Butter’s not what it used to be, many people would agree.
Olivia Morrison wanted to bring back the true taste of butter that people used to enjoy, when families made their own butter at home. They’d collect the cream from the milk over the course of a few days and as it sat, natural cultures and bacteria developed before it was churned into butter.
Olivia has returned to the old, slow ways of making foods in her production methods, ways which those people who used to make it would recognise easily. It takes a few days for her to produce a batch of Tasmanian Butter Co butter, which is what makes it a niche product, made with care.
Larger companies, producing it commercially as more of a commodity product, make their butter in a hurry, extruding the fat from the cream under force, making a product with a minimum fat content of around 80%, the lowest they can get away with. They may also add lactic acid cultures during the churning process, to give it the taste of a cultured butter. Replicating the taste but without giving it the time to ferment – cheating!
Olivia’s Tasmanian butter is the real deal. With a passion for good food and fermentation, she’s been brewing beer, making cheeses, yoghurt and sourdough at home for years. Tired of sitting in front of a computer, she finally decided to pack in her career as a web developer, and took the plunge into artisan food production instead. Now she makes butter in a tiny processing room in what was an old laundry underneath her house in the hilly suburbs of Launceston.
Former farmers’ cooperative Betta Milk sources cream from Tasmanian diary farms, to which Olivia adds lactic cultures. This kick starts a fermentation process, and things are allowed to ripen for a few hours and take on a life of their own, before being churned. By this point the cream has turned into a kind of crème fraiche, which gives the butter its texture and a slightly different flavour – a distinct nuttiness and tang.
Olivia churns it in a huge forty litre commercial mixer, and works it by hand to separate out the butter milk from the fat, adding Tasmanian Sea Salt.
The result is not just more flavoursome, it has a much more interesteing and characterful texture, slightly flaky, with visible salt crystals. It’s slightly higher in fat content than a commercial butter, at 82%, which makes it behave differently when used in cooking. ‘There’s less burning, and a richer flavour,’ says Olivia.
The inspiration for this cultured butter came from travelling through Europe, where most butter is cultured. In Australia, there are only around five makers of true cultured butter. Consequently Butter Co product has been snapped up by retailers of fine fare around Tasmania, and is stocked in all the familiar purveyors of fine foods such as Alps and Amici, Davies Grand Central and Hill Street Grocer. It is also presented as the butter of choice to visitors staying in top shelf accommodation at Saffire Freycinet, and diners at Stillwater in Launceston.
You can find Olivia at her stall at Harvest Market every Saturday and sometimes at Farmgate Market in Hobart, obliging small children, home bakers and lovers of butter as they help themselves to a slice of crusty sour dough plastered in thick, yellow indulgence, and selling it to them in its distinctive gold wrap. The branding may be different, but apart from that, it’s butter the way it used to be.
Have you got a favourite cultured or fermented product? Leave me a comment below!