Do you have a favorite brand of butter? If so, why do you consider it to be superior?
I like Cabot's butters - they have a "European-style" high butterfat called Cabot 83 that's great. That said, I'm in the Northeast and they're my local "buttery". I think I like Cabot, b/c what I get is usually pretty fresh and so it hasn't had a chance to pick up odors, go rancid, etc.
I do like to make my own butter when I can get great cream. It's easy and results in a great product.
I typically like different butters for different uses. I like to keep a few sticks of unsalted Kate's Homemade Butter in the fridge for recipes that require a large quantity of butter. In the cooler months of the year, I typically make my own cultured butter for spreading on toast and that sort of thing. I also love Vermont Butter & Cheese butters - the one with flaky sea salt is fantastic. As far as why I chose the Kate's and Vermont, I just think they have great texture, a nice amount of butterfat, and good fresh flavor. And obviously, you can't get fresher butter than the stuff you make yourself. :)
I should also add that I have tried some of the higher-end butters like plugra but have seldom been thrilled - prob b/c my stores don't have good turnover of product and it was old.
The best better I ever ate was in France - all crunchy with salt crystals. Mmmmm ... salterrific ...
ooh gosh, that French butter sounds diviiiiiine :).. and thanks to that picture, I am now drooling. Hee.
Plugra butter is the tops! Expensive but the flavor is great! It has more fat and therefore more flavor. I use for spreading on bread and in my pie doughs mostly.
I might have to give Plugra another shot. I've had experiences similar to that of SavoryKitchen - tried it a few times, but wasn't too happy with it. But since I lived in a wee little podunk Tennessee town, it was probably old. Now that I've moved to a more urban area, I'll have to give it another shot.
And I don't think I've ever tried Cabot's butters.. will try that as well!
I agree that the higher fat European style butters taste best. Celles sur Belle is my favorite for pie crusts and other applications where the taste is really important: http://gourmetlibrary.com/products/47312-Celles-Sur-Belle-Sweet-Butter. But I agree that freshness matters, too - I buy it at a little store that imports small quantities of it and has a pretty high turnover. I love Vermont Butter & Cheese, too, but I'm in New England.
If you're really feeling adventurous, see if you can get raw milk from a local dairy and make your own butter from the cream (make sure to rinse the butter at the end) - a different taste, but worth a shot. :)
I buy Land o' Lakes for most baking. I have a lot of older cookbooks and favorite recipes that were written using typical American butter, Lo'L the most consistant performer I've found for recipes written as such. I buy uncultured European style unsalted butter for baking pie crusts and some other things. sweet and savory, I buy the salted Euro butter for fresh use for special dinners occasionally. I don't care for the flavor of the cultured butters that I've tried, but that's just my taste.
I love President butter - great butter flavor - I can find it at my local middle eastern market [and Bristol Farms in SoCal, but more expensive].
I've never tried cultured butter... hadn't even heard of it until recently. Sounds interesting.
Most of the time, I buy whatever's on sale or whatever is cheapest. I've not had problems with store brands or Land O' Lakes--back in the dark ages of food availability, LOL butter was the most exotic butter around.
That said, when the local Trader Joe's opened and I was able to get my hands on some Plugra (which I hadn't heard of until Martha mentioned it on her old TV show), there was a jaw-dropping-oh-my-gosh difference in that Thanksgiving's sables and pecan sandies and other goodies. Everyone, and I mean everyone, noticed the difference. But you know what? I don't like Plugra for plain old bread and butter. I use it strictly for those cookies and cakes where butter and vanilla are the dominant flavors.
Not too long ago, I noticed that the Safeway in the next-door suburb carries Cabot butter, and I made a mental note to try some in the coming weeks. Another market that's 12.12 miles away carries Vermont cultured butter, but I don't want to drive that far just for butter with salt crystals in it. Or do I. . .hmmm.
I use several different kinds of butter, depending on the use. For baked goods, I like Trader Joe's organic butter. It is delicious, with consistent results and it does not break my bank account. I live in Ohio and try very hard to buy local products- so for special occasions I buy Ohio produced butter. I don't know if it is as "good" as Plugra, but I stand by the butter my state can produce. For table butter or to make compound butter, I buy Amish Roll butter from an Ohio/Pennsylvania cooperative called Minerva. If I am very lucky, I will get butter Hartzler Dairy, which is where I buy my milk. Comes in glass jars which I pay for in advance, and occasionally, they deliver cream, buttermilk and butter. http://www.hartzlerfamilydairy.com/oh-hormone-free-milk/products-2
Kate's Butter from Old Orchard Beach, Maine. Both the salted and unsalted are delicious, as is their buttermilk.
I have a strong opinion about this subject -- especially as I'm now a professional baker. It's really important to understand that there's a world of difference between what you want in a table butter and what you want in a baking butter. A table butter choice should be all about flavor. In my opinion, flavor is much less important in a baking butter. What I want in a baking butter is a low water content, a high butterfat content and a rich, unctuous mouth-feel.
For this reason, and after several false starts, I've found a domestic product that Cabot makes called Cabot 83. It's a 'European-style' butter -- which means it's got a higher butterfat content (83%) than most US butters without the buyer having to shell out high prices for imported butter. Cabot 83 is not generally sold to the public -- it's a commercial product -- but if you're focused enough you can generally get a hold of it by asking your supermarket to buy it in for you. I would never use Cabot 83 on my table; it's not terribly interesting in taste. But it makes astonishing puff pastry -- which is my bailiwick -- and its superiority in this regard is absolutely obvious. Cheap butter -- even not so cheap butter -- feels really brittle and flimsy in your hands once you've gotten used to a butter with a high butterfat content. The puff-pastry we make is everything to do with the quality of the butter.
At the moment Cabot 83 costs about $4.80 a pound. I consider this a reasonable price for a butter that raises my game to another level entirely.
For home use, I always use salted butter. For some reason, not all stores in Denmark carry unsalted butter, and it tends to be more expensive (don't ask). I've never noticed that my baked items taste salty, but if you're worried, just reduce the amount of salt called for in a recipe.
Whenever I travel to France, I buy as much butter as possible from small cheese shops. The best kinds have huge chunks of fleur de sel in them, and they are an absolute treat on toasted baguette slices.
My favorite brand of butter is Strauss Family creamery butter, around 85% butterfat. The cows are pastured, which makes it very flavorful and possibly better for you (more omega-3s, less omega 6s), and their farming practices are humane and conservation-minded. This butter was easy to find when I lived in the SF bay area, and I have occasionally been able to buy it in the Boston area where I live now.
My favorite more widely available butter (Whole Foods sells it at least) is the Organic Valley pasture-fed butter, which I like for similar reasons to the Strauss butter. It comes in two different fat contents, one around 78% and one around 85% (this is the one I buy -- it's usually only available lightly salted, but it's easy to just reduce salt in recipes accordingly).
My two favorites are Kerrygold and Organic Valley. I prefer the. Organic Valley when their unsalted special edition is available in the spring. It's quite amazing. The unsalted Kerrygold is available at Safeway, Albertsons, Costco (only salted so far) and even the Walmart Neighborhood store in my area. It's interesting to me that according to my friend who lives in Dublin, that the salted Kerrygold she buys there is only 2% sodium while here in the US it's 4%. I've noticed all US salted butter is 4% or more, I just don't know why. We have weird rules.
For everyday cooking and baking, I generally use Trader Joe's organic or Land O'Lakes (though butter has gotten pricey in general - even the "cheap" brands aren't cheap.) But for a good table butter I usually buy Kerrygold, or Minerva Farm's Amish butter - made in individually rolled batches. (My local shop occasionally has it on sale for 7.99 for the big 2 lb roll.) I think it's 84% butterfat. Only caveat is some rolls of the exact same product are more salty than others. I don't really mind the inconsistency - sort of adds to its hand made charm - but it might bother some. Also, seeing that big log of butter in the fridge gratifies some nostalgic instinct - even though I have no reason for nostalgia about either being Amish or living on a farm. https://www.minervadairy.com/shopexd.asp?id=1
One of my local supermarkets carries an Amish butter that comes in a two pound log and is fabulous. It is salted, but I still use it for baking (just omit salt) since I'm familiar with how salty it is. It's also great for spreading on toast.
Vermont Creamery's cultured butter