Will and Allison Abernethy started churning butter to sell in 2005.
They had an old manual churn that they brought to shows around the country.
When the butter was ready, Will hand rolled it traditionally with butter pats.
They gradually began to sell the small batches of butter but demand far outstripped supply.
Eventually they set up a business beside their house and packed the butter rolls in greaseproof and then in their iconic branded brown paper. They quickly had a cult following with chefs like Heston Blumenthal and Marcus Wareing using the butter to grace their tables. Nigella Lawson is a fan and many Michelin restaurants throughout the UK serve it. One of their main stockists is the exclusive food emporium Fortnum and Mason in London.
Will was at the Moira Speciality Food Show in Moira last weekend and he demonstrated the art of making and rolling butter. It’s a simple thing – churn cream until it turns to golden curds, wash it to remove the milk, add some salt and roll it up. Simple but sublime. In his poem ‘Churning Day’ Seamus Heaney describes the process as “coagulated sunlight that they fished, dripping, in a wide tin strainer, heaped up like gilded gravel in the bowl”.
They have added a smoked version, one with dulse and seasalt and a black garlic variety to their regular butter. Butter is one of the most essential and versatile ingredients for any discerning cook.
When you make butter you’re left with buttermilk. This isn’t like the buttermilk you buy commercially which is quite thick.
Real buttermilk has a grayish tinge and is flecked with tiny nuggets of gold butter. The only way you can get it is if you make your own butter.
Will gave me the buttermilk left from his churning demonstration and the precious liquid is in the fridge.
I’ll use it for scones, sodas and a crowd pleasing buttermilk cake. This is a great all year round cake that can be topped with whatever fruit is in season.
My first recipe is for the cake with hot glazed strawberries on top. The glaze is made with caramelized strawberry cider. Fruit ciders don’t get a good press.
They’re often sickly sweet and garishly red. One of the exceptions is Tempted Strawberry cider produced by Davy Uprichard outside Lisburn. Davy is one of only a handful of licensed wine makers in Ireland.
To make the cider, he first makes a strawberry wine that is added to the apple cider.
It looks like regular cider, with none of the neon artificial red colour, but tastes of strawberries.
Warm buttermilk cake, hot glazed strawberries, topped with good vanilla ice cream is the essence of summer dessert.
My other recipe uses Abernethy black garlic butter. Black garlic is garlic that’s been fermented in balsamic. It’s sticky and sweet and has none of the harshness of raw garlic.
Nigella Lawson described this butter as “maybe the best thing I have ever eaten or will ever eat”.
My other recipe uses the butter in a steak dish.
At the food show in Moira I used Castlescreen Farm Dexter chump which is well worth sussing out (check out castlescreenfarm.com for stockists).
The sauce is made with onions that have been slowly roasted in Port and Burren Balsamics roast onion vinegar.
It’s available from good butchers, delis and on line. Steak and onions never tasted so good.