When my friend Gilly, Food Manager at the Sticky Rice Cooking School, told me she was asked to source some Blue Butter from Woodside Cheese Wrights for a chicken, olive and preserved lemon tagine, and that the requesting chef was raving about this new product, I was intrigued.
The award-winning Cheesery based in the Adelaide Hills is well known for its delectable range of artisan cheese made from milk sourced from small, local dairies, but their foray into butter is relatively new. Determined to get my hands on a pat, I arrived early at the Showground Farmers’ Market on Sunday morning to snaffle a block to take home and slather on a fresh loaf of sourdough. Incredibly rich with a subtle blue vein flavour and curdly texture, this hand churned, cultured butter melted away immediately in my mouth.
There are two types of butter. In Australia, we are more familiar with ‘sweet cream’ butter, made from churned fresh cream that does not go through a ripening process. I fondly remember my grandmother making big pats of buttercup yellow butter with cream fresh from the cow. After being put through the separator, the cream was so thick that you could stand a jar of it upsidedown without spilling a drop.
The superior, ‘cultured’ butter is popular in Northern Europe where it has been produced and enjoyed for centuries. Made the time honoured way with slightly soured cream, it has a more complex flavour, a different texture and is very rich. If you are a butter lover planning a trip to France there are a number of beurres de baratte (traditional hand-churned butters) of exceptional quality from Normandy, Charentes and Isigny that will make you swoon…and then there is le beurre Bordier. Made by the celebrated Jean-Yves Bordier in Brittany this fabulous butter imparts an incredible richness to dishes and the grand chefs of France can’t get enough.
Still relatively new in Australia, there are just a handful of cultured butter makers in the country. Woodside Cheese Wrights make their butter with thick, naturally rich cream that is innoculated with cultures and set aside to ripen. After the buttermilk is removed it is washed with filtered water and sprinkled with South Australian Murray River pink salt.
There is nothing quite as delicious as good butter smeared on fresh bread but chatting at the Woodside stand at the farmers’ market I discover that Blue Butter goes exceptionally well with mushrooms. Simply pan-fry a medley of mushrooms in the butter, sprinkle the dish with fresh parsely and add a grinding of pepper. As is often the case with outstanding produce, it’s best to keep things simple in order for the flavours to speak for themselves. Apparently, the Blue Butter is wonderful on top of a steak. I imagine it would also be tasty melted into a hot baked potato, or used to finish a velvety cauliflower soup…With half a pat of butter left, I’d better get cooking!