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Citrus-tarragon butter, created with fresh clementine, presents a delicious complement to crispy baguettes or poached filets

Smooth, full, rich, complex-words usually associated with wine, but when it comes to butter’s attributes, you may be surprised that good butter—really good butter—has more than a few coveted characteristics that make it a true indulgence.

Essentially, making butter is pretty simple. Traditionally, one would separate the cream from the fresh milk and churn it by hand until it gets nice and thick, then remove the remaining buttermilk from the semi-solid portion, otherwise known as butter. The commercial way to make it involves extraction via centrifuge. The result from making butter traditionally, according to Monique Vander Stroom—co-owner and founder of Naked Cow Dairy in Wai‘anae—is butter that’s richer, more yellow in color and contains more butterfat. This is exactly how Naked Cow makes it.

“Our butter comes from cows that are on pasture, so it’s grass fed and it’s high in beta carotene,” she says. “It’s a more natural butter. Because when you buy butter from the mainland, it’s co-mingled with probably a thousand other farms and cows from all over the place, and ours comes from once source … [Ours] is the type of butter you would buy in Europe from small farms that make high-quality butter.”

Eric LeTerc, executive chef at The Pacific Club, is a butter fanatic himself and gets his butter from France. Come dinnertime at the club, LeTerc gives diners a true taste of Europe, offering beurre de baratte (hand-churned butter) from French cheese master Rodolphe Le Meunier. “Normandy, France, is famous for the creme fraiche and butter,” LeTerc shares. “When you taste butter, you are supposed to taste the sweetness of the cream and the flavor of the flower that the cows are eating. It is really a pleasure to the palate.”

Le Beurre Border is also a butter from the Northwest region of France and made with pasteurized, slightly cultured cream, twice churned before it’s kneaded and salted. And just like wine, factors like season, terrior and the manner in which it’s produced come into play.

The Irish also take pride in their butter. So much so that there’s actually a butter museum in Cork, Ireland. Like the French version, Irish butters have a higher butterfat content than American butters and are creamier and more flavorful.

Butter comes in in all sorts of flavors and varieties—Naked Cow has at least five flavors to choose from, though purists may want to stick to regular sweet cream or salted butter. There’s also cultured butter and ghee, which have unique qualities of their own. As its name implies, cultured butter is made with cultured cream. The butter churned has flavor close to buttermilk. Ghee, on the other hand, is a more intense form of clarified butter. “You take the butter that you’ve already churned, and cook out the solids/ protein/water solids—anything that’s not pure fat,” Vander Stroom explains. “What we end up with is a pure fat/solid oil.” Aside from ghee’s health benefits (said to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease when consumed in moderation), the nutty-flavored substance doesn’t require refrigeration and is lactose-free. Whichever you decide to feast on, make sure you put your butter on equally high-quality bread for the “full effect.”