Buttered Up

Butter says a lot about a place. Think about it: When you're out to eat and the server brings a basket full of prepackaged rolls and a handful of tiny margarine tubs, you know things are just going downhill from there.

On the other end of the spectrum, there's the transcendent experiene that is European butter. When a ramekin of the stuff shows up at your table, it makes bread seem like an afterthought. It's the kind of condiment that leads you to rationalize licking your knife at a fine-dining establishment. You feel like a glutton asking for more, but you can't help yourself.

This is kind of how we felt when we first tried Houlton Farms Butter. It's not quite as creamy as its European counterparts, but it's loaded with butterfat and the flavor is sublime. For the uninitiated, it's a bit saltier than traditional butter and a bit more colorful — Houlton Farms Dairy adds a natural dye because the yellower product was better received in the market. Do not let this deter you, because you'll be missing out. It's wonderful for baked goods, such as scones, but our favorite way to serve it is melted with a freshly steamed Maine lobster.

Whenever we're in the County, we stock up on one-pound blocks (Houlton Farms butter is available at almost all of the grocery stores and many convenience stores in Aroostook County), but you can also buy it in Bangor at McLaughlin's Seafood. Just be sure to order more than one — and try to refrain from licking your knife at the table.


Deborah said...

Jeepers, darlin', couldn't you have waited at least until the winter (or NEVER) before turning on the rest of the universe to Aroostook County's best secret??!
Houlton Farms does not make the butter during the summer months, so supply and demand becomes a problem.(McLaughlin's confided last week that HF cut them back to just 20 lbs per summer delivery to be fair to all of their vendors). Grocery stores in the County actually ration Houlton Farm butter purchases to 2 lbs per customer during the weeks around Thanksgiving and Christmas because so many "away" people come home for the holidays and want to take a stash back. I know because last year a dear friend proclaimed that all she wanted for Christmas was 5 lbs of the butter, and I had to go to 3 different stores just to get enough for her present! So, my dear Maine Maven blabber mouth, if I run out and can't get home to Caribou or buy my HF butter here in Bangor, I'll be knocking at your door for some of yours!
P.S. Yours IS my favorite blog and probably everyone else's in Maine as well!

Jimmy C. said...

I'd like to give my intuition some credit, but I discovered Houlton Farm butter largely by accident a few years ago at Sonny's Seafood in Readfield. I always try to sample as much local produce as possible when I travel abroad, and Houlton's was an instant epiphany of excellence. I even got to turn on some native Mainers to it. Personally, I like my Houlton's butter floating atop a big hot bowl of thick, creamy white perch chowder (another Maine culinary secret)... Jimmy C. in Syracuse

Doc M said...

I have to admit to being one of those native Mainers who learned about Houlton Farms butter through Jimmy C's intervention. I was hooked instantly. I'm only privileged to spend my summers in Maine right now, but I strategize in the winter about where and how I will get Houlton Farms butter to bring back to my three-season home.
This year, I bought it at an IGA in Houlton where it was inexpensive but rationed. Maximum of three pounds per customer at $3.19 per pound. Shop and Save in Houlton has it unrationed at $3.29. I even found it outside The County at the IGA in Eastport. The price was high there, $4.99 per pound, but still, of course, worth it.
Right now, my favorite use of the magnificent butter is to melt it on freshly-cooked native Maine corn from Ridley Farm in York County's Shapleigh. Each season, their late August corn is the best I've ever had. There should be a new name for it because the word "corn" doesn't seem adequate. Melt a pat of Houlton Farms butter on that corn and it's Nirvana.
Doc M reporting from Shapleigh

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