A few of us brave souls from the San Francisco Professional Food Society sat down the other night and tasted an assortment of unsalted butters. In the name of research, we worked our way through nine brands, mostly eating them alone, with the occasional bite of an Acme baguette. Without the distraction of labels or price points, we tasted and scored based on appearance, texture, and flavor. Being such a perishable product, there were a couple of imported butters that tasted off, probably due to improper storage or too much time in the refrigerator case. They were also the most expensive, one being a brand from France that was $8.39 for a half pound. But it’s unfair to call them out because as a former retailer myself, the variables of selling an imported perishable are many and the hazards unavoidable.
So I’d like to give a shout out to the brands we did like.
1st place went to none other than Clover Stornetta Sweet Cream Butter. Hubby and I have always been big Clover fans and only used them as our dairy supplier in every grocery we’ve owned. We’ve always believed in their product, their standards, and their service. Tasters found the butter to be pure, sweet, with a clean taste.
There was a tie for 2nd place. Whole Foods 365 Unsalted Butter and Kerrygold Unsalted Butter both won tasters over. Funny how the two least expensive butters came in 1st and 2nd. Something to think about. Kerrygold was a beautiful golden butter with a slightly softer texture. It also had a lovely nutty flavor.
3rd place went to a French butter, Pamplie. This butter is protected with an Appelation of Controlled Origin (AOC) designation, which means that certain standards are adhered to regarding the milk and resulting butter production. So for Pamplie, only certain dairy co-operatives designated in the county of Deux Sevres, in Gatine are used for the manufacturing of this butter. Tasters found this butter to be full-flavored, nutty, and rich.
If anything, the little tasting proved that butter is a complex product for the consumer. Questions about cultured versus non-cultured and European versus European-style came up and we wished we had a butter expert on hand. And then the dilemma of which butter to cook with, especially for pastry and cakes came up as well. Our organizer, Jill Hough, did bake off a few pastry samples and the one with salted butter beat out those that used shortening and heavy cream.
So the next time you’re shopping for a solid-tasting table butter, save yourself some money and reach for either Clover or Whole Foods house brand. Maybe Whole Foods house brand is Clover?