January 9, 2011

what's in the butter... motherfuckers?

Homemade butter. Easy. 1 liter of cream. Beat it like any whipped cream, but continue, steady and agitatingly, until it splits. Remove the liquid, the buttermilk, put the solids in a passoire and let it drip. Chill the solids and add a bit of fleur de sel to it (if you like salted butter) et voila. Gripped in the early morning with the desire to make butter I went sleepy eyed to the local store in my area. There are only a few brands there, Québon, Lanctatia....Without thinking I grabbed a few 500ml of Québon cream and rushed home. I leave it out for a couple of hours to reach room temperature, have a few coffees, and then start beating, and beating and beating and then started wondering about what was written on the carton; 'country style cream'. What is that supposed to mean? Obviously, I thought, this is not normal cream. I kept on beating the cream and the texture while stiff was bizarre. The fucking thing would not break! I pick up the carton and read the ingredients: cream, milk, carboxymethyl cellulose, guar gum, carob bean gum, mono and diglycerides, carrageenan. Cream for dummies.

I was...a little pissed off. It seemed ridiculous that something called country cream was not doing what cream should do-make butter and buttermilk! All these ingredients were obviously stabilizers and emulsifiers, some that are found in K-Y jelly to boot. And milk as an ingredient! It was all too much for something as basic and simple as making butter. I stood in front of my bowl of K-Y cream, thick and bound, but tainted, not exactly natural, determined to get something real. Now I could have went to some specialty organic store in Montréal, but opted for a quiet drive through the January country side up to Compton to visit La Ferme Groleau, 100% certified organic. If there is a place for butter sanity, and life in general, it is there.

Diane Beaulieu, co-owner with her husband Jean Noel Groleau, is one of the most outspoken people I know. There is no metaphysics or fla fla surrounding their organic farm. Here is a product of common sense, arms deep in the shit of hard work. Not only a farm of 70 heads of Jersey, Canadienne, Suisse Brune, Holstein cows and 250 or so Toggenburg, LaMancha and Saanen goats, but also a strong voice within a group of 30 plus artisans called Saveurs des Cantons (produitsdelaferme.com), whom she more than happily helps distribute in no less than 160 establishments around Québec...and the time she takes to school you in her boutique on the ABC's of milk, of butter and probably the tastiest cottage cheese known to mankind, can only be described as something akin to passion.

Back home, making butter was suddenly a pleasure, real, pleasant. tak, tak, tak. Of course there is something magical about the process, but there is something extremely physical about the act also that we often forget about.

I have heard people call Patrimoine's milk unstable. I can only say that this is the voice of the global market which has lost the capacity to modify and understand. I would prefer to call their milk very fresh and as close to raw milk as one can legally get. Real milk is not a can of peas that bounces around the planet or sits in your fridge for a month. It lives, is volatile and fragile. Their milk is not homogenized, there is a layer of cream stuck to the lid, do not boil it, and is pasteurized at very low temperatures to preserve the taste. Ingredients? Milk. And their cream? 45%. Ingredients? Cream. Labeled as Crème à l'ancienne, with no milk added, no K-Y substances, no additives. Now, who is one to believe? The choice is often simple...when we have one.

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