Spread the word — it’s Britain’s first butter boutique
THIS has been a wonderful fortnight for butter lovers. First, a group of eminent scientists turned 50 years of nutritional dogma on its head, releasing a report published by an obesity charity claiming butter and other saturated fats are not bad for our health, but can actually protect our hearts.
Yes! We butter eaters have been celebrating for days, spreading it thickly on bread and scone, toast and crumpet, with the belated endorsement of health ‘experts’.
No asparagus spear has gone undressed — life, surely, could not possibly get better than this sublime and heady moment. But it did.
Just over a week ago, by coincidence and in a sublime moment of serendipity, a shop opened on a North Yorkshire High Street selling just one food: butter; 100 per cent, full cream, (I think we can say) heart-starting butter.
In ButterBees of Malton, there’s not a rival spread in sight. There is nothing branded lowfat, let alone zero per cent fat. The only item on sale that’s spreadable is the shop’s own homemade, uncompromisingly smooth, golden yellow butter.
For scientists and medical practitioners who for years have advised avoiding a diet high in saturated fat, these recent days must seem like anarchy.
For the industry that has become somewhat rotund on sales of low-fat foods over the years, butter’s comeback must be a total nightmare.
There has been a small-scale but determined resurgence of traditional butter-making in Britain. But no one until now has opened a butter parlour selling nothing but butter.
Lucy and Steve Briden-Kenny left their jobs in March after spotting a gap in the market for artisan butter.
‘We enjoy visiting local delis and farmers’ markets and we’d seen that there are lots of bakers making artisan breads,’ says Lucy. ‘We thought we should make something to go alongside these traditional breads. There were plenty of jam-makers already, so we thought why not butter?’ The couple set about researching how to churn butter, trawling the internet and reading old books.
‘We found plenty of scientific research into making butter, but we wanted to find out how it was made in the past,’ says Lucy, who used to work for a law firm. ‘We looked at all sorts of churns, including ones attached to a rocking chair that made butter as you rocked backwards and forwards.’
The butter-making process involves agitating full-fat cream — shaking or stirring it in a container until the fat, or butterfat, in the cream separates from the buttermilk, , or water content. That buttermilk is drained d off, leaving behind the butter. This sounds simple, but there is an art to making butter, and the BridenKennys had much to learn.
‘Our first attempt involved a bowl and a whisk,’ says Lucy.
The couple then bought a small four-litre electric butter churn. They packed the results into their car and drove around hoping to sell to nearby farm shops. ‘By the time we got home, there was already an order on our answerphone from Castle Howard’s farm shop,’ says Lucy, talking of the stately home used as a location for the 1981 TV series Brideshead Revisited.
Demand was so high from shops, chefs and hotels that they were soon able to leave their jobs. ‘Two weeks after that first car journey we were able to cover our previous jobs’ wages.’
Then, after more research, they took a technological backwards step and decided their butter should be churned by hand.
Lucy’s father Colin Briden created a stainless steel version of a traditional wooden barrel churn that can take 20 litres of cream (making ten litres of butter). The churn will be installed in the shop in Malton so customers can see butter being made in front of them.
‘We discovered the slower you make butter, the smoother it is, the deeper the yellow colour
The deeper the yellow, the better the taste Lovely cream is thrown away by some dairies
and Lucy. buying family the They creamat better make Acornfrom the butterthe taste,’ Farm, Tweddledaily, says an organicshire Dales. dairy farm in the York
approachedMany local were farms tied they into contracts with large dairies and were not permitted to sell their cream. ‘Instead, they pay to have it collected — as waste,’ says Lucy.
The secret of good butter, aside from slow churning, is fresh milk from healthy dairy cattle that can graze the best pasture for most of the year. Once the fat has been separated from the buttermilk (which they sell to the Bluebird Bakery in Malton to make scones), the fat solids are ‘washed’ by kneading in iced water to remove impurities.
Next, part of the batch is saltedand add2 make ‘Sunday ButterBeesper texture. crunchycent with pure Roast’fine salt, unsaltedwhole saltedsea but buttersalt crystals,they butter crystals butter; withalso to is rosemary deliciouspikelets and for honey crumpets.basting butterbeef; and for a bought ‘People margarinetell us they’ve because never they believe it is bad for them,’ says Lucy. ‘Since the report, the goodness of butter is a big topic of conversation in our shop. People feel they have been given permission to enjoy it. I believe it is so much more natural. It’s a whole food — our unsalted butter has only one ingredient: the cream it is made from.’ Lucy and Steve are one of a few new traditional butter-makers in Britain. For example, there’s the Swedish duo Patrik Johansson and Maria Hakansson of Butter VikingsV on the Isle of Wight, who make a soured cream butter used by Heston Blumenthal’s FatF Duck restaurant. The rehabilitation of butter has so far been slow, with a gradual acknowledgement that its benefits are many (though, like everything, it should be e eaten in moderation).
But the report by obesity a awareness charities the National Obesity Forum and the Public Health Collaboration will only confirm what enthusiastic butter- eaters have long believed: the most harmful things in our diet are sugar a and carbohydrates.
As for me, a professional cook, I am loving this new era of nutritional common sense. I know I can’t eat butter all day long, but I shall be enjoying buttery treats without guilt.
What is more, the butters made by the Briden-Kennys and other similar producers mean those moments of melting bliss can be enjoyed in a similar way to a sip of fine wine.
I’ll raise a hot buttered scone to that.