Butter lovingly made by hand at a Welsh centre of excellence has won a huge pat on the back from judges in a prestigious national competition.
Bodnant Butter has just been awarded a coveted gold star in Great Taste 2015, which is acknowledged as one of the world’s most important food and drink awards.
The annual competition is organised by the Guild of Fine Food and judged by hundreds of food experts, including chefs, buyers, retailers, restaurateurs, food critics and writers who use blind tastings to make their selection.
The distinctive gold and black Great Taste logo, which Bodnant Butter is now entitled to proudly display on its packaging, is a recognised stamp of excellence among retailers and consumers alike.
The butter is made by traditional methods in the in-house dairy at Bodnant, using milk delivered daily from farmer Arfon Jones’ herd of Friesian cattle, grazing in the Conwy Valley.
Aled Rowlands, Bodnant’s dairy manager for the past three years, said he was delighted for himself and his entire team of five staff to win the Great Taste accolade for their butter.
“It’s a very proud moment for us as this is the first award which our butter has won, and it’s such an important one as it’s recognised as a mark of excellence across the whole of the artisan food sector.
“We’ve been making the Welsh salted butter in the dairy since I came here and this is real recognition for our efforts.
“When devising it, I came up with a modern take on traditional farmhouse-style butter and it’s been gaining in popularity over the past couple of years.
“We sell it at Bodnant, in our farm shop, tea rooms, the kitchens of the Hayloft restaurant and also use it as an ingredient in the cookery school.
“Apart from that, we’ve also started to wholesale the butter and it’s now available in a growing number of farm shops across the region.”
Describing how Bodnant’s award-winning butter is made, Aled said: “We use only the finest local ingredients and that’s milk from a nearby dairy plus sea salt.
“The milk comes direct from Tal y Cafn Ucha Farm just down the road from Bodnant which has a herd of 80 Friesian cows.
“We take about 1,600 litres every other day and use most of the cream from it – amounting to around 250-300 litres a week – to make the butter.
“Fifty litres of the cream at a time is churned for an average of 20 minutes to make a batch of approximately 25 kilos of butter.
“We then separate the buttermilk from the butter and that is sold in our farm shop.
“The remaining butter, once formed, is washed in cold water before the sea salt is added.
“It is then brought on to a table where it is worked by hand in the traditional way with wooden pats, formed into 250 gram packs and packaged using traditional grease-proof paper.”
Aled added: “I think what makes Bodnant butter unique and has helped us win the Gold Star is it’s amazing freshness and the fact that it’s made by hand using traditional methods.
“Other producers have a more mechanised way of doing things but the way we do it gives it a fuller flavour, which is very much a taste from the past.
“In fact, that was the comment made by lots of people who tried and bought our butter at the recent Royal Welsh Show – it did so well that we completely sold out of all our stock within the first couple of days.
“People were saying that it reminded them of going to their mother’s or grandmother’s house to have bread and butter – and that’s what makes us so proud of the product.”
The Great Taste judges agreed, and said in their glowing assessment of Bodnant Butter: “It is a beautifully finished butter with a lovely natural colour.
“We loved the level of saltiness in it and it is really well balanced, with creaminess at the front of the palate.
“There is a lovely freshness to this butter that has a pleasant, salty spike.”
Bodnant managing director Chris Morton said: “Winning a gold star in a competition as highly regarded as Great Taste is a fantastic vote of confidence in our butter, which is rapidly establishing itself as one of our best loved products.
“This award is a sure sign of our continuing excellence and an independent vote of confidence in the traditional skills used in our dairy.
“I think it’s brilliant when we win honours such as this which recognise all the dedication and hard work of our team.
“We have an awful lot of highly skilled people at Bodnant and this award, which is amongst the most respected in the industry, gives them the chance to really showcase their talents to a wider audience.”
He added: “Our ability to keep on winning awards such as this also has a lot to do with the very close partnership we enjoy with local suppliers and the extremely high quality of fresh produce which is available to us here in the Conwy Valley.”
John Farrand, managing director of the Guild of Fine Food and Great Taste organiser, said: “The Great Taste logo is an established and trusted mark.
“For producers it reflects their hard work and commitment to making superb tasting food and drink, and for consumers it is a recognisable, simple and clear logo that confirms they are buying the most outstanding products on the shelf.”
Bodnant’s dairy also makes ice-creams that are sold in the centre’s tearooms, Hayloft restaurant and the farm shop. Bodnant was named Welsh Retailer of the Year in the prestigious Farm Shop and Deli Awards – dubbed the industry’s Oscars.
Based in a lovingly restored building dating from the 18th century, the food centre employs more than 80 people. It received a fanfare opening by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall in 2012 and last year welcomed 250,000 visitors from around the globe.
More details at www.bodnant-welshfood.co.uk or call 01492 651100