Posts Tagged ‘grass fed butter’

Kitchen Staples: Real Butter and Cheese

Recently I noticed a package of soy-based cheese in the dairy case at my local co-op, labelled “The Good Health Alternative!” and I picked it up to scan the ingredients. I was so intrigued by what I read that I bought it just so I could transcribe the ingredient list accurately: Soy base, casein (milk protein,) canola oil, natural and cultured flavorings, organic rice flour, sodium and calcium phosphate, sea salt, citric acid, carrageenan, lactic acid, sorbic acid, potato starch added for anticaking. The taste was appalling, if you know and like real cheese. I’d eat it if I were starving- I’d eat almost anything if I were starving- but I wouldn’t call it real food. All this proves to me is that unreal food is a problem in healthy-food stores as well as supermarkets.
I like 100% grassfed butter and cheese, and I order mine from the Pastureland people in Minnesota. They remain grass-fed during the winter, feeding hay and forage, but they only make cheese and butter in the summer when the cows are eating pure pasture and nothing else. The taste is wonderful, the method is better for the cows, the environment, and the eater, and the ingredients list is very, very short. This is a good time of year to order because the weather is cool. They ship in styrofoam insulated cartons, and they include a prepaid UPS label so that you can ship the empty carton and gelpacks back for reuse. I order a lot of butter at a time and seal it carefully to keep in the freezer. I also buy their mild cheddar in 5lb blocks to use as my “melty” cheese and general snacking-cooking cheese. The more aged cheeses are good on the cheese platter.
Naturally, it isn’t cheap. It takes a lot of good pasture to make this stuff, and good farmland is anything but free.
To those who argue against having food shipped from other places, I reply that if somebody would make a product of this quality locally, I would certainly support them by buying it. But keep in mind that to maintain this quality, the cows have to be eating real grass. Not hay, not silage, but grass. If somebody in my area will start doing that, I’ll line up to buy it. Until they do, I’ll support Pastureland. This is a rare and unique product and there isn’t much like it available in the US.
Regarding the CLA, omega-3 fatty acids, b-carotene, etc. that are found in grassfed butter, I would only say that I’m hard put to think of butter as a health supplement. I do think this is healthier than most butter, but moderation is still called for. The bottom line is that it tastes very, very good.

The Perfect Brunch, and notes on the Los Ranchos Farmers’ Market

For the gardener and urban homesteader weekend mornings are a busy worktime, with plenty to do and (usually) cool and pretty weather in which to do it. But after a few hours, it feels good to relax with a perfect brunch. To me, the essence of the perfect breakfast or lunch is simplicity. This is not the time for fuss. Its simpicity relies on perfect ingredients, and that gives me a chance to showcase some of my favorites. Please let these good suppliers know that Local Food Albuquerque sent you.

Corn bread: All Southerners and a lot of other people feel strongly about cornbread. I’m no exception. I give my recipe below, but cornbread preferences are very individual, so use your own favorite. The quality of the cornmeal is essential, and in my opinion there is none better than the roasted blue cornmeal sold by Oracio and Lourdes Molina at the Los Ranchos Farmers Market. They grow the blue corn, shell the kernels off the cob, roast the kernels, and grind them finely. The result is full of toasty corn flavor and makes cornbread that fills the kitchen with irresistable scent as it bakes. Oracio also sells his self-published book Hidden Village, which contains some fascinating bits of old New Mexico. Incidentally, their cornmeal makes the best blue corn tortillas imaginable.

Scones: if you don’t happen to be a cornbread fan, or even if you are, visit Hand to Mouth Foods at the Los Ranchos farmers Market (they are at the Corrales market too.) Jeffrey has a great hand for pastry, and his scones are very delicious. I also love his date and pine nut tarts, and my husband is an addict of the cranberry-pecan biscotti. They make a perfect finish to a perfect brunch. Email Jeffrey and Elaine at and ask to be on their email list; you’ll get useful reminders of market times and products available.

The Best Butter: Good cornbread deserves to be slathered with good butter, and I use the only completely grass-fed butter that I know of, Pastureland. It’s made by the Pastureland Dairy Co-op in Minnesota that makes butter and cheese only in the summer, when the cows are eating 100% grass and nothing else. It’s shipped frozen in styrofoam cartons, and a prepaid UPS label is included so that you can send back the carton for reuse, free of charge. They also offer 100% grassfed cheeses. Grassfed butter is a good source of CLA, and you’ll have to decide for yourself whether that’s important to you. I eat Pastureland butter because it’s wonderfully delicious and because the grass-fed life is best for the cows. To arguments that it isn’t local, I can only respond that if a local dairy changed to 100% grass-feeding in season, I’d buy their products.

Blood orange marmalade: my favorite thing to dress up hot or toasted bread. See my post for the recipe.

Freshly squeezed orange juice: I used the very last blood oranges of the season. Any very good orange makes very good juice. In my view, the idea of adulterating something so perfect with champagne is sacrilegious, but suit yourself.

Eggs: The Los Ranchos Farmers Market has at least three egg vendors, and these are real free range eggs, not the pale imitations sold as free-range in grocery stores. Fry them according to your favorite method. Like cornbread, preferences are very personal. I’ve seen directions in cookbooks about how to avoid “undesirable brown crusting” at the rims, while to others that delicate crispy rim is the best possible contrast to the sapidity of the rest of the egg. Again, suit yourself. Next year I hope to be eating home-produced eggs, but right now my future laying hens are bouncy little fluffballs, so thank goodness for the farmers markets.

Put it all together and you have a simple and perfect meal. Enjoy it with people you really care about, who can be counted on to contribute to the general harmony.

Corn bread:
2 cups fine cornmeal, preferably Oracio’s
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 scant tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sugar (optional)
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup melted butter
3 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat a 12-inch iron skillet in it (without a hot heavy pan, your crust will never be what it could be.) Mix all the dry ingredients thoroughly in one bowl and all the wet ingredients in another. When the oven and the skillet are thoroughly hot, mix the wet ingredients into the dry with a few quick strokes. Stirring too much activates the gluten and makes your cornbread tough. Pull the skillet out of the oven, swirl a couple of tablespoons of butter in it until melted and the skillet is greased all over, pour in the batter, and pop back in the oven. Bake until done, ie the top crust is browning and an inserted knife comes out clean. Take out of the oven, invert the skillet over a clean towel to turn out the cornbread, then use the towel to invert the cornbread again onto a rack. This requires dexterity and practice but is worth dooing because both the bottom and the top crust stay crisp. Let rest a couple of minutes, then cut into wedges and bring on the butter.