Vermont Creamery Cultured Butter

Butter like butter would have been in its heyday

By Ari Weinzweig

Vermont Creamery Cultured Butter is a beautiful example of positive energy that’s ignited by a meaningful, values-aligned improvement. Amy Emberling, long-time co-managing partner at the Bakehouse and a member of our Stewardship Council, has been baking with butter professionally for over thirty years. When I asked what she thought about this new arrival, her answer was both quick and clear: “It’s phenomenal butter!” 

Amy is not alone in this belief. Ever since we added the Vermont Creamery Cultured Butter to the bread service at the Roadhouse, it has been drawing universal raves! You can buy it at the Bakeshop, too—one short stint of sampling led to lots more “wows” and a whole bunch of folks buying it up to take home.  Even folks who have approached it a bit cynically ended up being wonderfully wowed. Clearly, I have been. I wouldn’t be writing about it if, as per everything I had to say in “A Taste of Zingerman’s Food Philosophy,” you couldn’t really taste the difference. 

It is, as per our long-standing definition of quality, both traditionally-made and very full flavored. Believe me, if you try this butter (be sure it’s at room temperature) you will be buying it for your house, too! It took a long time to arrive at the decision to bring in the Vermont Creamery Cultured Butter. But once we did—wow—what a difference! Something that was pretty much a peripheral product is now, almost overnight, a signature offering.

About Vermont Creamery

Allison Hooper, along with business partner Bob Reese, started the company that became Vermont Creamery back in 1984. Working in the small town of Websterville, Vermont, the pair pushed from the beginning to make the kind of cheese and butter that Allison had experienced when she’d done an internship in France a few years earlier. Everything they make is great. I asked Allison for the back story:

The butter was developed early on, in the early ’90s. The story is that the farm that I worked on in Brittany had Jersey cows. They were separating cream and they were selling crème fraiche at the local market. It was so delicious!! I wanted to make that butter here. Bob and I found a used churn outside a dairy back and we bought it. We figured out how to use it, and we started making butter. I found this pretty famous French chef in New York, and I decided to take a chance and send him some butter. He called me back and he was so excited. He said “This is exactly what the great French chefs in New York are all looking for. It’s the butter of our childhood!” The chefs there loved it, and they really helped us get it off the ground. The chefs knew! They say we make the best butter in the country and to this day, that’s what we were known for.

The Vermont Creamery Cultured Butter is made with cream from nearby St. Albans Cooperative. The cream is cultured overnight and only then churned into butter. This is how all great butter was made 150 years ago before the advent of refrigeration allowed for a series of cost-saving and flavor-reducing shortcuts. (Those changes led to the 20th-century introduction of uncultured “sweet butter.” By name alone it sounds good, but it is far less flavorful!) A bit of French sea salt is added, and that’s it. In the spirit of slowness, it takes a lot longer to make the butter in this old way, but you sure can taste the difference. At 86% butterfat, it’s creamy, rich, smooth, and delicious with a lovely long finish. The American standard for butter, by the way, is 80%. Even most fancy European butters are 82% or 83%. You will not be surprised to hear me say again, you really can taste the difference!

How to enjoy the butter

You can order the Vermont Creamery Cultured Butter all day, every day, at the Roadhouse with the new bread service. Enjoy the bread and butter in all their beautiful simplicity, or if you want to up the ante, add on some of the superfine Fishwife anchovies or sardines, or the Maine Smoked Salmon from Foley that are on the menu as well—spread the bread with a thick bit of the cultured butter, put the fish on top, and then grind on some of the amazing farm-to-table Tellicherry black pepper that’s in the grinder on the table. You will have a seriously fantastic appetizer; or with a green salad, a super lovely lunch!