food entrepreneurs

Churncraft, A New Canaan Family’s Mission to Make Better Butter

By Tony Vengrove / Photography By Tony Vengrove | November 15, 2016
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Churncraft Butter

What is old is new again, so goes the saying. The Frey family of New Canaan is counting on the spirit of those words, along with the explosive growth of the local food movement, to ignite interest in their new business, Churncraft.

The inspiration behind the Churncraft butter churn came from Kristen Frey’s childhood. She grew up in the Hudson River Valley, and as one of seven children, had several household chores to manage each day. Although it was hard work, her favorite was tending to the family’s Holstein cow, Willy, who produced over 40 quarts of milk a day.

Finding uses for all that milk and cream was a challenge and eventually led to a neighbor offering Kristen an old butter churn that had been gathering dust in a basement. It didn’t take long before churning fresh butter became a family tradition, one that eventually passed on to Kristen’s present-day family.

The Freys
Butter in a Churncraft butter
Homemade butter
Thyme-honey butter
Photo 1: Jojo, Kristen, Hans, and Kiki Frey
Photo 2: Butter prepared in a Churncraft butter churn
Photo 3: Homemade butter about to become thyme-honey compound butter
Photo 4: Thyme-honey butter.

A few years ago, Kristen was asked to participate in a local science fair and considered taking her old butter churn. “That’s not science,” Kristen recalls a committee member telling her. “No! It’s all science,” she retorted. It turned out that her live demonstration of making butter was the event’s biggest hit.

“We always had a dream of starting a family business,” says husband, Hans Frey. “The science fair triggered the idea of making a modern-day butter churn, and after some discussion, we agreed, ‘Let’s do this.’”

Joined by daughters Jojo and Kiki, the family team of four worked with product designers on a concept to determine the project’s feasibility. Like most design exploratories, they experienced numerous ups and downs but kept pushing forward. “We can’t do the same market research as a huge corporation,” states Hans. “It’s kind of like leaping into space; you don’t know exactly where you’re going to land.”

The finished product is beautiful and fully warrants its design patent-pending status; it could easily be on display in high-end retail stores. “We’re really proud that it’s a classic American device with a modern twist added to it,” says daughter, Kiki.

Ergonomics and product performance were carefully considered along the way. The elegant aluminum handle allows for multiple ways to comfortably hold the churn while in use. The glass container’s corners and edge designs were considered in conjunction with the paddle construction to maximize turbulence and agitation of the cream.

The Freys spared no detail in getting each component right. Parts are sourced from all over the world. For example, the precision gears are crafted in Germany, the aluminum frame is custom made in Canada, and the laser-engraved stainless-steel shafts are machine made in Connecticut.

Testing the Churncraft butter churn in the Freys home kitchen, we made delicious, creamy, fresh butter in less than 15 minutes. It was surprisingly easy and a communal experience to boot, and once we began making compounded butters, a host of creativity was unleashed.

“I first learned about compounding butter while living in Switzerland,” recalls Kristen as she folds red peppercorns and chives into freshly churned butter. The ability to experiment with tempting ingredient combinations is limitless. “There’s a whole alchemy of butter that’s kind of amazing,” adds Jojo.

Churncraft models
Churncraft models alongside Kristen Frey’s original (and inspirational) churn.

Having shipped their first unit in June 2016, the Freys are just getting started. But they have ambitious goals. They see Churncraft aligning nicely with today’s local food trends. “Millennials inherited a pretty messed-up food system,” laments Jojo. “My generation has to the be one that changes it.” The team believes their butter churn can serve as an entry point into a more mindful method of food preparation.

Churncraft is more than just making butter; it’s about inviting family and friends around the kitchen table. “It’s a time machine that inspires people to get back to basics,” says Hans. Kristen adds, “Churncraft is a happy product that brings smiles to people’s faces.”

That old Hudson River Valley butter churn was inspirational enough to bring the Frey family together to launch an exciting business. Despite the stress and uncertainty a startup creates, it appears the experience has brought the Freys closer together as a family. Perhaps that is an indication that Churncraft may be part of more family food traditions in the coming months and beyond.

The Churncraft butter churn is available for sale online at churncraft.com. For more information about Churncraft, email shop@churncraft.com or call 203-966-1056.

> Churncraft, LLC: 111 Elm Street, New Canaan; 203-966-1056

Article from Edible Nutmeg at http://ediblenutmeg.ediblecommunities.com/shop/churncraft-new-canaan-familys-mission-make-better-butter
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