Cultured butter may sound sophisticated, but it’s really just old-fashioned goodness. To become “cultured,” live bacteria are introduced to heavy cream before it’s churned into butter. This additional step lends a mild tanginess and nuttiness to the taste. Cultured butter belongs on crusty bread, enhances sauteed vegetables and mashed potatoes, and brings richness to pan sauces.
To enjoy cultured butter, you can, simply, purchase a good brand, such as Vermont Creamery (with or without sea salt), Organic Valley (regular or European-style with high butterfat), Vermont’s Ploughgate Creamery (with sea salt), or Kerrygold (unsalted) cultured-cream Irish butter. You can also try your hand at making it. The process starts with adding cultures, from buttermilk, plain yogurt, or creme fraiche, to heavy cream and letting the mixture sit at room temperature from overnight to up to 48 hours. The resulting thickened, slightly soured cream is churned by beating it in a stand mixer or food processor; then it’s strained and squeezed and rinsed to remove all the liquid (otherwise known as buttermilk) from the creamy butter. You could say that butter — like a person — gains depth and complexity with culture.
Look for cultured butter at area cheese shops, supermarkets, and natural foods stores. (Prices range from $6 to $12 for 8 ounces.)