After Jan had a horse riding accident which led to a discovery of a benign brain tumour, we decided to make some life changes, watching what we were eating – trying to eat wholesome foods made using traditional methods. As part of this lifestyle change we looked at starting a small business.
Steve was reading a forum and heard about a business making flavoured butters in UK. We looked if we could find flavoured butter in this country only to find that although a dairy country there was no one really doing it.
Which started our journey into butter. We started researching and found out about the different processes and comparing new methods to old ways. We discovered that cultured buttermaking was making butter like ‘back in the day’, like the butter Steve used to see his auntie churning in a little hand churn at the kitchen bench on the family farm in Ireland. She would take the cream from the bucket and let it mature to make delicious yellow gold for her family and visitors. As a young child, Steve would go and visit his relatives, “it was great for me as a city kid to be able to play in the river and the green fields all day then head back to the farm to help my cousins in the fields to get the food for dinner - Potatoes, Calabrese or broccoli, help milk the cows and enjoy the products fresh with my family”. Butter brings back memories of his carefree childhood, visiting the family homestead in Ireland, the smells of cooking, using fresh produce from the fields, the peat oven, and the delicious smell of bacon, all served up with lashings of fresh salty butter.
The Dolan Butter Churn still in the old homestead in Ireland
We were inspired. We wanted to take the amazing product we have in this country, the dairy, and make an amazing product with it. We spent over 18 months learning - and making mistakes - to develop an amazing tasting butter. We tested it in the early stages on family and friends who were amazed by our butters, and they encouraged us to start the business.
With both of us being made redundant within weeks of each other (late 2016), we had to make a decision on what to do – so we concentrated on getting the business off the ground. Of course, there were many hurdles to overcome. Food Safety courses, extensive legislative requirements not to mention the expense of having somewhere to make our products. We overcame this problem by purchasing a brand-new shipping container, which we squeezed between our house and the garage and fitted it out to comply with regulations.
We began selling our products at local farmer’s markets at the beginning of October 2017. Since then we have achieved so much, from having world renowned chefs using our products on their menus, winning Gold medals in both Outstanding NZ Food Producers Awards and NZ Cheese Awards, to being double finalist in the NZ Food Awards and eventual runner-up in the Cuisine Artisan Award section in that competition. We have had articles written by highly acclaimed food writers. And of course, our customers love our products too! Among the many compliments and comments we hear, one that always resonates is when customers taste the butter and tell us that it takes them back to the butter their parents and grandparents used to make. Praise indeed...