By Kelsie Meehan
Making Gold Bar butter is a two-day process that begins early on Saturday mornings. The morning begins with a dawn drive to Au Sable Forks to use the creamery space at Asgaard Farm. Asgaard has been a business incubator for Gold Bar Butter, allowing me to lease their certified and well-equipped creamery space on the weekends for butter production. Butter production starts with heavy cream from Battenkill Valley Creamery in Salem, NY. The cream is vat pasteurized, cooled to about 70 F, and bacterial cultures are added. This temperature is optimum for the cultures, which go to work turning the heavy cream into sour cream by breaking down milk sugars into lactic acid. The cultured cream is held in the vat overnight, to allow the cultures to fully transform the cream from sweet to perfectly tangy.
Upon returning to the creamery on Sunday morning, the now-sour cream is cooled further to the optimum temperature for churning into butter. The cultured cream is churned in an electric churn, where the action of the rotating paddle breaks up the structure of the cream, releasing solid butter and liquid buttermilk. This buttermilk– true buttermilk from churned butter, not the cultured skim milk you’ll find in stores– is then poured off from the butter. Some is bottled for sale (look for it in stores soon!), and the remainder goes to the lucky pigs at Asgaard Farm.
The next step of rinsing the butter with cold water is essential to remove all of the buttermilk from the butter, which extends the butter’s shelf life. The butter is then lightly salted, both to balance the tangy flavors and to further extend its shelf life. A final kneading of the butter by hand works out any remaining water and improves the texture of the butter. The finished butter is then weighed into half-pound and pound pieces, hand-shaped into bars, wrapped, and labeled.
Why go through all this trouble to make cultured butter? Butter-making could be a one-day process if I skipped the culturing step, and just made butter with the uncultured heavy cream. The answer is flavor. The bacterial cultures I’ve selected for Gold Bar produce not only lactic acid, which gives the butter a tangy flavor, but diacetyl, a naturally occurring buttery flavor compound. Diacetyl is the same compound that is added to movie theater “butter topping” to give it that over-the-top butter flavor. In Gold Bar Butter, it occurs as a natural result of the cream fermentation process, resulting in exceptionally flavorful butter.
Gold Bar Butter is available for sale in the Adirondacks at Asgaard Farm, Sugar House Creamery, the Hub on the Hill, Reber Rock Farm, Cedar Run Bakery, the North Country Food Co-op, and Green Goddess, and in Vermont at Wayward Goose Farm.
Kelsie Meehan is the owner and butter-maker of Gold Bar Butter. She has been milking cows and making cultured butter since 2012. Gold Bar is the culmination of her dream to produce the finest quality butter in the place she loves most, the Adirondack Mountains.