In the yogurt Lazor makes for himself (whole-milk, of course; I have yet to meet a yogurt producer who likes anything less), I sampled the full range of flavors in Butterworks milk, from herbal to slightly pungent. The long pasteurization required for all commercial yogurt erases many but not all of the herbal and floral grass flavors, and not the pure, sweet flavor of Butterworks milk. The yogurt he spooned out of a big mason jar for me to try was straw-colored, with the texture and richness of soft sour cream. "This," Lazor said, taking a spoonful for himself, "is sort of divine."
I was already sold. The Butterworks Farm yogurt I regularly demolish—nonfat, which is almost the only kind I find in Boston stores, and is 80 percent of what Butterworks makes—is a thing of delicate beauty. It breaks into miniature canyons and bluffs, like junket. What Lazor calls a "tender set" results from the absence of the jelling agents that other manufacturers use—chiefly pectin (found in fruits and used in jams) and starch. The flavor is lightly sour, with none of the harsh vinegar sting of many unflavored yogurts. It's just tart enough to be refreshing.
I much prefer yogurt without pectin, which in excess can give a rubbery texture, and without starch, which often leaves a chalky flavor. But manufacturing yogurt without them is a high-wire act. Pectin helps keep the yogurt from separating to form a layer of whey—the liquid at the top of many yogurt containers. (My reflexive draining of the whey, I recently learned, throws out protein and minerals; for the full nutritional benefit of yogurt, stir the whey back in.) The makers of a newly available Greek yogurt I like very much, Total, also omit the pectin but strain out the liquid in advance, putting into small tubs a lightly tangy yogurt almost as thick as whipped cream cheese.
My visit was cut short by a call from Lazor's daughter. "I have to go and chase some cows," Lazor told me. He took me to the barn where his wife was doing the evening milking, helped by their future son-in-law. I saw what Lazor meant when he called their forty-odd Jersey cows "a bunch of pets": each has a name (Menorah, Vetch, Milkyway), and they are much smaller than Holsteins, the usual New England dairy cow. While the Lazors pulled the errant cows back to the barn by their collars, I quietly left with several containers from the big storage refrigerator.
I was surprised by how firm the contents were. The knocking around that cartons get as they are loaded and unloaded (Butterworks Farm yogurt is sold on the East Coast as far south as Raleigh-Durham) disturbs the structure formed while the yogurt cools and sets. As Lazor had recommended, I took a pint, the smallest container Butterworks makes, of maple yogurt, made with New England syrup and no other flavoring. I had always thought that whole-milk yogurt was too rich to eat much of at a time, and of course sinful—although the new bad-guy status of trans fats, found in nearly every packaged baked or fried good, makes cream and butter seem positively virtuous. This was silken and sweet but not too sweet, with none of the blaring synthesized maple flavor we now take for granted. The taste was slightly smoky and reminiscent of butterscotch. The container was empty by the time I turned in.