of my Christmas gifts, along with the 25# of palmiers I always make. I usually use Plugra for the puff paste, but might make some of it with a cultured butter to see how it comes out.

      1. re: ruth arcone

        Now I know why my all-time favorite butter cookie recipe (I'm sorry I can't share it, my Norwegian grandmother would never forgive me) INSISTS on using Lurpak unsalted butter (82% fat - see link below). Lurpak is Danish butter, and is also cultured (also called "lactic" butter) like French butter. It doesn't seem to have as fancy a pedigree as the Echrire or Isigny butters, but it is a good, high-butterfat, cultured butter that has a definitely different mouthfeel, texture, melting point, and taste than regular American butter. I always thought that my grandmother's insistence on Lurpak was some kind of Scandinavian chauvinism, until I tried Lurpak on bread. Oh, the symphonies of yumminess! It's similar, but not exactly the same, as French butter (they taste more like each other than they do like American butter). I think the French butters have more of a nutty taste which I don't like as much as the clean, more floral flavor of Lurpak, but I still prefer both Lurpak and the French butters better than American butters (yes, my darling Strauss organic, though it's very good, has fallen out of my favor, especially for baking and eating -- still very good for sauteing, though).

        I have never liked Plugra, since it just was more "greasy" with it's high butterfat, without the increase of flavor of culture as in the French and Danish butters. I imagine the same would go for the Land O Lakes Ultra Creamy, but I haven't personally tried it.

        The best butter I ever had was still at the Auberge de la Reine Blanche on the Ile St Louis in France, on the table with the levain. I wonder if it was this celebrated Echrire.

        But for what I can buy in my supermarkets here in San Francisco, for both spreading and baking (and ESPECIALLY for high-butter recipes like butter cookies or puff pastry or piecrust) Lurpak is my personal favorite. I tried Jana Valley, and it's good and less expensive, but still not quite as nice as Lurpak. The French butters (no Echrire available here yet) are all good (they are all high butterfat and cultured) but are more expensive and, to my taste, just ever so slightly less yummy than Lurpak.

        It all makes sense now. Thanks Caitlin.


        1. re: Mrs. Smith

          Vermont Cultured Butter is a U.S. commercial source for cultured butter. Quite good. Google the name and you'll find the web site. Lots of retail outlets in my neck of the woods (Atlanta): Dekalb Farmer's Market, Whole Foods, etc.

          1. re: Mrs. Smith

            It's all a matter of taste - to me Lurpak just tastes like sour milk, it doesn't have either the rich nuttiness of French butters or the fine creaminess of uncultured butter like Jana Valley... but de gustibus non disputandum est, as they say. (Sorry, I only know two Latin sayings, and this is one of them; pretty good, eh?)

            But about your grandma's secret... please. We're like family here! We all share family recipes, all the time... don't be a killjoy and post the recipe.

            1. re: Mrs. Smith

              Best butter I've had comes from Animal Farm here in Vermont. Made from cultured pasteurized cream from grass-fed Jersey cows. Bright yellow, tangy, delicious (and high in butterfat – @ 82%, I think). Butter from their 3 cows supplies both The French Laundry and Trio. They bought a new calf last spring so as to supply Mr. Keller's new place in NY (Per Se). Unfortunately, it's only available to retail customers at one outlet, the Middlebury (VT) Coop, for @ $8/lb. Worth every penny.

              1. re: GG Mora

                When I had lunch at French Laundry this summer they actually served two butters. One was "from Vermont" and I believe the other was local Straus.

                Frankly, I wasn't blown away by either of them -- not the way I was by the Jana Valley when it was served to me at Roux (also in the Napa Valley).

                But I'm going to throw in another one: goat butter. I recently bought some (very expensive) goat butter from Canada and it was delicious. Very flavorful and with a different texture from any cows' milk butter I've ever had: it was very soft at room temperature, and less waxy, more "fluffy" with a slightly grainy quality.

                I wouldn't cook with it, but it made an interesting spreading butter.

        2. I'm new at this (butter -- making, not eating) so I may get things a bit off the mark.

          If you take whipping cream and beat it too far, you get butter. That butter has the mouthfeel of fat, but very little flavour. Add salt and you get some flavour. This I have done.

          If you set the cream out on a counter for several hours, or overnight, it begins to go bad, or culture. Somewhat a guess, after my first tasteless butter (fresh cream, as above) I decided to read the instructions. Setting it out to go sour/culture gives the flavour and that is the cultured butter to which you refer.

          As to commercial purchase, I assume makers inject flavour by ageing/culturing the cream before beating, because butter is just cream (milk fat) and it doesn't have much flavour on its own.

          12 Replies
          1. re: SteveT

            Steve -- if you're using ultra-pasteurized whipping cream, that may account for the lack of flavor. Pasteurization kills off the bacteria that provide some (most?) of the flavor. The best-tasting butters (IMO) are made from unpasteurized, cultured cream, but you won't find them made in the US, as gov't regs prohibit the use of unpasteurized milk in any dairy product that is aged less than 60 days.

            1. re: GG Mora

              In California now, at Whole Foods and other health food stores, you can buy raw butter. It is not exactly cultured like the European butters, but the taste is extremely sweet and fresh and delicious. Reserve this for eating cold or room temperature, not for baking, as the heat ruins any of the wonderful raw taste (of course). It is, however, wonderful stirred into warm sauces after they've been taken off the heat. This stuff is not cheap, and, of course, is not for children, the elderly, pregnant or nursing women, or anyone with a compromised immune system.

              In this state in certain stores you can also buy raw milk. Not sure about other states.

              1. re: Mrs. Smith

                If you didn't already know about the RealMilk website, you should definitely check it out. Lots of great information and articles about raw dairy products.


                1. re: KP

                  Thanks for the link, KP. I've recently started buying raw milk regularly from a local farm (had been buying occasionally to make dulce de leche). The kids love it & prefer it to the commercial crap. I'm soon to try my hand and raw milk at yogurt, then butter, then some simple cheeses. What a gift to have it right here.

                2. re: Mrs. Smith

                  Are you talking about the Strauss Family products?

                  1. re: Sharuf

                    Strauss is gently pasturized. Good quality we use it all the time. The cream is excellent and it is non-homogenized so there is a great fat plug at the top.

                    She is talking about Organic Pastures, the raw milk sold in Southern California at Whole Foods.

                    BTW- I have baked with their raw milk butter and the results were WONDERFUL.

                    1. re: JudiAU
                      Melanie Wong

                      You make an important point about the type of pasteurization used. Some of the microprocessor controlled flash pasteurization methods only heat the milk to high temperature for a few seconds and there is little flavor impact. The quality of the herd and the feed also contribute a great deal to the flavor. Raw vs. pasteurized is not the only variable to consider.

                      Has anyone mentioned Spring Hill Jersey butter from Petaluma?

                    2. re: Sharuf

                      No, those are pasteurized products -- non-homogenized milk though, which is wonderful (but a separate issue). At Whole Foods in California you can buy truly raw milk that is NOT pasteurized at all. People who make cheese need raw milk to start their process, and also some people are willing to take the risk of non-pasteurization for their own opinion of the health benefits. Straus is a wonderful, delicious product, but is pasteurized (their milk, butter, and cheeses, ). The great thing about Strauss is it's one of the only non-homogenized brands out there.

                      Raw milk is completely unpasteurized and non-homogenized.

                      1. re: Mrs. Smith

                        "Raw milk is completely unpasteurized and non-homogenized"...

                        And delicious. The kids think it tastes like a milkshake. I think it tastes like, well, millk.

                        1. re: Mrs. Smith

                          I've seen Strauss raw milk at both Berkeley Bowl and Cowgirl Creamery in the Ferry Building in the Bay Area. It is distributed.

                          1. re: Missy P.

                            Excellent news, I had no idea. Hooray!

                          2. re: Mrs. Smith

                            I grew up on a dairy farm, drinking our own raw milk, of course. It wasn't until I went off to college that I was forced to make the change to the pasteurized milk that the rest of the population was accustomed to. It tasted like paper to me.