ORWELL, Vt. — The land rises and falls gently here at the western edge of a small state once known primarily for its taciturn men and their tidy herds of Jersey cows. Perhaps Vermonters had little to say because the milk they produced — so rich in fat and milk solids — did the talking for them.
Today, Vermont’s dairy industry is contracting, but its reputation as a source of gem-quality milk has never been higher. While most of this comeback can be traced to a boom in artisan cheese making, there’s more to milk than curds and whey. Diane St. Clair of Animal Farm makes some of the finest butter anywhere — that according to three top restaurants that insist on serving hers, and no one else’s. She also produces authentic buttermilk, a natural byproduct of butter-making, expected to be in some specialty shops in the Boston area this month.
Celebrity chef Thomas Keller, whose French Laundry in Yountville, Calif., and Per Se in Manhattan are high on the list of foodie dream destinations, has been serving Animal Farm butter since 2000, when he received a letter from St. Clair suggesting he might be interested in the output of her then two-cow herd. Keller requested a 5-pound sample, then swiftly placed a standing order that St. Clair has been filling ever since. The farmer’s local butter customer is No. 9 Park on Boston’s Beacon Hill, where it has been served for about a decade. Chef de cuisine Scott Jones likes its farmy character. “When you eat this you think, you know, this tastes like it came from a cow. And the color is gorgeous.” [Read more…]