• Pepe Saya offers his local take on the French staple. (Pepe Saya)Source: Pepe Saya
In just a decade or so, local butter makers have proven that everything does taste better with (Australian) butter.
Audrey Bourget

14 Sep 2020 - 2:47 PM  UPDATED 14 Sep 2020 - 2:47 PM

“We consider our butter to be like an artisan cheese. I don’t put it on thinly, you need it thick. You want to taste it, you want to see teeth marks in the butter,” says Sallie Jones, co-founder of Gippsland Jersey.

She only started selling her cultured butter earlier this year, and is part of an increasing number of artisan makers in Australia.

What’s cultured butter?

Most of the butter found in Australian supermarkets is made following an industrialised process where the cream is churned. Cultured butter uses an older method involving bacterial cultures and fermenting, as well as churning. The result is a creamier butter with less water, a higher fat content, and a more complex taste. 

“Cultured butter is the one to eat because, even if the process takes longer, it’s less processed,” explains Pepe Saya co-founder Pierre Issa. “But the main reason we make cultured butter is the flavour.”

Just the beginning

France is known for its cultured butter, which has a history spanning several centuries. Some types of French butter are even protected by a form of geographic certification, the Appellation d'Origine Protégée (Protected Designation of Origin).

In Australia, the industry is much younger, about a decade old, and Issa is one of its pioneers.

“When we first launched 10 years ago, it was very similar to when Australia first got blue cheese. People were like: ‘Oh my God, I’m not going to eat cheese with mould growing on it.’ Our butter is a bit like that because we age it,” says Issa. “The artisan butter industry is so new. We’re still in its infancy, we’re just crawling as an artisan butter producer.”

“We consider our butter to be like an artisan cheese. I don’t put it on thinly, you need it thick. You want to taste it, you want to see teeth marks in the butter.”

Since then, plenty of other artisan makers have made a name for themselves, from Meander Valley in Tasmania to St David Dairy in Victoria. 

And while there’s a growing interest for local cultured butter, consumers have high standards. “To make an impact on the butter scene, you have to be best in class. Just being Australian is not enough,” explains Issa. 

With that in mind, he first started selling his butter at farmers markets, before approaching restaurants. Convincing them to switch from well-known imported butter to Pepe Saya wasn’t easy at first, but the product spoke for itself. Now, you can find it in fine-dining restaurants, on Qantas flights and in stores all across the country.

Australian butter croissants

Bakers are even turning to Australian cultured butter sheets for their pastries.  

Issa says he had an “awakening” three years ago when realising that most Australian bakeries were using imported butter for their croissants. “Think about it, you walk into your local bakery, and you buy a croissant and at least 25 per cent of that croissant is coming from overseas, and you’re in a dairy country! It’s a lost opportunity for dairy farmers, families and Australians,” he says.

He has since created butter sheets for bakers, which are used by many, like Tim Beylie and Brice Antier at Bread Club in North Melbourne. 

Beylie said it took some work to adapt to using local butter, but that he believes the taste of their croissants is even better now. “If you can get an ingredient in Australia, there’s no reason to import it from the other side of the world,” he adds.

Jones is also making Gippsland Jersey butter sheets for bakers, like Dream Cuisine in Canberra.

How to eat it

You can use Australian cultured butter in the same ways you’d use regular butter.

Jones likes her butter spread thickly on a piece of bread or a cracker. Issa loves using his to fry an egg or to bring out the flavour in mussels

And for both makers, there’s no doubt that Australian artisan butter is just as good as the French stuff. 


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