The best and worst of Butter

Butter is one of my sirens. The flavor is delicious, the chemical properties make it a delight for baking and frying, and it is inexpensive. The allure of a premium butter like Kerrygold was not lost on me. I probably would not have considered buying it, save for one teeny tiny thing: cholesterol. Like so much else, a little is good and a lot is bad.

A few years back, my annual physical revealed that I have elevated cholesterol. My doctor’s advice was to try dietary changes. If that didn’t work, I’d get to join the millions of Americans taking statins. Since my grandma had artherosclerotic heart disease, I took my doctors advice to heart.

Now I regularly substitute various oils and spreads (mostly olive & canola) for butter. I have developed a sense for when the eaters of the house will rebel because a dish is not buttery enough. I also keep trying butter substitutes. I have come to think of butter like I do red meat: we don’t eat a lot, so make it good when we do.

And that is how I ended up with Kerrygold, I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter, and Smart Balance all in my shopping cart, next to our normal house brand (from Costco or Sam’s) of butter. It was time for a taste-off!

After dinner, when my test subjects have a more discriminating palate, I toasted some of my homemade whole-wheat bread and English muffins. Each subject got a piece of bread and a muffin sliced into quarters, with a different spread on each quarter. I alone knew which was which. We sampled, discussed, and voted.

The votes for the best butter were split evenly between I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter and our house butter. The first runner up was also split evenly between the same two choices, with Kerrygold solidly ahead of Smart Balance for third place.