Butter Up

By: Beth Hoven Rotto, Chill and Cheese Buyer
Many people use butter with the belief that they are consuming a product better than margarine or vegetable oils. But beware: all butter is not the same because all milk/cream is not the same. Let’s talk about some of the brands of butter we carry at Oneota Community Food Co-op.

Have you tried the popular Kerrygold Butter? It’s made in Ireland, exclusively in the summer, when cows can graze on lush Irish pastures. Kerrygold is a large cooperative of Irish farmers whose average herd size is 80 cows. I was amazed to read that a hectare of land in Ireland changes hands only once every 400 years. That means that there is a very long tradition within farming families, and often three generations are working together on a farm. We carry three types of Kerrygold Butter. The salted (gold foil) uses fresh cream, and the unsalted (silver foil) is made from cultured cream. Cultured cream is made by a fermentation process that converts the milk sugars into lactic acid, making a more “buttery” tasting product, preferred by many. They also make a Naturally Softer Irish Butter that is more spreadable from the refrigerator and is still only made with two ingredients: cream and salt. The one downside of Kerrygold Butter is that it must travel a long way to get to our store.

Chemical analysis shows that butter made from the milk from grass-fed cows has the most balanced ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids which is a good thing. This is in sharp contrast to butter made in places where a large amount of land is devoted to oil seed production – including the United States and Canada. Butters in these countries have a worse omega-6 to omega-3 ratio which research has implicated in heart disease, gastrointestinal inflammation and cancer. Cattle (as well as poultry, salmon and hogs) are fed corn, soybeans and processed canola seed meals. This oily feed changes the profile of the milk. There is good reason to eat grass-fed dairy products.

One of the requirements for being certified organic by the USDA is that cows must graze on pasture during the grazing season, which must be at least 120 days a year. Lucky for us, we have a brand of butter that is both organic and local: our Organic Valley brand, packaged in both salted and unsalted sticks. Organic Valley also makes a Grassmilk Butter which is a cultured butter made only during the summer months. We also carry a regionally produced, organic-certified butter from Kalona Organics, made in central Iowa. I’ve written the praises of this company and their high standards before. Check out “A Visit to Kalona Organics.”

The closest facility making butter for us is WWHomestead Dairy. The milk/cream comes from just two farms near Waukon and Lansing and is rBST free (no artificial growth hormones.) The animals in these farms are kept indoors in what is called a free stall, where the animals have plenty of room, fresh air and soft material to stand and lie on. WWHomestead makes a hand-rolled butter wrapped in white butcher paper and delivered to our store shortly after it is made.

I like to try other butters on a rotating basis, including butter made from the grass-fed cows at Nordic Creamery near Westby, Wisconsin – such as their Maple Butter. Right now we have Shepherdess Butter from the Wisconsin Sheep Dairy Cooperative. Aren’t we lucky to have so many good options?

In celebration of butter, here’s a recipe from Kerrygold.

Braised Red Cabbage
Serves 4-6
50g (2 oz) (4 tbsp) Kerrygold Pure Irish Salted Butter
1 small head red cabbage, finely shredded (core discarded)
2 red onions, thinly sliced
2 cooking apples, peeled, cored and grated
500ml (18fl oz) (2 cups) pomegranate or cranberry juice
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp light brown sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
Good pinch of ground cloves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Tantalize your tastebuds with this stunning side dish. It looks divine and it tastes even better. The easiest way to cut the red cabbage and onions is on a Japanese mandolin but if you don’t have one, a sharp knife or a food processor will do the trick. Fabulous with a Sunday roast or for a light supper, try it with baked jacket potatoes and a dollop of sour cream and chives.

Heat a very large, heavy-based pan. Add the butter and once it has melted, tip in the red cabbage and onions. Sauté over a medium to high heat for about 10 minutes until they begin to soften.

Stir the apples into the cabbage mixture and then add the pomegranate or cranberry juice, balsamic vinegar, sugar and spices. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 1 hour over a low heat, stirring every 20 minutes until the cabbage is meltingly tender. Transfer to a warmed dish and serve at once.