Where can I find good butter in Mexico? Mexican butter is probably one of the most discussed ex-pat topics, right behind toilet paper disposal. When the Dunosusa mini-market opened their doors down the street from our house, I asked for butter at the small deli counter. The lady offered me margarine. When I repeated that I wanted butter, she shrugged, replying,”It’s the same thing.” I didn’t argue but neither did I buy the proffered plastic placebo. Is placebo the right word? I assume that most placebos are either benign or inert. Poison sounds harsh but is more accurate.
The Extra (a convenience store similar to 7/11) recently started carrying butter. However, ten years ago, nearest butter was 7 blocks away but only Lala or La Gloria brands. Mexican butter tastes odd to most North Americans, probably to Europeans too. It has a slightly plastic mouth feel. It’s okay in cooking, but I wondered about that off taste. It worried me. This was before my current fervent pursuit of food purity, but I have always been an avid label reader.
When Mexicana Comercial opened the Mega Balcones store, we were excited. it had better selection of food stuffs and wider variety of vegetables and products than either Chedraui or WalMart. In an open refrigerator compartment, I found the biggest offering of brands of butter, I had ever seen in Merida. There was imported Danish butter, which cost several times more than the local kinds. I used that as my template, reading the short ingredient list. CREAM. Then I started on the Mexican butter. In addition to the cream, there was annatto, which doesn’t really worry me, it’s used in cooking to make things yellow, better than using yellow dye # whatever. Before the annatto, there was the phrase suero de leche. That literally translates to milk serum, but means whey. Whey is the stuff left over after you make butter or cheese.
Sometimes, I am confounded by some of the practices here, you can buy milk that has had the dairy fat replaced with vegetable oil, which is probably a whole post in itself and they add back the stuff that is a by product of butter making to the Mexican butter? The so called milk, is Nutrileche.
Fortunately, I found that the Aguas Caliente brand of Mexican butter proudly proclaims on it’s label, Pura de Leche de Vaca. It comes in these sausage looking rounds in two sizes and recently I found it in small 190 gram cubes. Back in 2011 when the Volvo met it’s demise, we started doing less shopping at Mega and more at Chedraui Itzaes. Chedraui started carrying a brand called, Selecto, and after reading the label on the mantequilla sin sal, unsalted butter, we changed to that. Recently, I bought a kilo block and made ghee. It seemed a little odd, and tasting it, it tasted salty! I pulled the wrapper out of the trash, horrified to think that I had carelessly bought salted butter instead of unsalted. I relaxed, the wrapper had the words sin sal written on it. My eyes fell upon the list of ingredients, there were three,cream,annatto, and salt! The next time we were in Chedraui shopping, I looked at every size of unsalted Selecto butter. There on the list of ingredients was salt! I have nothing against salt, but I don’t want it in my butter. I prefer to add it myself as needed.
Shortly thereafter, I was talking to Debi and the subject of butter came up. She confessed that she and Tom had a butter off. Looking for the best tasting Mexican butter. How clever! There winner was Alpura brand. Which is now the one we buy unless I find myself in a store that carries Aguascaliente.