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Imported Butters ? ? ? ? ?

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I'm curious about peoples experience with imported butter? French, Danish, English...? Either for cooking or just for bread and butter. Do you really taste the difference? Are they worth the extra price? Any favorite / least favorite brands?

Thanks for any help...

Uncle Ira

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  1. I love Plugra. You have to measure it out yourself for baking, as it comes in a big block, but the flavor and texture are great.

    I also just tried the butter made from the milk from Parma they use for parmesan cheese. Nice.

    I've also used Celles sur Belles (or something similar) butter from France. It's great tasting, but comes in too small a package imho - only 1/2 lb.

    2 Replies
    1. re: oakjoan

      Plugra isn't imported -- it's European style, but it's made in the US.

      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        Here's a link to one of the "classic" threads on Plugra.
        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...
        It includes a post from Plugra's director of marketing that tries to set straight some of the confusion.

    2. Here are the results of a recent taste test from the SF Chronicle. Personally, I find Plugra excellent for both baking and spreading on bread. And it's much cheaper than the others (I think the price they list for Challenge butter is for 8 oz, not a full pound).

      http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi...

      1. Here are a couple threads in the last month on the topic that you might find useful.
        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...
        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

        1. Plugra ROCKS. It's the best butter I have ever had, bar none, and the taste difference is definitely noticeable to me in baked goods and spread on things. The smell when you open a package of it is just heavenly. Smells like what butter ought to smell like. Unfortunately, I can't get it locally here. The one thing I miss about living in Altanta was living around the corner from the Dekalb Farmers Market, where I could get Plugra butter cheaper than the regular stuff at the grocery.

          1. Plugra is a favorite of mine.
            Lately I've been buying a Danish brand called Lurpak which is really good also. It's perfect for cooking, baking, frying, and spreading.

            1. I used Plugra in my rugelach this holiday - what a difference! They came out way flakier and even more delicious than before. I've used President butter from France and that was good but Plugra is amazing. I will not use anything else from now on. Oh, and Trader Joe sells Plugra for less than regular butter.

              1. European butter generally has a higher fat-water ration than North American butter. Some people feel this makes a difference when baking (e.g. flakier pie-crust and cookies). For regular use for other purposes, I find that freshness makes much more of a difference, and I therefore try to buy from local producers. Sometimes, by seeking out local producers with smaller productions, you can find people making higher-butterfat content butter as well, while supporting local farmers.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Sam Ottawa

                  I think "generally" overstates things. A lot of European butter has the same butterfat content.

                2. Plugra isn't imported. It is a European Style butter made in the US.

                  I love good butter (mostly used for eating, not cooking), and have tried several French butters, my favorite being Isigny Saint Mere. There is an English butter, Double Devon Cream, available at Trader Joe's which is also very good.

                  European butters are often frozen in transit to the US, so watch the date and ask about freshness.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: sku

                    The higher butterfat content makes a difference in cooking and especially baking and yes, Plugra is American.

                  2. I would suggest that there are two different dimensions to what foodies sometimes equivocally call "European" (-style) butter:

                    1. Fat content.
                    2. Cultured vs non-cultured.

                    Many of the European (-style) butters mentioned actually have the same 80% fat content as standard US butter. How can you tell? Calories per tablespoon, my friends. If it's 100 calories per Tbs, it's 80% fat, not higher. (100% fat would be 120 calories per Tbs.)

                    What most of those butters have in contrast to standard US butter is that they tend to be cultured more, in varying degrees. Also, the pasturing for the cattle for such butters is more likely (but not always) to vary seasonally and thus have more variability and character (both for good and for ill, btw) in flavor. Some folks may value a deeper flavor, but there are plenty of people who might not (not just in the US but even in Europe; my grandmother, who made a lot of butter on her family's small dairy farm in Ireland at the turn of the last century, had pronounced opinions on flavors of butter, for example).

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Karl S

                      Thanks, Karl. This is very helpful to me. I think what I had in mind when I posted the original question is the idea of cultured butters.

                      That being said, what do people here think of them? My impression from the little I've read is that the taste might be a bit stronger, maybe a little cheesy. Am I right in this? Any brands or bargains I should keep an eye out for?

                      Thanks again for any input...

                      Uncle Ira

                      1. re: Uncle Ira

                        Yes, cultured butters can be cheesier -- sometimes a little, sometimes a lot (like that Parmagiano butter mentioned above).

                        Some imported butters are cultured, some are not (the cultured ones usually list "cultures" among the ingredients). To confuse things further, there are cultured butters made in the US. The Vermont Butter and Cheese Co. makes an excellent one: http://www.vtbutterandcheeseco.com/cu...

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                          Second the Vermont Butter and Cheeese Co., some of the best butter I've had.

                    2. Regarding this topic, do you think it's best to keep your butter in the freezer?

                      I lately started to keep my butter in a tupperware container in the freezer, but I am not sure this is the best approach to preserve freshness.

                      --Maria

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: maria_nyc

                        If you do not eat butter quickly, you can store it in the freezer. Just be sure (as it sounds like you did) to wrap it well before you put it in the freezer, as butter will pick up off-flavors if not well-wrapped.

                      2. I believe the best better that I have ever encountered was that free surplus butter that US Government was giving away back in the very late 80's - very early 90's. Because of the mass give away, there was an overall price war on every brand of butter out there on the market. It sure opened up my testing taste buds for a good 2 years.

                        That Vermont Butter ended coming in mostly 2 and 3 depending on some batches of butter I have found. However Vermont Butter and the Gov. Butter was highly consistent and well up there in quality and taste. Other butters were not as consistent but good. Pevely Dairy (St. Louis, MO) was one off the top of my head, that went back and forth in consistency. More than likely the handling and shipping did affect that.

                        BTW- Foreign butters was poor here. The Dairy community was so strong here, it kept them on the Gourmet - Deli shelves (3-4x$), not the Dairy shelves.

                        1. Is it perhaps, not the fat but the cows?

                          With the increase of interest in cooking, slow food, and general food snobbery in the US. I am suprised we have not seen people churning their own butter at home.

                          (mind you any passage in the "Little House on the Prarie Books" where they churned butter was early food porn for me.)

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: RaleighRocker

                            I am able to buy raw cream from Amish dairy farmers not far from Phila. It is light yellow, almost as thick as sour cream and delicious beyond compare. I have made butter a few times, just with a whisk, but the cream is SO rich, there is absolutely no water in it, (especially in the spring when the cows eat fresh grass and have calved) that it doesn't turn to butter well. It makes killer creme fraiche.