___There are some good things happening in the world right now.
Being Irish, I am of butter beginnings. I come from butter stock. The bellies of the ancestors were lined with ‘ban bidh,’ the white meats, in the Summer months of Boru and Meave.
Our biggest export, after ourselves, is dairy. The world’s forth producer of baby formula, Ireland’s butter is the gold of the American supermarket and Irish cheddar is a stable on every continental breakfast buffet.
A some-time twelfth century Irish monk was particularly prescient.
During a break from transcription, The Vision of MacConglinne came into being. It was later translated in 1892 by Meyer Kuno, a German Gaelic scholar. A culinary wondertale of many pages, what concerns us is the ode to dairy
‘…of very thick milk, of milk not too thick, of milk of long thickness, of milk of medium thickness, of yellow bubbling milk, the swallowing of which needs chewing, of milk that makes the snoring bleat of a ram as it rushes down the gorge, so that the first draught says to the last draught, “be well”.’
Dairy is in our veins, our hearts are wrapped in butter, for safe-keeping, like eggs.
In my eyes, The Nordic Food Lab in Copenhagen is a place of wonder and delight. In their own words, the Lab is ‘a non-profit, open-source organisation that investigates food diversity and deliciousness.’ Established in 2008 and focusing on the Nordic region, butter has twice been a source of enquiry. First Ben Reade investigated Bog Butter in 2012. This research was done with the help of a butter expert, Patrick Johansson. Patrik Johansson is the co-owner of Butter Viking and is in fact my inspiration for this post. More on this later.
On the 8 of April 2012, Patrik and Ben recreated three kinds of bog butter in Naas Castle in Sweden. Hypothesis abound regarding the purpose of burying butter – preservation, nutrition, purely for the taste. The practice is ancient; in 2011, an oak barrel filled with the waxy substance dating back 3,000 years was found in Co. Kildare, Ireland. The tasting notes for the three-month old batch made is Sweden ranged from ‘moss’ to ‘pungent.’
More recent variations on the ageing of butter and the cultural acceptance/rejection of rancidity have been explored here.
Back to the Butter Vikings. A couple perfecting a near lost art, Patrik and Zandra Johansson have been making butter from cultured cream in a slow butter churn for the last 8 years. They were based in Sweden. They are now relocating to the Isle of Wight, following the trail of really good cream. The sign of a savvy artisan, they keep their personal blend of lactic acid bacteria close to their chests. This is microbially unique butter and is now a lot closer to me then before. Currently sold in Neil’s Yard London and on the tables of numerous restaurant, their successful crowdfunder campaign bodes well for possible tastings in the future.
Luckily, this food-actor has already fully embraced the fact that, while we all can’t be mighty Butter Vikings, we can take butter in our fingers and make it fresh from rich rich cream and live yoghurt
Here ends Butter-eaters #1. Written while impatiently nibbling on frozen butter.