Whey Butter. Way Cool.

It has been awhile since butter molds graced our kitchens and many of us are jumping at the chance to buy freshly churned butter at local farmers markets.

Butter is an important staple in many cultures and is a huge industry around the world. In the past 10 years India is the leader in production followed by the US, Germany and New Zealand where France is the leader in consumption

Cow milk is most commonly used, but other animals, such as goats and yaks are known to be great providers in other countries. In Tibet, a mixture of barley flour and yak butter is staple food. Fermented, or “rancid” yak butter is consumed as a hot tea in the Himalayas. Moroccans bury clarified butter in the ground and age it for several months. Salting butter is a great preservative.

There are several varieties of butter:salted/unsalted, clarified (butter that has had almost all of it’s water and butter solids removed by heating/separating), cultured butter (butter that is made from sour or fermented milk giving the butter a stronger flavor), and whey butter (whey–a liquid by-product of cheese that is added).

Whey butter, our new favorite, has a slightly salted flavor, but not as “cheesy” as cultured butter. It is great for sweet and savory applications. We use butter from Stirling Creamery and is one of our secret ingredients in our shortbreads. It adds depth and flavor to our baking both sweet and savory. Due to the fermentation in the whey there may be some health benefits, too.

I recently made butter using a wooden butter mold acquired at an antique market. A simple design, four sides and a rectangular plunger with a small wooden handle. Now, if you have ever walked away from a mixer and over whipped heaving cream by mistake, you know the butter sticks to the whip and the liquid splashes about making a mess. (I was carefully applying the same technique.) With some success, and the butter still soft, I placed it in the mold, pressed down on the handle and waited for a few minutes. I had a perfectly rectangular shape about an inch thick. It didn’t have much flavor and wasn’t very rich or buttery. There obviously is a bit more to making a tasty butter. The fat content of the cream needs to be higher and maybe a slower churning vs whipping is the key.

I am leaving the butter-making to the professionals for now, but it was fun being curious and playing with my food. I have great butter mold as a book-end to prove it.

Salone Del Gusto Slow Food Italy 2012

Turin, Italy is the home for the Slow Food Mother Earth Conference every two years.

We are back from the bi-annual Slow Food conference in Turin, Italy as Canadian delegates showcasing our crackers and shortbread made with Red Fife wheat (a once endangered grain). Along with other delegate farmers and artisan food producers representing Canada and the Slow Food Ark of Taste we soon discovered hundreds of other like minded dedicated people from all over the world committed to putting endangered foods and heritage traditions back into the mainstream.

There was so much to see and taste and visitors took advantage of every minute of the 6 day conference. The former Winter Olympic ice-skating arena was filled to capacity with international delegates representing North & South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. In the same complex, a former Fiat factory, housed two massive areas dedicated to foods from all over Italy and a mixture of small and large producers offering a never ending supply of food samples described in just as many banners and signs.

After visiting dozen and dozens of little booths a welcomed respite to the hustle and bustle could be found in a third area dedicated to taste workshops with real-time translators to explain the multiple courses of unique and hard to find foods, beverages and cooking traditions. Many were sold old out quickly, but we were able to attend several. Among our favorites were: Spanish cava, Italian Barolo, Scottish beer (only organic brewery in the country), Tibetan rice, Italian seafood and Italian heritage beef.

Each workshop began the same. First the headsets were handed out, the flight of wine glasses were filled and then the food was served. But not before hearing about the region the food came from, the history and tradition and the advocacy behind reintroducing these flavors.

For a first time visitor, the sheer vastness of the three areas: International Salone, Italian Salone and the Tasting Workshops could independently be the sole focus for the conference. There was so much to see and taste that it will keep many slow-minded people coming back.

Cheeses aged for three years from Gascony, France. All hand shaped and individually flavored with herbs and spirits. This booth drew quite a crowd.

Salt cod from Norway was close by our booth.

Tubors from around the Globe on display. There were 21 different types of millet.

Dawn Woodward, Canadian Delegate for Slow Food Terra Madre Turin, Italy, 2012

A beautiful display of global rices. Truly astounding to see these foods and the efforts made to grow and eat these ancient varieties.

Impressive to see an event on this grand scale and the use of cardboard chairs and wooden pallets as the bases for all of the tables for the hundreds of booths.