Also known as
Butter is a diary product, essentially the fat of cream separated from other milk constituents by churning or some form of agitation. Butter can be made from either sweet/ sour cream. Butter made from the latter has a more pronounced flavour. Butter must have a minimum of 80% fat content, a maximum of 16% moisture (water) and a non fat solid content of 2%. It generally has a pale yellow color, but can vary since the colour is dependent on the animal's feed and is commonly manipulated with food colours in the commercial manufacturing process, most commonly carotene or annatto. There can be many factors which separate the flavour, colour and texture of butter manufactured by various companies. The most common ones would be the breed of cow/ buffalo and the feed provided to the same since this affects the quality of milk from which butter is obtained later. Other factors include addition of salt and colour, whether butter was blended or not, method and efficiency of manufacture, packaging etc.
India produces and consumes more butter than any other nation, and allocates almost half of its annual milk pool to butter production
How to select
One can select from various forms of butter which are Fresh, Blended, Ripened cream butter etc. You also get salted butter and unsalted butter in the market, you can purchase any of these types available as per recipe requirements.
They are available in 100gms, 500 gms and bulk packaging too. Even chiplets are manufactured which are used mostly by the airline industry for on board meals.
Good quality butter should have a uniform colour, waxy texture and be absent of any free moisture.
If purchasing flavoured butters or compound butters (beurres composes) then they should have the specific flavour characteristic to that butter. For eg Garlic butter, Moutarde (mustard) butter etc.
· The most common use of butter is to use it as a spread on bread, toast, scones etc. In sandwiches, it acts as a barrier to moisture which may creep into the bread slice because of any moisture retaining ingredient like tomato, cucumber etc. That is the primary reason why a bread slice is buttered before addition of any vegetable to make sandwiches.
· It is a common cooking medium, second to oil since the smoking point of butter is less as compared to oil. Thus you will find it in many recipes which call for pan frying, shallow frying or even deep frying.
· Butter is used as a primary ingredient to enhance the flavour and taste of soups and sauces. It is thus used to make roux which acts as a base for soups, sauces etc. Equal quantities of butter and flour are cooked along with a moistening ingredient to make the base sauce. A few classic sauces which use an emulsion of butter and egg yolk are hollandaise sauce and béarnaise sauce.
· It is used as a basic ingredient in bakery where it is used in pastry making and cake making. Butter gels perfectly with sugar and is a star in the dessert kitchen. It adds lots of flavor, making tasty cookies, crisp pie shells, and light, flaky puff pastry. Many recipes, such as butter cookies, rely entirely on butter for their taste. High fat butters give the richest taste and their lower water content produces best results. Unsalted butter is often preferred for cooking because the amount of salt can be controlled. However, keep in mind that cold, grated butter is more easily incorporated in pastry dough.
· It can be used as an accompaniment along with bread sticks and bread rolls (compound butter/ flavoured butters) for soups. International cuisine uses a lot of compound butter in the main course as an accompaniment, for eg Parsley butter, Lobster butter etc.
· It is also used to prepare ghee, which is obtained by clarifying butter. Butter is heated and when the excess moisture evaporates, pure ghee is obtained. It has a higher keeping quality, is a good and common cooking medium used widely in Indian cuisine.
· Melted butter, applied with a brush to moulds, tins etc helps prevent food from sticking.
· To help prevent foaming and scum forming on jam and skin forming on sauces, add a piece of butter after cooking.
How to store
Since butter is a perishable product, it needs to be stored under refrigerated conditions. It is wrapped in greaseproof or foil lined paper. Since it has a tendency of absorbing odours easily, it is recommended to be stored well wrapped and away from strong flavoured foods.
Keep away from sunlight as it tends to go rancid faster.
· Butter is a very rich, natural food with a high energy value (750 calories per 100gms).
· It supplies our bodies with vitamins and minerals- it is saturated fat containing calcium, phosphorous and Vitamins A and D. Thus it helps boost our immune system, supports our bones and other organs, most importantly, our brain.
· Butter is a good source of the vital mineral selenium.
· Natural butter contains conjugated linoleic acid or CLA, which is a compound substance and essential fatty acid necessary for optimal health, is a potent anti-cancer agent, muscle builder, and immunity booster.
· Butter contains lecithin, a substance that assists in assimilation and metabolism of cholestrol and other fat constituents.
· Good natural butter is satisfying and can even help with maintaining a healthy weight. For a healthy diet, recommended intake is 15-30 gms per day.
Melting butter may seem like an elementary task, but unless you perform this cooking technique carefully, you may end up burning the butter, rendering it unusable. Pay close attention to the butter as you're melting it, because butter melts when its internal temperature reaches 82.4°F to 96.8°F. This means it will melt fast, so be prepared to remove it from the stove quickly. While melting butter on the stove is the preferred method, because it gives you more control over the process, you can also melt butter in a microwave. Place the butter in a microwave-safe container without a cover and melt it using medium-low heat for 20 to 40 seconds. Monitor the melting process to ensure the butter doesn't spill out of its container.
To make soft butter, just lay a stick or how much you need, out on the counter for an hour or two before cooking. If you press on it and it gives easily, it is soft. Be sure not to let it become fully melted, it won't mix correctly. When butter is refrigerated, it becomes harden and laying it out to warm to room temperature will make it easier to mix in.