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The Slick Stuff

Tuesday, 14 May 2019 22:52

By Rachael Lucas

It’s the slick stuff.  It’s the unctuous, lipidous oil crafted from churned cream that bathes sticky buns, glistens on bagels, adiposes cream sauce, and lavishes mashed potatoes. 

girl kissing cow PicmonkeyBrie Best shares a tender moment with one of the "ladies" Uses for butter are truly countless, but what many consumers do not know is that industrialization has stripped our lubricous recipe teaser of its essence.  "It has always been the pasture, rather than the breed of cattle that has given the butter its distinctive flavors" (The Oxford Companion to Cheese)Much of the butter available in grocery stores is made on such a large scale, that the cows consume mostly—if not entirely--dry feed.  Of course, store-bought butter serves its purpose in recipes, but there is scant evidence of terroir.  In the Seattle area, oleo enthusiasts have the luxury of easy access to some of the choicest artisanal butter in the country.  We have Cherry Valley Dairy in Duvall, Washington.

Cherry Valley Dairy is a sustainable, farmstead creamery.  This means that the animal husbandry, milking, butter (and cheese) making, and all that this entails, occurs on the property.  Farmstead workers develop a personal relationship with their ruminant animals, the land and its constituents, seasonality, and climate fluctuations.  These farmers know that their plot of land is unique with its own intricate ecosystem and natural idiosyncrasies.  The creamery functions accordingly.

"Our farm has been practicing organic practices for the 10 years that we have owned it, as well as the nearly 80 years prior by the previous owners. We take the utmost care of everything we do here from our land, staff, and of course cows. Not to mention that after a few years of revitalizing our creek with the Snoqualmie Tribe and King County Conservation it is officially Salmon Safe Certified and what is bigger is that the salmon have finally returned, which is incredible. Due to our pastures being in a flood plain we have yet to cut our own hay to store for the winter, so our fields fully serve as grazing grounds for our ladies!"  (Brie Best of Cherry Valley Dairy).

Cherry Valley is situated in the Snoqualmie Valley, surrounded by the Cascade Mountains.  It gets overspill from the Snoqualmie River, enriching the soil with silt and nutrients.  The land is lush and verdant.  It is an ideal grazing spot for the creamery’s Jersey cows, providing that there is not too much moisture (nothing worse than a cow that is stuck in the mud).  As such, Cherry Valley cows spend the wetter months indoors, masticating, and receiving royal bovine treatment.

These artisans make their butter in a style much like one would find in the Poitou-Charentes region of France.  The cream gets agitated to the point where the texture is slightly stiffer than the slippery, spreadable texture of, say, Normandy-style butter.  This kind of texture is ideal for patisseries; you can fold it into flour, and it stays intact.  Nevertheless, it will spread if you put it on a crust of toasty bread or allow it to sit atop a warm oven.  This butter is denser than what you typically find, and the mouthfeel is tallow.  It reminds me of cheese with audacious unction. 

butter and bread on board 1 PicmonkeyThe simplicity of great butter and great bread

The meadowland is wildly evident in Cherry Valley’s butter.  It’s as if you’re grazing on a grassy knoll.  It possesses distinct minerality and boasts of wildflowers come summertime.  The hue is goldenrod, partly due to the innately blonde Jersey milk, but also because of all the carotene these cud-chewing queens consume in their rich, verdurous pasture. My favorite is the butter that is flecked with grey salt.  A little salinity brings forth terroir.  I eat it with a spoon, and I’m transported to the meadow.  

Because so much volatility exists in their butter (and their other dairy products, for that matter), it is no surprise that Cherry Valley has won an obscene number of awards at the American Cheese Society’s annual judging competitions.  Last year’s spoils include a gold for the Unsalted Butter, a silver for the Grey Salt Butter, and a posh bronze for the Herbed Rose Butter.  This year, they intend to enter all three into the competition again.  Stay posted to learn if any other butter makers can match the meticulous efforts of these talented artisans whom we are gracious to have here in Washington.

If you are in the Seattle area, be on the lookout for Cherry Valley Dairy’s butters.  They operate on a small scale, so each tub of butter that you taste will be indicative of what the gals at the farm are currently munching on.  Below is a list of locations where their products can be found:

All PCC Community Markets

Duvall, WA: Valley House Brewing, Family Grocer

Woodinville/Redmond, WA:  21 Acres Market, Ecolibrium, Off the Branch Farm

Seattle, WA:  Beecher's Handmade Cheese, DeLaurenti, Kurt Farm Shop, Ballinger Thriftway, New Roots, Organics, L'Oursin, Growing Washington, Sea Wolf Bakers, Rider, The Roving Cheese Shop, Bastille, Stoneburner, Pacific Coast Harvest

The East Side, WA:  The Lakehouse, Deru Market, Little Brother, Jubilee Farm

The Islands:  Bay Hay and Feed (Bainbridge), Bayleaf (Whidbey), The Willows Inn



Rachael Lucas with cheese wheels MUG


Editor’s note:   Rachael Lucas is an American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional (CCP).  You can most often find her cheesemongering in the Seattle area.  When she's not working with cheese, she's eating it, talking about it, reading about it, writing about it, and dreaming about it.  She can be reached with inquiries about fromage and food excitement in the Seattle area at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Last modified on Friday, 17 May 2019 00:07
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