The concept of butter has been around for 10,000 years, according to the American Butter Institute. (Yep, that really exists!) But only recently, Irish butter has been flying off supermarket dairy shelves and making bakers melt. We turned to Lynn Blanchard, Better Homes & Gardens Test Kitchen director to find out why—and how to use this in-fashion fat.
What is Irish Butter?
"Irish Butter is imported from Ireland and made from milk produced by primarily grass-fed cows," Blanchard says.
The beta carotene in the grass the cows feed on makes the butter richer in color and flavor, she adds. Grass-fed cows produce milk with more omega-3s and other healthy fats than their conventionally-fed counterparts, a study in the journal PLOS ONE found.
Here's a breakdown of the other varieties of butter you might see during your next trip to the grocery store.
- Traditional butter: Made with butterfat, milk proteins, and water, this solid dairy product contains up to 80 percent butterfat.
- Clarified butter: This high smoke-point option, also known as ghee, is melted butter with the milk solids and water strained off.
- Whipped butter: Regular churned butter is whipped with nitrogen gas for a softer, more spreadable texture.
Why is Kerrygold Butter Having a Moment?
Kerrygold, first produced in 1962, is the most well-known brand of Irish butters. It's most commonly available in 8-ounce blocks rather than 4-ounce sticks.
Both Irish butters, such as Kerrygold, and European butters contain at least 82 percent butterfat for a product that's creamier and more easy to spread than classic butter. The difference between the two lies in a couple details.
- Irish butter: Salted and uncultured
- European butter: Unsalted and cultured
Buy It! Kerrygold Butter, $17.25
The popularity of butter-infused bulletproof coffees and high-fat eating plans have amplified the demand for Irish butter to fatter levels than decades past.
"The interesting thing about grass-fed butter is that its flavor can change over the course of the year as the grass the cows eat changes," Blanchard says.
What is the Best Way to Use Irish Butter?
Blanchard and her Test Kitchen team sticks to traditional butter for almost all cases, but does enjoy savoring Irish butter one way in particular.
"I treat it as a luxury when I really want to enjoy the taste of butter. I would only use the higher-priced Irish and European-style butters when I want to highlight the butter flavor," Blanchard says. "Rather than using it in cakes or dessert bars and disguising its richness, spread Irish butter on hot whole grain bread or freshly-baked biscuits."
If you're looking for more ways than one to use your Irish butter, Blanchard recommends experimenting with it in baked goods like shortbread recipes where butter is the star ingredient.
(Or you can just eat it straight like this Kerrygold super-fan...)