Simply put, culturing butter consists of fermenting the cream before the butter is churned. Have you ever had crème fraîche? Then you've tasted cultured butter's parent. By introducing some dairy-friendly bacteria to the fresh cream, the sugars in the cream are converted to lactic acid; this, along with thickening the cream, produces additional aroma compounds that make for a more complex and "buttery" taste. You wouldn't think that souring cream would necessarily have a positive impact on the butter made from it, but surprisingly, it does: The butter absorbs just enough of the flavor compounds to acquire a subtle and completely addictive tang.
Here in the U.S., though, finding cultured butter — particularly good cultured butter — is a challenge. A couple of national brands are marketing European-style cultured butters with echoes of that unmistakable flavor, but to my taste none of them really hit the mark, and they don't come cheap.
Unfortunately, the pickings are even slimmer locally; of the few Washington dairies making small-batch butter, I couldn't find any that culture before churning. I was beginning to think I'd have to fly to Paris to satisfy my butter cravings until a tipoff led me to George Page, owner of Seabreeze Farm on Vashon Island. Page suggested I make my own.
"There's nothing easier," he told me on the phone. "Just get yourself some really good cream — raw has the most flavor, if you're comfortable with it, but any organic cream will do — add a bit of starter culture, and leave it to thicken for a day or so before churning. Also, a little-known trick is to hold back a bit of the cream each time to use as the starter in the next batch. The flavor will continue to develop."
But will it really be good enough to justify the trouble of making it at home?
He laughed. "Oh, there's no comparison. The flavor of cultured butter is so much more deep, rich and complex. Once you taste it you'll never want to go back."
The outbreak occurred because Odwalla sold unpasteurized fruit juices, though pasteurization had long been standard in the juice industry, claiming that the process of pasteurization alters the flavor and destroys at least 30% of nutrients and enzymes in fruit juice. Instead, Odwalla relied on washing usable fruit with sanitizing chemicals before pressing. Because of the lack of pasteurization and numerous other flaws in its safety practices (one contractor warned that Odwalla's citrus processing equipment was poorly maintained and was breeding bacteria in "black rotten crud"), the company was charged with 16 criminal counts of distributing adulterated juice. Odwalla pled guilty, and was fined $1.5 million: the largest penalty in a food poisoning case in the United States. With the judge's permission, Odwalla donated $250,000 of the $1.5 million to fund research in preventing food-borne illnesses. In addition, the company spent roughly another $12 million settling about a dozen lawsuits from families whose children were infected.
Point of clarification
Quote:Point of clarification
As in clarified butter?
In the US, butter must contain 80% minimum butterfat by law. Since water is cheaper than butterfat, most commercial butter is blended down to 80% post churning. Cultured small batch butter ends up at more like 86%.
What you might do is purchase some high quality heavy cream and make your own butter with the amount of salt you prefer. In school, I remember us kids taking turns shaking a jar of cream until we had butter. You could probably just whip it with a mixer until it turns to butter.
That might help you determine if your memory of the taste of butter is accurate.