Italian cuisine is often associated with Mediterranean ingredients like olive oil. However, if you travel along the country’s northern borders, you will find many locals producing and regularly cooking with butter. Generally speaking, butter gets its flavor from the quality of milk used to make it, and its texture from the techniques used to manipulate that milk into the final product.
Burro 1889 is made by Le Fattorie Fiandino, a family-owned dairy. The history of Fattorie Fiandino dates back to the end of the 1700s, when a shepherd named Stefano Fiandino moved from Milan to Demonte and set up shop. Skipping forward several generations to the 1920s, Magno Fiandino (great-grandfather to the current generation) began purchasing the land that comprises Villafalletto, the farm where the family is based to this day.
After much experimenting, the present-day Fiandino family discovered the right combination of technique and ingredient to produce an exceptional butter, named after the official year of the company’s founding. The milk used to make Burro 1889 is from Piedmontese cows that roam the hills eating fresh grass and the machine used to produce the butter is a centrifugal cream separator. This process for churning butter is distinctive in that the paddles are fixed and the container spins around them. Using a centrifugal system means more butter is separated out from the buttermilk and water, giving it a smoother texture than traditionally churned butters. After the butter is separated from the buttermilk, it is allowed to ferment or mature in a cool space for a minimum of 72 hours, allowing the butter to develop even greater flavor.
Salt comprises 2% of the salted version of Burro 1889. Not surprisingly, it plays a major role flavor-wise and the salt they have chosen is considered by the Fiandino family to be almost a “secret ingredient.” Salt, a major commodity in European trade for hundreds of years was originally rare in the mountains of Piedmont. When Nonno Magno happened to be visiting the port of Genoa (accompanying one of many friends who went to seek their fortune in the Americas), he discovered a new salt, just arrived from Sicily and bought a bag to take home. He found this salt to be significantly different from that he normally used, both to sight and to taste – it was very fine and delicate. To the family, it seemed natural to follow Magno’s lead. They researched the salts from Sicily and have chosen to make Burro 1889 with one that is hand-harvested by Culcasi, a saltworks based in Nubia, a small village in the municipality of Trapani on Sicily.
Both the salted and unsalted versions of Burro 1889 have a smooth, creamy texture and sweet, nutty flavor. All things being equal, I prefer the salted version – a thick spread of salted butter on a crusty piece of bread and a large dollop of apricot preserve makes for a very nice breakfast or afternoon snack with a cup of tea. A nice twist, however, is a compound butter, made with the unsalted version of Burro 1889, using brown sugar and a dash of cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. This has the power of transforming a simple pancake into a delicious winter treat!
1/3 cup unsalted Burro 1889, at room temperature
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
dash of freshly grated nutmeg
Place all ingredients in a bowl and, using a spoon or small spatula, gently knead the butter until all ingredients are evenly incorporated. Serve at room temperature with pastry, pancakes or toasted bread.