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Nov 30, 2011 11:36 AM

What do you believe is the best butter you can get

I was looking to buy butter to use when baking and noticed what a significant difference the type of butter you use has on taste. So now im in search of the best butter. I know Thomas Keller serves Straus butter and butter from special cows at Animal Farm in Vermont but im not sure if he uses this in his cooking or if these are purely spreading butter for the table. Then I thought, why not a French butter like Eschire butter or Lescure butter which I heard is widely coveted by pastry chefs in France and I even saw Gordon Ramsay using it. Pretty soon I found myself looking at Danish butters like Lurpak. Im completely lost. Right now im leaning towards Lescure but if you have any other butters you swear by, feel free to mention them. I was actually trying to find out what type of butter Pierre Herme uses since hes such a legend but that did no good.

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  1. Living in Paris for a good part of the year, l buy Bordier doux au lait cru butter here, for finishing. If l cooked with it, it would lose most of the reasons for buying it in the first place. Similar to using Fleur de sel for cooking. On the other hand the higher fat content, read less water, is better for baking and the easiest way to get that in the states is by using Keller's, not Thomas, 'French' line called Plugra. Should be easily available. Try it, great for baking.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Delucacheesemonger

      CURSES!!!!! I now want Bordier butter. Reading about it made it sound so delicious and now I find out its nearly impossible to get it here. I envy you.

        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

          I made two batches of cookies a week apart. Same recipe, different butter. The first batch, I used 8 ounces of Plugra. The second batch, I used 7 ounces of Beurre d'Isigny. I was really surprised by how much better the second batch of cookies was. Perhaps I'd have been less aware of the difference if I'd made them months, rather than days, apart. The price of the Beurre d'Isigny might be prohibitive if one is doing a huge amount of baking; but for a special occasion, it will now replace Plugra, which had been my go-to.

        2. We use unsalted butter from a couple of purveyors, whatever is on sale. I'm more interested in the special cows. I have a degree in Dairy Science from a Midwestern State University. What are special cows?

          I just accessed the Animal Farm of Orwell, VT website. The breed of cows pictured on the website are Jerseys, one of the 5 better known breeds in the US, but in the minority in numbers of herds of the 5 breeds. Jersey milk is higher in butterfat than that of Holstein-Freisian, Brown Swiss, Gurensey and Ayrshire.

          Altho Jerseys are a very good breed of dairy cattle, I haven't a clue why one would consider them 'special.'

          11 Replies
          1. re: ChiliDude

            the special cows?....its just what you're told when you ask about the butter when you dine at Per Se here in NYC. The butter that comes from Animal Farm actually comes from a very small herd of of cows so I guess it makes them more special in the sense of sentimental value as the owner even goes as far to name her cows. Regardless of the fact of whether the cows have anything to do with the butter quality, Animal Farm butter is more of a cult butter which is why im fascinated as to why Thomas Keller swears by it. I used to think butter is all the same but he seems to be finicky about what he uses. I guess finicky is what gets you the honor of being crowned best restaurant in the world which is why i put so much trust in Keller who advises you to use the best ingredients you can find.

            1. re: littleprotege

    's all a marketing ploy. If I correctly recall, the butterfat content of milk from Jersey cows is about 5%, the other 4 well know breeds of dairy cows that I mentioned produce milk with the butterfat content about 2.5 to 4%. This may be old data because i got my degree in the 1960s.

              BTW, my wife likes Keller's butter.

              1. re: ChiliDude

                I doubt Thomas Keller would fall for a marketing ploy. I dont think Animal Farm would need a marketing ploy though seeing as Animal Farm almost exclusively sends all of their butter to both of Keller's restaurants. Per Se and The French laundry so the only way to taste it is by paying the $250 (not including drinks) to dine there. His restaurants wouldn't need a marketing ploy either as it is nearly impossible to get a seat there. Now that annoys me. So basically, the whole website was put up to say " cant have any".

                and lol...fine...i give going for the Plugra haha.

                1. re: littleprotege

                  I'm just a peasant who eats simple fare. Here's a marketing ploy for you. Supermarkets in my area have the word Angus associated with their more expensive beef. Most people are unaware that Angus is black (sometimes red) beef breed originally from Scotland. I wonder if anyone or any organization has done a taste test to see if Angus beef has a superior to beef from Herefords, Shorthorns, Charolais or even Brown Swiss, a dairy breed that is sometimes used for beef. I've had the good fortune to have dined on Brown Swiss steak at a college friend's family farm. Using the term 'special' about a familiar dairy breed like Jersey is a ploy to me.

                  As far as my culinary preferences are concerned, the word 'chili' in my Chowhound ID should give you a clue. My personal culinary motto is "Cook like a peasant, dine like a gourmet." Also, I belong to the "What if...?" school of cooking specializing in "Cuisine Impromptu." I'm not one to pay $250 for a meal at any restaurant. I do know about the reputation of the French Laundry in Yountville, CA.

                  1. re: ChiliDude

                    i think jerseys are special cows. we should recognize that certain heritage breeds of cattle and pigs and chickens are different and their milk, eggs and meat have distinct or "special" characteristics. the milk of a jersey cow does have different characteristics (higher butterfat) than the milk produced by the cows bred for quantity production over quality production, favored by the u.s. agricultural machine, and epitomized by "milk box" breeds such as holstein. jersey milk is better for best-quality cream, butter, and cheese. if you have ever seen a jersey cow beside a holstein, you will notice that they are physically much smaller than their cousin breeds. the proposition of smaller animals with smaller output/animal can mean more labor for the farmer, so you really have a minority of farmers choosing jersey cows. those that do choose them tend to trend toward the craft/artisan/farmstead producers, who also tend to have smaller herds which are gass-fed (jerseys are excellent grazers) and good farming practices with an emphasis on animal welfare and best-quality product. unfortunately this is increasingly very much the minority of milk production in this country, and runs counter to the prevalent factory farm model. imo there is no "marketing ploy" if there are real differences in the product. as a consumer if i'm picking up a dairy product, i want to know if it comes from jersey cows and in many/most cases i would be willing to pay a premium price for it, if it does. fwiw i think that the product of two identical animals can differ wildly due to farming practices/nurture/environment. if a cow, whether holstein or jersey, is raised on pasture, not bulked up with grain-based feeds/TMR, and not injected with growth hormones, while her sister is sent to a factory farm where the opposite is true, i am apt to call the milk product from the former cow "special" and from the other, not so much... or "normal"-- though it pains me to say this.

                    1. re: soupkitten

                      Whoa soupkitten! The cattle that are grain-fed are beef cattle, not dairy cattle. I agree whole-heartedly with your premise about grain feeding. Cattle in general evolved as pasture fed animals. What goes on the humongous feed lots is a travesty.

                      I worked on a farm in northern Illinois that was in the artificial insemination business and had 130 dairy bulls. Cows were also on the farm for the purpose of setting milk production records, some of them being milked 3 times a day. There were 6 breeds of cows on the farm including Milking Shorthorns. The high producing cows were selected to be mated with bulls from high producing bloodlines to produce bulls for future stud service.

                      I have seen all the major dairy breeds. As a graduate student in the Dairy Science Department at a major Midwestern university, I had to handle dairy cattle on a weekly basis. My adviser was conducting a dairy cattle crossbreeding study. I had to take body measurements of the resulting hybrid heifers, and it was necessary to catch them by chasing them of foot while they were on pasture.

                      In case you didn't read all my posts, YOU ARE PREACHING TO THE CHOIR!

                      1. re: ChiliDude

                        actually TMR is formulated specifically for dairy cows and it contains grain and other feed supplements. dairy cattle are increasingly raised on these feeds, sometimes exclusively.

                        glad we are of the same opinion on grain-feeding and cattle confinement. . . i was not intending to preach to anyone, merely point out that the dairy segment of industrialized agriculture is growing, and not necessarily in a way that benefits the consumer or the animals. the old-fashioned norm of animal husbandry is in many cases the exception. but your posts leave me confused as to what you would consider "special" cattle to be, if indeed you think any cattle would qualify as "special." if it is not how the cattle are raised, then what? a very obscure heritage breed? cattle trained to do tricks? ;-P

                  2. re: littleprotege

                    I don't know if Thomas Keller would fall for a marketing ploy either, but I'm pretty sure he's not above using one. Otherwise it would be hard to get people to wait months for reservations and pay high prices once they got there. This is not a criticism, just an observation. You sell the sizzle, not the steak, no matter how good your steak is.

                    As far as "special cows" go, Per Se is the restaurant that had on its menu that Constant Bliss cheese from Jasper Hill Farms in Vermont was a "single cow" cheese, that single cow being a very special girl named Agatha. It turned out that Keller (or his staff) had misunderstood the whimsical labelling of the Kehler brothers - there is, of course, no such thing as a single cow cheese and they were not claiming any such thing. Kind of embarrassing for Per Se.

                    1. re: ratgirlagogo

                      Thank you for your input. Advertising is a slick business.

              2. re: ChiliDude

                My mom grew up on a farm in Maine and her mother made the best butter around and she swore it was because of the Jersey cow. Wish I had some now :)

              3. Mine is the butter I get from neighbor who makes it fresh from the milk from her little brown Swiss cow. I grew up on farm, live on farm and would like to know about these special cows too.

                1. I think the best butter you can get is going to depend on where you are. In our area there are now small craft dairies that make butters in small batches that are I think only available (I think) in our region. So, for example, here we have Hope butter and Rochdale Farms butter.

                  I'd rather buy something made fresh and probably not shipped and stored for a long time.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: karykat

                    pastureland is also exceptionally good. the high butterfat hope butter for baking/pastry, available through the heartland deli case, is certainly world class. the thing about a local premium butter like hope is that it is never frozen for shipping outside of the region or the country. all imported butters have been frozen, as have --unless i am mistaken-- all nationally distributed butters.

                    plugra is kind of crappy, actually. imo.

                    1. re: soupkitten

                      Yes, I agree about pastureland.

                      And about the freezing. Almost everything made in quantity is frozen.

                      I think too that your preferences in butter depend on whether you like it cultured or fresh. To me the fresh uncultured tastes sweeter. But lots of people like the cultured. Which has more of a tang to it, I think.

                  2. My favorite "gourmet" butter that I can find in NYC is from New Zealand, called Anchor. It's like crack to me, although other people to whom I have introduced it aren't always as enthusiastic. I think most of the higher end butters you can find in the grocery store (i.e., Lurpak, Kerrygold, Plugra, etc.) are going to be a step up from Land o' Lakes in terms of flavor, but I find their best qualities are generally lost in cooking so I tend to use them only for actual buttering of bread.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: biondanonima

                      You consider those high end?! Guess things are different in the US. In the UK, especially in the west country, we considered those average or crappy (haven't heard of plugra though). We bought good unsalted butter from reasonably local cows, often organic. My mum hated buying non-british butter!

                      Here in India I make my own butter as it is very easy and better than the crappy Amul butter sold in stores.

                      1. re: Muchlove

                        Well, I wouldn't call them truly high end - but they are the best butters available in most regular grocery stores (i.e., Pathmark, Shop and Stop, Key Food, etc.). To get anything better, you'll have to go to Whole Foods/Zabars/Fairway/specialty markets.

                      2. re: biondanonima

                        Anchor is a pretty standard butter in the UK, as is Kerrygold and Lurpak. We don't have Plugra. The best butters here tend to be from farmer's markets, or the French ones from Normandy.