Tasting butter is serious business, especially without the comfort of a cracker or baguette. But that’s what our latest blind product tasting SIG was all about: unsalted butter. In the name of research, we worked our way through nine brands, tasting and scoring 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. They were also the most expensive: Celles sur belle (France) and Delitia (Italy) were $8.39 and $5.50 per half pound respectively.
Our top picks were quite surprising.
First place went to none other than Clover Stornetta Sweet Cream Butter. Tasters found the butter to be pure, sweet, with a clean taste.
There was a tie for second place. Whole Foods 365 Unsalted Butter and Kerrygold Unsalted Butter both won tasters over. Whole Foods was slightly sweet and an all-around unsalted table butter. Kerrygold was a beautiful golden butter with a slightly softer texture. It also had a lovely nutty flavor.
Third place went to Pamplie (France) which has an Appellation of Controlled Origin (AOC) designation, which means that certain standards are adhered to regarding the milk and resulting butter production. Tasters found this butter to be full-flavored, nutty, and rich.
Other butters tasted included Clover Organic, US-produced Plugra, and Petaluma’s McClellan, which was the only salted in the batch but merited inclusion being a local, artisan producer. Many either loved or loathed Plugra.
If anything, our 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 Silverman Hough, baked off a few pastry samples and most agreed that ones made with Clover Sweet Cream and ones with Plugra were best, beating those made with shortening and with half shortening/half-Clover.
By Sophia Markoulakis