Animal Farm Creamery, a small-batch dairy, is narrowly saved

When Ms. St. Clair started Animal Farm in 1999, she knew she wanted to raise Jersey cows. With them came a seemingly endless river of milk that needed a purpose.

“Everyone in Vermont made cheese,” Ms. St. Clair said, “I saw a doghouse with butter.”

Specifically, the kind of tart, high-fat, marigold-colored butter she’d eaten in Europe, for which the ultra-creamy milk produced by her Jersey cows was perfectly suited. (Most dairy cows in the United States are Holsteins, which produce more milk with lower fat content.)

At the time, no one he knew in the United States was making small amounts of European-style butter from their own cows, and there were no guidelines on how to do it. Proximity Vermont Creamery had started making European-style butter a year earlier, in 1998, but from purchased milk, which, like making wine from purchased grapes, puts the agricultural part of the equation beyond the control of the producer.

Additionally, Mrs. St. Clair said, “I was there for the cows.”

Drawing on out-of-print 19th century dairy manuals, she eventually figured out that culturing the cream before churning it, a process also called clabbering, dramatically improved both taste and texture, making the end result thicker and more supple, and adding a pleasant nuttiness.

Cultivation is common practice for premium butter in Europe, and was also the case in the United States before the widespread industrialization of the dairy industry switched to uncultured “sweetened” butter, those pale sticks and bland from the supermarket, because it was faster and faster. cheaper to produce on a large scale. (The intense labor involved in producing small quantities of artisanal butter from Ms. St. Clair’s own Jersey cows, as well as the high demand from high-end restaurants, explains the extravagant price.)

Once Ms. St. Clair was happy with her experiences, she spent the night with a 3,000-mile sampler at a celebrity chef she’d never met, along with a handwritten letter asking for her feedback.

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