For a while I practically gave up on butter. I wasn’t aware of it immediately, it was a few years later that I realized, with some puzzlement, how indifferent I’d become.
When I moved to New York 14 years ago, though I was already very keen on cooking as a means to gather friends around the table, I wasn’t yet too obsessed about daily ingredients. I was busy working and loving it and finding a life in this somewhat intimidating city.
I didn’t go out of my way to seek just the right product, except for friends when I would gladly trek to all corners of the city to find the elusive squid ink and fish bones for that black risotto. Day to day, without really noticing it, I just stopped eating certain foods, mistaking and too quickly dismissing industrial blandness for ‘different to what I was used to at home.’ In any case, we went out practically every night.
So, among other things, I never bought chicken, and I stopped liking butter. When one day — I don’t remember who or when — someone commented on the transcendent quality of bread and butter, I realized I had stopped caring. How could this have happened?
I decided I must right the many years of neglect; I started buying butter from France. This didn’t strike me as terribly sensible, practical, or environmentally responsible, but it was tasty. Until I became attuned to real butter, good butter, made relatively close by in upstate New York, or the Northeast at the very least.
At first there was essentially Ronnybrook. Now a number of other butters have become quite readily available, and more seem to appear at the market and in stores every day. Here is a small sampling of butters that are most easily found at markets and supermarkets in New York.
Kriemhield Meadow Butter — the best — is from grass-fed cows, with a high fat content (crucial). It is very tasty and assertively salty.
Ronnybrook — old habits die hard — is always in the fridge (we often have three, four, sometimes five different kinds of butter at a time. Ahem.). This one is mild in taste, even the salty version. Good for everyday.
Despite all its local-ish, organic, and grass-feddedness, I didn’t much like Natural by Nature’s Salted Whipped Sweet Cream Butter. It has much lower fat content than the other butters, and therein lies the rub.