Once You Have Eaten Pepe Saya Butter….
Once you have eaten Pepe Saya butter, there is no turning back.
We first bought some of this amazing butter last year at Eveleigh Markets, Darlington (Sydney), and have been shmearing (or is it schmearing…) it on Iggy’s bread (among other things) ever since.
Merelyn, Natanya and I hit the road to Tempe. No whinging this time about long distances, it took me longer to park in the really tight car space than it did to drive there.
We were SO warmly welcomed by Pepe and Merna Taouk, the talented lady behind the ‘HomeMade Fine Foods’ brand that is also made on the premises. (There is a great interview with Merna and Corinne from Gourmantic). We also got to meet Pepe’s lovely wife Melissa, who, as Pepe says ‘runs the business’.
We all see the picture of Pepe on the pack, and the (good) news is he doesn’t look anything like that fellow at all. Just quietly, we want to say that he is somewhat younger, definitely cuter and without a doubt more charming. Something to be said for a fabulously diverse heritage from Scotland, Australia and Lebanon. (Sorry Pepe if we have now embarrassed you here).
This is a man with a serious passion for making butter. Pepe only uses single origin cream in his butter making, meaning that in any batch of butter the cream comes from only one type of cow. He uses one of three: Jersey, Brown Swiss and Friesian. He loves the cream he gets from Country Valley Dairy in Picton but there is just not enough cream to supply all his needs – now reaching 5000 litres per week. There is no mixing with lesser creams, no fillers, no added extras. Pure cream, churned to make pure butter.
This is butter made in the old fashioned English way. And it tastes like it comes straight from your neighbour’s farm . This is a neighbour who has the best herd of cows spending its days free roaming and grazing on grass. The butter is a vibrant but natural yellow, thanks to the beta carotene that comes from the grass on which the cows have been fed. A French culture is added to the cream which is then appropriately heated and aged, followed by vigorous churning. Then comes the kneading – by hand – of the churned butter until the butter achieves the perfect texture. Smooth and creamy. A mixture of Murray River pink salt flakes and Olsson’s Fine Pacific Dairy Salt is added (at different stages) for the salted butter. And the saltiness he achieves is…well…in a word…PERFECT.
The butter is weighed into balls either the size of those sweet tiny pats (used in restaurants and on airplanes), the most popular round 220 g block (not sure if it is called a block if it is round…) or the sleek rectangular blocks (very sexy in their shiny silver wrapping, with the label stamp-pressed on) for restaurant use. By the way, the stamp-press has been made by Mr. Saya senior! Each pat of butter is wrapped carefully by hand, and the now-iconic sticker is then pressed on the outside.
We were fed. Bread shmeared shamelessly and thickly with salted PepeSaya butter. Mmmmm. And then some more bread. We tasted cream, creme fraiche (aka sour cream), mascarpone, custard (made by Pepe using Mrs Saya senior’s recipe) Merna’s four berry crumble with custard, Merna’s fig and ginger pud with mascarpone, Merna’s smooooooth chocolate fudge sauce which uses the Zokoko artisan chocolate from Emu Plains (once again supporting local produce), Pepe’s lemon curd (using Mrs. Saya senior’s recipe of course!), Merna’s vanilla rhubarb and more custard….
Everything was so SO so delicious. The highlight for me was the butter. So I took my restaurant block home, grabbed an Iggy’s loaf from the bread drawer and all I will say is…not much remains of either! But I do have a very very happy family.
Pepe Saya butter is available (along with the other products) at many fine and specialty food stores across Sydney (such as Norton St Grocer, Parisis) and at many of the weekend markets. Visit Ester at the Country Valley (opposite Bird Cow Fish) stand at Eveleigh markets on Saturdays and Marrickville on Sundays, NiOrganics (Northern Illawarra Organics) at the Kings Cross and Ramsgate markets(Sydney), through Urban Food Market just to name a few. You can find a full list of ‘where to buy’ across Australia on the Pepe Saya website.