Food & Drink

Country butter, the crème de la crème

Q. Where can I find fresh-churned country butter? I would love to taste it again.

Fresh butter is a wonderful thing. Even high-quality supermarket brands such as Land o' Lakes don't do it justice. There are a few alternatives to hunting down actual country butter, and we'll come to those a little later.

Butter is made by churning cream until the fat clumps together and separates from the liquid. This liquid, buttermilk, is strained off, and the remaining material is packaged and sold. Butter averages 80 to 82 percent fat, 15 percent water, 1 to 2 percent milk solids and up to 2 percent salt.

Fresh country-style butter can be found in a few places, and its main distinctive characteristic is its freshness. Try the Bradford Store on N.C. 73 outside Huntersville (www.thebradford store .com), or contact Happy Cow Creamery in Pelzer, S.C. (www.happycow creamery .com)

For an everyday alternative to country-style butter, check out European-style butters and cultured butters. European-style butters, such as Plugras, and Irish butters, such as Kerrygold, typically contain the full 82 percent fat, as they are made from higher-fat cream. Cultured butters are inoculated with lactic-acid-producing bacteria, which produces a butter with a distinct fermented flavor. These have become particularly popular with chefs and culinary professionals.

European-style butters are available at Harris-Teeter, although you will probably find them in the cheese case in the deli rather than in the dairy case with the other butters. Cultured butters are available at Earth Fare and Dean & Deluca. Different cultured butters can have wildly different flavors, so play around and find one you enjoy.