If my recent lunch at Edge had concluded with the bread and butter, I would have been happy. Of course, it didn’t—several fabulous courses followed—but it was the house-made pain au levain and cultured butter with pink salt that I couldn’t get out of my head. I knew I couldn’t reproduce this Sonoma restaurant’s bread, which John McReynolds, Edge’s culinary director, spent many months perfecting, but I figured the butter might be within my skill set. What gave it such incredible flavor? In a word: cheese.
Inspired by the butter at Rich Table, a San Francisco restaurant, Edge executive chef Fiorella Butron adds two cultures to the heavy cream: Greek yogurt and a small piece of crust from a washed-rind cheese. How clever is that? These brine-rubbed rinds host a huge community of bacteria that, in theory, will bloom in the cream and enhance the flavor of the butter.
Rich Table uses the rind from Raclette, the Swiss and French mountain cheese, but Butron wanted to stay domestic. She has experimented with Cowgirl Creamery Red Hawk and Von Trapp Farmstead Oma and noticed subtle but intriguing differences, although the ambient temperature during the incubation probably played a role, too, she suspects.
The culturing process is easy, and a stand mixer quickly does the churning. The resulting butter is notably creamy with a pleasing sour-cream taste. When I tested the recipe at home with supermarket ingredients, my cost was about $8 a pound, less than many fancy cultured butters. Plus, there was a delicious dividend: plenty of thick, tangy buttermilk for fruit smoothies.
Edge is a private dining room and showcase for the spectacular Stone Edge Farm in Sonoma. The dining room is open to the public for lunch on Wednesdays and for dinner on Thursdays, by reservation only.
Watch Edge cook Brittany Leporiere make cheese-cultured butter in the Edge kitchen.
Adapted from Rich Table by Sarah and Evan Rich with Carolyn Alburger (Chronicle Books, 2018).
4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt
1 small piece of cheese rind from a washed-rind cheese, about 1 in by 2 in
Salt, if desired
In a large bowl, whisk together the cream and yogurt until the yogurt is dissolved. Transfer to a sterilized glass jar and add the cheese rind. Cover the jar with a double layer of cheesecloth and secure with a rubber band or string.
Place the jar in a warm area. (Edge chefs prefer a cool area, around 65 F, for a slower fermentation.) The mixture will thicken and become noticeably tangy in 24 to 48 hours. When it is as tangy as you like, remove the rind with tongs. Transfer the jar to the refrigerator and chill the cultured cream for at least 12 hours.
Pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk. Drape plastic wrap over the mixer to keep splatters contained. Whip on high speed until the mixture separates into buttermilk and small yellow clumps of butter, 5 to 10 minutes. When the mixer starts flinging buttermilk against the plastic, you are there.
Set a cheesecloth-lined strainer over a bowl and add the contents of the mixer; the buttermilk will drain through. Gather the edges of the cheesecloth and twist to form a bag. Squeeze over the strainer to remove as much buttermilk as you can. Transfer the butter to a large clean bowl and refrigerate the buttermilk. You can drink it or use it in smoothies, chilled soups or marinades.
Prepare a jug of ice water. Pour about 2 cups of the water (no ice) over the butter. Knead and fold the butter in the water as if kneading bread or pasta dough. When the water becomes cloudy from exuded buttermilk, drain and replace with fresh ice water. Repeat the washing process until the water is clear, four to six rounds.
After the final wash, gather the butter in a cheesecloth bag once again and squeeze out any remaining liquid. If desired, knead in salt to taste.
On a clean cutting board, mold the butter into a log. Wrap tightly in cheesecloth, place on a plate, and refrigerate, uncovered, until the butter develops a slightly stronger tang, 24 to 48 hours. Now it’s ready to enjoy. Freeze any butter you don’t expect to use within a week or so.
Makes about 12 ounces