The Great Torontoist Challenge: Butter Edition
Photo by sylvar.
Have ye heard of a thing called butter? Golden in colour and slippery to the touch, it is quickly replacing olive oil and salt as one of the ways to be demonstrably “in the know” with the foodie set. With farmers’ markets and all things organic continuing to gain momentum in the culinary world, we decided to see what Canadian small production options were available. Throw in some standard grocery store butter (as a benchmark), and a baguette (’cause we were not about to eat this by the spoonful), and we were off to the races.
The butters selected are all Canadian and available at various locations around the city, with price tags, depending on where you shop, between four and six dollars.
- President’s Choice Unsalted Fresh Churned Butter. Perhaps the most convenient of our contestants, PC Fresh Churned comes in four individually wrapped sticks that are marked with commonly used measurements. It’s also kosher, and, as per their website, churned the old-fashioned way. We’re assuming this means that, somewhere along the line, the be-costumed people of Black Creek Pioneer Village were involved.
- Organic Meadow Cultured Unsalted Butter. A co-operative that represents over 100 family farms across Canada, Organic Meadow is also, as per their logo and our powers of deduction, a huge fan of rainbows and the cows that they follow.
- L’Ancêtre Bio Organic Unsalted Butter. Founded in 1992 with the mission to bring organic dairy products to Canada through modern yet sustainable methods, L’Ancêtre is available at their “country store” styled location in Québec, as well as Whole Foods and Scheffler’s Deli in St.Lawrence Market. Mooo.
- Mornington Goat Milk Butter. It’s all goats, all the time, at this Millbank, Ontario co-operative. And that’s how we want it to stay.
- Appearance. It is a nice colour—a hint of yellow without being margarine-hued?
- Texture. Does it spread well? Is it too oily or greasy? Is it smooth like silk, or is it eerily chunky?
- Taste. Does it taste buttery in a natural way? It is creamy? Can it hold its own on a slice of baguette or is it begging for accoutrements?
- Appearance. L’Ancêtre Bio Organic—12.5/15. Of our contestants, L’Ancêtre Bio Organic had the most “as-expected” look to it. In the case of butter, we call this a good thing.
- Texture. L’Ancêtre Bio Organic—13/15. This butter was a great spread, without delving into oily territory.
- Taste. L’Ancêtre Bio Organic—13.5/15. With a truly lovely flavour, this contestant was quite savoury for a buerre non-salé.
We, at Torontoist, are fans of goats. We find their manic button-eating to be amusing and enjoy their cheese tremendously. Their butter on the other hand left us a little bit confused, especially when it came to aesthetics. The main, and simple, reason why Mornington Goat Milk Butter came in last in this challenge is because when we opened up the packaging what we were greeted with looked, essentially, like a large block of lard. Described conversely by our judges as “anemic,” “sick,” and “looks like it should be mint-flavoured”, we were, as a panel, quite apprehensive about actually tasting this contestant. Our general sense of concern was not abetted by the consistency this butter displayed upon baguette application—it not only looked like lard, it spread like lard too, only somehow…meltier. The redemption for this contestant? Though too late to save it from the bottom, Mornington Goat Milk Butter actually tastes quite pleasant, with a hint of the cloven-hoofiness we look for in their cheeses. As one judge put it, an excited expression adorning a recently fearful face, “I can taste the goat!”
There isn’t really too much to say about PC’s butter offering. It had a mild, rather neutral flavour with the slightest touch of sweetness. The colour was milky, with a hint of yellow that did not venture into jaundice-dom. The texture was extremely smooth, bordering on greasy, leaving some of the panel feeling that this contestant, despite times-of-yore production standards, wasn’t quite as authentic as the other contestants. In fact, one could say that this butter, comparatively, tasted and felt as close to being oil-based as you can get while not being offered in a tub. Still, there is something to be said for convenience, and butter in stick form, especially when it comes to baking—the only realm in which we think this contestant could really shine. We mean that figuratively; as per above, the literal shine is already well covered.
Beating out PC by only half a point, Organic Meadow Butter was definitely the most yellow of all the contestants. The flavour was a source of some disagreement amongst our panel—though the flavour was relatively neutral, some found it to step it up a notch in butteriness, while others ventured to describe it as “watery”. Still, it was a matter of consensus that it felt more natural, with a creamier mouth feel and a noticeable density that, though at room temperature, made it seem a bit clumpy while spreading on our baguette.
L’Ancêtre Bio Organic not only took the crown in all three criteria for this challenge, it also had a whimsical cartoon cow adorning its packaging. Sourced from la belle province, L’Ancêtre butter is just really tasty. Less yellow than our other organic entrant, and with excellent spreadability that never even considered entering oily-land, this butter had a flavour—creamy, well-balanced, savouriness—that made us want to re-butter the crevices of our slice of baguette after each bite. Though not widely available in conventional supermarkets, we found it in two locations during our travels, and the price, at $4.99, was only 40 cents more than PC Fresh Churned. While some boîtes may content themselves with bandying around terms like “e.v.o.o.” when describing what accompanies their bread, we’ll happily take a pad of butter, monounsaturated fats be damned, with our baguette any day. It’s not that we mind a dose of pretension with our meals, but with family-run farms at risk all over this country, why not moisten our bread with something that is a little more local and, no offense to all you cold-pressed olives out there, a little more flavourful?
Photos of our contestants by Julie Reitsma.