Trader Joe’s NEW ZEALAND BUTTER


Another excellent premium butter

Trader Joe’s now carries three premium imported butters. They have a French butter, an Irish butter and just recently I saw this one, from New Zealand no less. Now New Zealand is pretty famous for its food products. I happen to love the New Zealand extra sharp cheddar cheese that TJ carries, it’s really terrific, and it’s even a Trader Joe’s team favorite. So I thrilled to see a Kiwi butter. When I first opened the package I was struck at the deep yellow color this had (it may be hard for the actual color come through in a picture). Trader Joe’s says on the package that “it’s made for us on the South Island of New Zealand from from grass fed cows”. Something like this I imagine?

Cattle graze in front of New Zealand, North Island, Mount Taranaki Credit: Getty

Boy thats some nice scenery so maybe those cows are really content lovely grass fed milk. When I tasted this butter I was impressed. It’s very gently salted so not salty. It has a lovely sweet flavor and aroma. The color is beautiful, very yellow. It was delicious when I spread some on some warm bread. Wonderful when I put it on pancakes the next morning. Wonderful when I made an omelet with it. Its great on everything, of course! This is a truly excellent premium butter, and I was as impress with this butter, frankly as much as I any of the 3 imported butters TJ carries which are all excellent in their own rights. I have tried tasting one then another, but they are all of such high quality I can’t put one over another. They are each amazing in their own rights and each one makes you think “now this is what butter should taste like”. If you were impressed by the French Cultured butter or the Kerrygold Irish butter TJ sells, you will no doubt be also impressed by the New Zealand butter. Really really good! Of course imported butter costs more than TJ’s regular butter, about double? This NZ one is a wee bit cheaper than the French and Irish butters. The NZ butter costs $3.29 for an 8 oz package. If I can save a little bit on an imported butter, thats great so this New Zealand butter will probably be on my shopping list from now on.

I never used to buy imported butter – way too expensive. However thanks to Trader Joe’s prices I now buy two kinds for our fridge. Regular (pretty good) everyday butter for a lot of butter uses PLUS one of the imported “Superb” butters for that premium butter taste where it counts (like my morning toasted bagel).

RAVE

Mustard and Ale Cheddar Cheese


Trader Joe’s “British Mustard and Ale Cheddar”? Hmmm…Sounds a bit intriguing, no? Comes in a small package, only 5 ounces and kind of cheap, it was well under two bucks. Now I have to say I’m not usually one who is too into cheeses with added “flavors”. Still on rare occasion you do come across a quite decent cheese with something added to the cheese that works quite well. An example are some Dutch Gouda’s that have cumin or caraway seeds in them. I’ve tried some that are really delicious. I didn’t know what to expect from a Mustard and Ale Cheddar. I love mustard with cheese of course especially cheddar. So I got some of this mustard and ale cheese to taste, and frankly thought well it’s OK, its got a lot of whole mustard seeds in there which are a little strong, maybe over-shadowing the cheddar. I couldn’t put my finger on the “ale” part really. So I think, it’s OK but would I buy more, no, not really, I’d rather buy a jar of TJ’s excellent Whole Grain Dijon Mustard and some Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar or New Zealand Extra Sharp Cheddar and use some mustard as I see fit. But here’s the funny part. During this evaluation, I tasted a piece, then tasted another. Just one more bite…. ok one more… and soon I realized during this tasting I had eaten about half the package. It was hard for me to stop tasting this cheese! Maybe I liked it more than I though? So if the combination sounds appealing to you, you may want to give this a try and see what you think.

TIP While we are at it, if you want a great melted cheese sandwich, try spreading that TJ whole grain Dijon on some nice bread before you add your cheese. Grill it up with butter. When all the elements melt together its pretty great. So I figure this cheese might make a very good melted cheese sandwich too. If anyone tries that let us know if its any good like that. So its a bit odd, but this cheese may be worth trying. If you put it out on a cheese plate, folks might even ask where you got this stuff.

TJ Plain whole milk GREEK YOGURT


RAVE

This is one of those Trader Joe’s products that I basically like to have in my fridge at all times. Why? It’s so useful. I use it all the time, for one thing to make all kinds of tasty sauces in about a minute. Greek yogurt is thick, as it is strained yogurt containing less liquid than regular yogurt. You might say it can be though of as similar to and can be substituted for Sour Cream, or crema in Mexican cooking, or to creme fraiche in French cooking. You could use this anywhere Sour Cream would be used, or mayonnaise perhaps but this is lower in fat and calories. So I use greek yogurt to make creamy sauces or dressing by mixing it with another ingredient. It can be as simple as mixing greek yogurt with a few teaspoons of fresh lemon juice, a pinch of salt and grind of pepper. Boom you have a creamy lemony yogurt sauce. Very Greek! This not only makes for a nice salad dressing but is also a nice sauce that would go with grilled chicken or shrimp. Add something else to it and you get even more mileage. Certainly fresh crushed garlic, will make it yet more Greek still. Or mix in some Green Dragon Sauce. Or some Yemeni Zhough. Or Sriracha, as the milkiness of the yogurt tames all of these spicy sauces and makes them smoother and creamy. Along with garlic, chopped parsley, or arugula, or spinach makes a nice green dressing…. your only limits to find things to use this with will be your imagination. For dessert or with fruits, you can mix the yogurt with a pinch of sugar or maple syrup for a lovely sweet, creamy addition. Of course I can put this on my breakfast cereal, but it is richer than regular yogurt, so I keep the amount smaller.

Some more ideas

  • as a breakfast or dessert bowl with banana and blueberries
  • as a topping for chili instead of sour cream
  • as a topping for soups instead of cream
  • as a spread on crackers or bread (try mixing with some ingredients…)
  • as an addition to a pasta sauce instead of cream for extra creaminess

A 16 oz. tub is $2.50. A container lasts in my fridge for about a month, depending on how much I use it. So great stuff, try it.

Cabot Vermont Extra Sharp Cheddar


My review for TJ’s Unexpected Cheddar seems to get a good deal of interest, so next up for review in the Cheese Department is an absolute classic cheddar which I mentioned in that earlier post.

For my money the well known, long established, classic cheese, Cabot Cheddar, is the very definition and Gold Standard for what an “East Coast” Extra Sharp Cheddar tastes like. Its terrifically convenient that Trader Joe’s carries it under Cabot’s own well known brand.

Cabot extra sharp cheddar is my personal go-to cheese to pretty much always have in the house. Labeled an “Extra sharp” cheddar, it’s got a slight tangy taste to it. “Intense, rich cheddar flavor with an “East Coast” bite” is how they describe it on the package and I would say that description is spot on. Cabot is made in Vermont, and is a bit unique as a company, as its a Farmer’s Collective. Cabot has been around for almost 100 years and has won many many “best” awards.

Cabot extra sharp cheddar is both great just sliced as is out of the package. It’s also great to cook with. It melts wonderfully well and I think makes one of the most fantastic melted cheese sandwiches you will ever try. Also terrific melted into an omelet. Do I need to say, melted on top of a burger is good? It’s not, its freaking amazing.

Eaten as is slice up and paired with some fruit, that is a perfect, heavenly match especially paired with an apple, grapes or a pear. Put a piece of this cheese in front of me with a knife and a good apple (like TJ’s Envy (!) and I am one happy camper eating that delicious salty sweet combo. Ending a dinner with this is a divine dessert.

Trader Joe’s sells Cabot cheddar for an excellent price ($6/lb) in a block. If you have never tried this cheese, you may want to give this a Try. I think you will love it (even though the kids may want something a bit tamer)? You can give them the New Zealand cheddar, also excellent, or TJ’s sliced cheddar. The adults can enjoy the Cabot Extra Sharp.

RAVE

 

Trader Joe’s FRENCH CULTURED BUTTER


If you want to “up your butter game” at home, you should try this excellent, high quality butter from France. But be warned, if you try this once, you may never go back to regular butter.

Spread a bit of this French butter on almost anything you would put butter on… say some asparagus, frozen peas, green beans, a baked potato, some steamed Yukon Golds, a nice slice of bread (sliced Brioche?)… on top of an omelette…anywhere…and you will notice how good really good butter is once you taste some.

I’ve lately grown to buying two kinds of butter at Trader Joe’s. “Regular” butter and the “premium” (i.e., imported butter). This French butter is definitely the Good Stuff. If I’m having some toast in the morning and I put some of this French butter from Brittany on it, or anything, its heavenly. At any other store you would pay something like $6-7 for this 1/2 lb. pack. Trader Joe’s now sells it for about $3.80 for 8,8 oz.

I’ve gotten to really like the two Imported “premium” butters that TJ sells. Irish KERRYGOLD butter comes in a gold or silver package (salted/gold, silver/unsalted). Imported from Ireland, Kerrygold is an excellent high quality butter, and I love that one too. It costs a bit less than the French one: Kerrygold Irish butter is $3.19 for 8 oz. 

“Trader Jacque’s FRENCH CULTURED SALTED BUTTER” comes in a blue package. It may have the slightest of edges on the Kerrygold Irish butter (but frankly both are superb butters). The French butter comes from Brittany (Bretagne), the region in the North West of France famous for cows, butter and cheeses (and Calvados!)

I’ve tried to do taste tests comparing the Irish vs. French butter and pick one over the other but they are both so good I almost can’t pick one as “better”. Both have a rich flavor that says “imported” premium butter. I started to buy the French butter as a neighbor says the French one has a slight edge. The difference may be that the French butter is “cultured” (fermented with enzymes similar to those in yogurt) to give a little bit of a tangy taste vs. the non-cultured Irish Kerrygold. Honestly though, I go back and forth on which I like more, the Irish or French butters, and always give up. Try them both and see which you prefer (if you can)! Both the Kerrygold Gold and the French Cultured are salted butters but are way less salty than you may think for salted butter you are used to (like Hotel Bar). Still, if you want an UNSALTED butter get the silver Kerrygold package. The gold package is salted (but lightly).

These imported butters naturally cost more the regular butter Trader Joe’s sells for $3/lb. I would say the normal TJ butter is equal to Hotel Bar butter or similar. But this French butter (or Irish Kerrygold) does up your “butter game”. FRENCH CULTURED BUTTER comes in a 8.8 oz pack which sells for $3.49, (PRICE INCREASED SINCE WRITING*) So figure its costs about twice as much as the regular butter. Still TJ’s French butter is I think the equal to butters you might buy in a supermarket in France. And if you compare this to imported premium butters you might see sold in an upscale supermarket here which carries imported butters, well they are crazy expensive (12/lb?). So as usual Trader Joe’s is selling this premium imported butter at a still fairly reasonable price (around $6 lb.) for an excellent French butter. The Cultured French Salted French butter only comes in a salted version but I find it fine, not overly salty at all, it’s just right for most applications. I’ve grown to love it. In fact, my Japanese sister-in-law loved this butter so much when she was visiting us that she actually carried back two packs all the way home to Japan in her bags!

Give it a try once, say slather some on a piece of warm French baguette just out of the oven, and you may never go back to regular butter…. Mes amis, c’est La Vie en Rose!

Cultured butter is typically created by adding live bacteria (cultures) to the butter before it’s churned, versus regular butter which is cream that just goes straight to the churning machine. … Results in a higher-fat product, which in turns makes the butter more silky and gives it a richer taste.”

RAVE

* UPDATE: Price of the French Butter price went up. Now $3.69 (Summer 2019) Irish Kerrygold still $3.19. To save a little I’ve been getting the Kerrygold recently.

UPDATE 2 (Nov 2020) This French butter has been M.I.A. in my local TJs for some time. I imagine its a supply chain problem due to Covid. The Irish Kerrygold butter is in stock so I have been buying that instead. Its as good or better but prices have gone up some though.

Trader Joe’s SMOKED ENGLISH CHEDDAR


 


I’ve never seen this cheese before at TJ’s and as I’ve previously mentioned, Cheddar is one of my favorite cheeses. I love “smoked” cheeses too, generally and thought this looked worth a try.

Not only is it smoked, it says “With Spring Onion and Chive” and from the picture you may be able to make out the green flecks in the cheese as well as the brown edge which smoked cheeses have.

I liked the taste of this cheese a good deal. Its very interesting and unusual. The two added flavors (smoke and onion) add an entire new dimension of flavors and fit in nicely and are balanced. While pronounced, the added flavors do not overpower the taste of the cheddar. In a traditional English pub, a cheddar cheese along with some pickled onions and bread are an old traditional menu item…A “Ploughman’s Lunch“. So cheese and onion… perfect together.

We tried it on some crusty baguette. Upon tasting this Smoked English Cheddar my wife said, “I think this would be good with some red wine”. She’s smart, it definitely would. “That’s exactly why I bought it”, I said. We’ll test this theory out later tonight.

Update: It was superb with a nice red wine (Malbec)

This Smoked English Cheddar sells for $9/lb. and gets a Recommended and a

RAVE

(update! – this product may have become unavailable !)