Thursday, March 8, 2007

Clarendon Hills Whipped Butter

Butter. I love butter. I suppose that's a given -- most people are at least fond of butter, but I? I write poems about butter, I dream about butter, I find myself constantly thinking about it at inappropriate times and in strange places, like on the El.... I'm stretching. I'm not a butter fiend, by any means, and I don't think I've had a butter-based dream for quite some time, now, but in any case: butter and I go way back. We're pals. Oh, sometimes we get into the occasional squabble, and I swear never to speak to it again, but a few days later? I'm back with my knife and bread, ready to kiss and make up.
Of course, we're not talking about any old kind of butter here. No, if I'm going to smother something in butter, it's got to be goooood butter. Land-O-Lakes is fine and all, if you're having a butter emergency, but my preference? Clarendon Hills Whipped Butter. Call me needlessly fancy if you must, but I love this butter. It comes wrapped in a sheet of parchment paper in an irregularly shaped 8-ounce block, with no other indications of measurement. It's old-fashioned, really, because my whole life I've been accustomed to standard butter: four neat rectangles wrapped in parchment, stamped by the tablespoon, and snugly packed into a bright yellow box. Until Clarendon Hills, I'd never seen anything different. It is nothing like standard butter, and it tastes nothing like it, either.
This butter is made in Wisconsin, and labeled "Wis. Grade AA." Not being an expert on food codes, I did a little sleuthing and found, unsurprisingly, that in Wisconsin, Grade AA butter indicates a superior breed of butter. It possesses the highly pleasing butter flavor required, has only a slight (I taste none, but I'm not a butter expert, by any means) taste of feed and/or culture. For comparison, Grade B butter is described thusly: "It may possess any of the following flavors to a slight degree: malty, musty, neutralizer, scorched, utensil, weed and whey. It may possess any of the following flavors to a definite degree: acid, aged, bitter, coarse, flat, smothered, storage and old cream." Oooo, bitter-acid-storage butter! I love that stuff! I just can't get enough of that scorched old cream taste! Clearly, Grade AA is the "creme de la creme" of butters, at least by Wisconsin's standard.
They sell this stuff at Treasure Island, which is a great "European-style" grocery store in Chicago. There's one right in D's office building, so although it's a bit more expensive than Dominick's (which is just shy of out-of-the way on the walk home) he'll stop there sometimes after work to get us some food -- especially if we need butter. They have a small but thorough produce section and lots of different types of hard-to-find foods (we were able, by the way, to purchase some olivada -- black olive paste -- there, as I originally thought.) Unfortunately, they don't have a functioning website (it's been "under construction" for quite some time) but if you find that you're lacking something strange and generically European in your pantry, they most likely have it there. And they carry Clarendon Hills butter, which makes it worthy of a special trip. Just for the butter. And if you walk there, you might be able to work off the calories that you'd consume after baking some cookies with this rich, creamy, Grade AA butter. By the way: while it's wonderful for baking, it's good in any recipe that calls for butter or margarine. Try it on these thin chocolate chip cookies, then move on to baked dijon chicken (substitute it for the oil) and smashed potatoes. Speaking of potatoes: just throw a hunk of this stuff on top of a baked potato with a salad on the side and you have yourself the tastiest quick meal known to man. I'm serious.


Maggie said...

I love that the wrapper has Polish alongside the English text! Amazing. I'm jealous of your butter, and I've been enamored of your blog for a few weeks now, incidentally. This is just the first I've had something to say.
- Maggie B.

Sarah said...

hi maggie!
(and k8, of course)

K8 said...

Hey, gals!
I meant to mention the Polish in my post, but I was too busy thinking about the taste of the butter to remember. I don't know what it says, but perhaps you do?
Happy to see you here, Maggie!
You too, Sarah! ;) :)

Sarah said...

enough about butter! new post please! oh and are we serious about the easter candy exchange? i hope so! let me know and i'll go get an egg this week-do you prefer milk or dark (i hope dark otherwise i will lose a teensy bit of respect for you, but still love you) any problems with nuts?


K8 said...

oh, i know -- it's time for a new post. i've been busy!!
serious about the easter exchange? i better be serious -- i just bought more easter candy than i'd ever know what to do with if I weren't sending it off.
and obviously: dark chocolate. is there anyone in the world that prefers milk over dark? they must be insane.
and no problems with nuts. i love hazelnuts and peanuts and cashews and walnuts and almonds and pecans and... the list is endless.
lovelovelove, and i promise: new post tomorrow. today is grocery-laundry-vacuum day (yuck!)

Fun said...

Just finished an interview with an Amish butter producer in WI and stumbled into this link...
I am the food police as it should be...
Any possibility that more information could be exchanged on this particular product to find its source? Odd that it has a WI Grade AA yet the product is packaged in IL? [Due to the telephone number on the package]...
If you choose, please respond to
Thanks in advance for your tolerance and assistance.

Susan said...

I LOVED reading your blog about Clarendon Hills butter and how much you love it :) The balls (unsalted and salted) are actually handmade here in Chicago @ Danish Maid Butter Company (my family's business) I could be wrong, but I believe the man who started Danish Maid Butter Company originally came up with the idea for calling the butter "Clarendon Hills Butter". Soon after that he named the company "Danish Maid Butter Company," but the "Clarendon Hills" always remained on the balls as their signature style.

D & I design merchandise related to the HUAC hearings. Visit our store: