"‘Butter butters better" - or so the advert told us - and who would argue. The ad was around the time we also bought a bigger block of cheese and mum brought home the bacon.
Butter in its present form is still the taste to enjoy as a spread and while the debate on which is better health-wise - it simply comes down to whether we prefer to fill our bodies with pure product made from cream or chemicals from which other spreads are made.
Making butter is likely to have first occurred from goat or sheep's milk. Cattle were thought not to have been domesticated until some years later. There are other commodities also known as butter - pureed nuts such as peanut or almond butter or fruits such as apple butter along with chocolate butter and the like.
The process of making butter is simple enough but unlikely to be included in the home chores in these modern times as the raw product is unlikely to be available. In simple terms, butter is the result of emulsifying (through churning) fresh or fermented cream. The buttermilk is then removed leaving a solid mass. This is then patted into a block ready for use.
During the elder Harvey Street team Hawkes kids' early childhood our butter came from my father's parents' dairy farm in Otatara. We all had turns at churning and patting the butter, which was unsalted and definitely more like European butter in taste than the bulk-made butter of today.
Europeans were passionate about butter to the extent that in the 1860s shortages of it began to occur.
About that time Emperor Napoleon the Third offered a reward to anyone who could create a substitute for butter to relieve the shortages.
In 1869, a French chemist created the first margarine by adding milk to beef tallow and worked the two together like butter. Vegetable margarines followed sometime early in the 1900s.
During the 20th century the consumption of butter declined due to the popularity of the less expensive margarine which was also perceived as being healthier. However, that is now in reverse.
It is also interesting to note that while New Zealand is recognised worldwide for the butter it produces, the very best butter available here, up until recently, still came from Europe.
Enter Lewis Road Creamery where Peter Cullinane and Andrew Railton have chartered new territory by producing a premium butter product. Armed with a butter churn, a 1920 butter bible and a shared termination to create the world's best butter right here in New Zealand, Peter and Andrew have received exceptional praise from New Zealand's leading chefs for their product .
Lewis Road Butters are rich, smooth and creamy which makes them simply brilliant to cook with and are available at selected New World supermarkets up and down the country.
European-style butter needs a European-style dish (and there are plenty of them) to bring out its best, so this week let's make something that I guess you would call a cross between a scone and a bun.
Yes, it is one my grandmother used to make many years ago, one we thoroughly enjoyed at afternoon tea time, called a Paris Bun. Interesting to note it has nothing to do with France. In fact, the origin is said to be Scottish, while the Irish have also made some claim.
Grandma's book tells me 12 ounces flour, 4 ounces sugar, 1½ tsp baking powder, 1 cup sultanas, 2 ounces butter, 1 egg with the method to bake in a moderate oven and serve with butter. Let's adjust that to today's metric measures.
60g unsalted Lewis Road butter
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup sultanas
milk as required
Method: Heat oven to 190 degrees Celsius and heat oven tray.
Cream the butter and the sugar together until light and fluffy pale in colour.
Add the egg and continue to beat until well incorporated.
Carefully add the flour and baking powder, mixing through with a little milk as required to make a soft dough.
Add the sultanas to the mixture.
Roll the dough into balls and place on the floured hot oven tray and bake until cooked through like a scone.
Serve with Lewis Road Creamery salted butter and your favourite jam.
Graham Hawkes operates Paddington Arms at the Queens Dr/Bainfield Rd roundabout.
- The Southland Times