Butter is the chef’s best friend. At least in the western world. Try to imagine the French cuisine without butter. Impossible. And I’m sure that even the Italian chefs use butter now and then even though they claim that they prefer olive oil.
Olive oil is also one of the most useful things you can have in a kitchen, but it can not always replace real butter. Think mushrooms fried with butter and parsley, Beurre Blanc, or fried herring with mashed potatoes and lingonberries.
The last dish is a classic Swedish course, so many of you may not know about it. But I can assure you that it is as impossible for a Swede to cook it in anything but butter as it would be for a Frenchman to use margarine in Bernaise sauce.
But the butter has also been questioned for a long time because it is considered to cause health problems. It contains saturated fat, and everybody knows that saturated fat is BAD. It’s not as dreadful as trans fat, but almost.
But lately, voices have been heard that claim the opposite. Maybe butter isn’t that bad after all. Maybe it can even be good for you.
What is right and what is wrong?
The truth is probably somewhere in between. I think butter is a natural food that contains a lot of nutrients that are good for the body. But I do not believe that one should exaggerate the consumption of it.
But it’s impossible to resist butter completely. Few ingredients can alone transform a dish from being mediocre to excellent. Butter is capable of doing that because it tastes so divinely.
So now that you know that you have to use butter, at least sometimes, here are some useful tips.
You don’t have to store your butter in the refrigerator.
Butter is about 80% fat and has a low water content. That makes it less susceptible to bacterial growth. But it’s advisable to store only salted butter at room temperature as the salt adds protection.
Store it in small batches, covered to protect it from light and air, not more than you use during a week. Because finally, it will go rancid.
It’s not dangerous, but it tastes bad, and the only thing to do is to waste it. Wasting food is something that we must always try to avoid. Especially something so magical as butter.
But what’s the benefit of storing butter at room temperature?
It will be easier to spread it on your breakfast toast.
Butter that is taken directly from the refrigerator is almost impossible to spread on soft bread. And sometimes some recipes require softened butter.
You can soften butter by grating it.
Maybe you are still suspicious about leaving the butter out on the counter. No problem. You can still bring it to room temperature quickly by grating it with the cheese grater. The thin slices will soften in no time.
It’s possible to fry in very high temperatures with butter.
But first, you have to clarify it. In addition to fat, butter also contains protein, sugar, and water, and it’s the protein and sugar that causes it to burn.
Let the butter melt over low heat in a saucepan until you start to see white foam on the surface. Skim the foam off the surface. Now you have a layer of pure fat over a layer of white liquid in the bottom.
Gently pour the fat into a suitable container, leaving behind the white liquid from the bottom of the pan.
Now you have clarified butter that can handle high temperatures and can replace most oils for frying. It is also an excellent replacement for Ghee which is included in many Indian dishes.
It is also almost lactose-free as most of the sugar was left behind in that white liquid, remember?
Use everything when you make brown butter.
You have probably heard that you shall strain the brown butter from the particles in the bottom of the saucepan. Don’t do that next time. These particles contribute with a minor taste explosion.
Reuse the wrappers.
Not to wrap new butter of course. But they are perfect for greasing sheets, pans, and casseroles.
When is it advisable to exchange butter for margarine?
Never. Margarine is the foods counterpart to Darth Vader.
I have also included an easy recipe for homemade butter. Some of you have maybe already made your own butter, but have you tried to do it with sour cream? Sour cream will give the butter just a hint of sourness. Spread it on a slice of bread and you don’t need any more toppings. Perhaps the way butter tasted when the Vikings introduced it to the rest of the northern Europe. At least my ancestors could do something right, and not only create a huge mess wherever the went. But the Frenchmen got their revenge for all plundering and misery. Today they sell their butter expensive in Swedish delicatessen stores.