7.03.2010

101: butter makes everything better


Ever wonder at the amount of real estate in the refrigerated section dedicated to butter? With different types and competing brands, quickly grabbing an item from the cooler requires knowledge and decisiveness! Without either of these, you will end up like PAB, listlessly staring at the selection until you finally notice your nose getting cold or the drool dangerously attempting to breach your lower lip. This post is intended to help you to forgo such embarrassments.  

So, why the selection?  Butter is a dairy product, consisting of butterfat (milk fat), water, and milk proteins.  By beating cream, which is the thickest/fattiest part of milk, you'll end up with butter.  Most butters are made from cows milk, but it can also be produced by sheep and goats, and even horses and yaks, less commonly (really any mammal, we should have stopped the list at goats...).  Butter is a good source of vitamin A, and also contains vitamin D, vitamin E, calcium, phosphorus, sodium, and potassium. 
  • Sweet butter: "unsalted butter"  made from sweet, pasturized cream without adding salt.  (Most common uses:
  • Sweet cream butter: "salted butter" made from sweet, pasturized cream with the addition of salt. Basically, sweet cream butter has salt added as a preservative, thus creating a longer shelf life (up to three months in a refrigerator), and to enhance flavor. So, this means that sweet cream butter is often less fresh than sweet butter, and since manufacturers include different amounts of salt, it is harder to determine how much extra salt you are adding to recipes when you use this type of butter.
  • Raw cream buttter: made from fresh, unpasturized cream, which creates a cleaner cream flavor.
  • Whipped butter: derived from either sweet butter or sweet cream butter, it is aerated with nitrogen gas which increases its volume and is more easily spreadable.
  • Cultured butter: made from fermented cream, which allows for bacteria to convert the milk sugars into lactic acid, naturally souring the cream.
  • Clarified butter, or ghee(link): almost pure butterfat, from removing almost all water and milk solids.
Other fun facts:
  • The average fat content of both salted butter and sweet butter is about 80%.
  • If you have no choice but to use sweet cream butter (salted) in a recipe, a good rule of thumb is to omit a 1/4 teaspoon of salt for every 1/2 cup (one stick) of butter.  (Unless of course you are RBJ and you would be adding extra salt because it's your favorite food group.) 
  • Appropriately wrapped butter will last for about one month under refrigeration.
  • You can freeze butter, which will then keep for up to six months.
  • The color of butter varies from yellow to nearly white, which is dependent on the food the animal eats, as well as seasonal changes. However, most manufacturers achieve the characteristic pale yellow color by adding an artificial coloring agent.
  • PAB likes to leave his butter unrefrigerated, letting it ooze from the wax paper onto the counter, insisting it is completely healthy.
Waste not, want not
elz + pab

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