Chef Al Brown has collaborated with Whitestone Cheese in Oamaru to produce a trio of artisan butters.
Being present at the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France was painful for a couple of reasons – the poor rugby result for New Zealand who failed to reach the semi final for the first time in World Cup history, and tasting French butter made by two small local artisan dairy producers.
The latter experience was a juxtaposition of pure happiness where I had just enjoyed a simply extraordinary taste sensation while the other half of me was slightly depressed.
To think for all those years living in a country where dairy farming has been one of the backbones for our economy, that we have been eating inferior butter, and at times slightly rancid and for as long as I can remember. If we can make world-class milk products, magnificent cheeses, then why oh why can’t we make pure unadulterated creamy cultured butter?
After talking to a number of ‘heavy weights’ in the industry, that didn’t seem particularly enthused by the idea of making better tasting butter, I eventually got an introduction to the lads at Whitestone cheese company in Oamaru. Bob and Simon Berry of Whitestone couldn’t have been more enthusiastic and a collaboration began.
For the past 12 months we’ve been working on producing three terrific tasting butters (salted, unsalted and smoked) all made from North Otago cream.
It’s been an amazing project working on getting the flavour profiles and texture feel just right. We’re using the natural cultures that Whitestone Cheese has been making their award winning cheeses for decades. The balancing act is getting just the right amount of culture to give the butter a uniqueness of flavour, without losing any of that pure rich and indulgent taste of North Otago cream.
Everything about this butter is built around transparency. It’s made fresh churned in small individual batches where even the name of the person who made the batch you are consuming is printed on the pack along with the date it was made.
We’re not the first to do this. Lewis Road Creamy is making great butter too. There is a trend to get back to good quality dairy products. And a yearning for the memory of what things used to taste like, when products hadn’t had the flavour bred out of them and modified for the sake of colour and a perfect shape. Like picking and tasting a sun warmed ripe strawberry, eating a fresh homegrown tomato. It’s a pure taste of the past, so you can once again celebrate and experience what butter used to taste like. No preservatives, numbers or hidden nasties.
Rather than call it artisan butter, I call it everyday premium, because it’s only butter at the end of the day. If you’re going to have a beautiful piece of toast in the morning, why not have a lovely bit of butter on it.