Butter, Butter, Butter

16 04 2010

Today, we have a little quiz today. Is our title, above also known as…

A) a Parkay commercial slogan

B) the three secrets of French cooking

C) one of the secrets Southerners “borrowed” from French cooking to make theirs oh so good

D) all of the above?

The correct answer is “D,” all of the above.

But today, we’re going to focus on “C. Butter is something Southerners know a thing or two about, and something I sincerely miss out here. While I’ve shared that really, these Californians do know a thing or two about fresh cooking, the one thing missing is that undeniably rich, unmistakable taste of butter. Now I know, our doctors tell us to eat a little less of the stuff, but now and again, there is just nothing better than buttery green beans, a steak so perfectly seared, you can just tell it’s been saturated in the glorious stuff, or hot biscuits slathered in it.

Most of us are intimately familiar with our old friend butter. We know how it’s churned, what it can be used for (everything?), and that we should cut back a little bit… but I’m always surprised, when I get to really reading and learning (Blast my high school’s Home Ec class filling up too quickly for me to get in!), how much I just don’t know about those every day staples that are always in my fridge.

Like, how many times I run through my grocery list and time after time, pick up the same brand and style of butter, not even glancing around at all the choices. I shy away from terms like “sweet cream butter” because while anything “sweet cream” sounds delicious, I just really don’t know what it is, truth be told (am I the only one out there?).

Turns out, with a quick Google search, “sweet cream butter” is just butter made with fresh cream. And that whole “unsalted” versus “salted” thing? Simply what it says. Salted has salt, unsalted, none. No other difference. (If you’re using it for baking, you might go with the unsalted, or reduce the amount of salt called for in your recipe, so as not to affect change on the finished product. There is about 3/8 teaspoon of salt in every stick of butter.) Whipped butter? Just has air in it, to make it a bit softer, more spreadable when it’s cold. And light butter is made with nonfat milk and gelatin, and usually has about half the calories. (Yay! But don’t subsitute the light stuff in your cooking either.)

You can substitute margarine 1 cup for 1 cup if you prefer, or use 7/8 cup vegetable oil, lard, or shortening if you must. If you want to get real Southern on us, sub 4/5 cup bacon fat.

I hope your mommas did tell you to wrap your butter up airtight. It absorbs those onion/fish/pizza flavors that have been languishing in your fridge for the past month like a spounge! And I’m sure she taught you long before it was cool to use a butter wrapper’s remants to grease a pan (who needs that spray stuff?).

Ok, so now on for some fun tips on this yummy yummy, life-is-unliveable-without-it-stuff.

  • Create some pretty butter in a few different ways (just in time for a spring brunch!). Curl with a butter curler, or use a melon baller to mold. If you have some leftover candy molds from Christmas, press butter into these for any shape you please, or use a pastry bag with a star tip to pipe butter into tiny bowls. Fancy! You’ll impress all your guests!
  • Make your own whipped butter. All you need is your electric beater to whip softened butter until it is light and creamy.
  • When cooking requires the high heat, sub 1/4 of the butter called for in the recipe with vegetable oil. Butter tends to scorch, so this should remedy your problem.
  • Or, make your own, homemade butter. Freeze your metal blade to your food processor for a few minutes (15 should do the trick), then pour 2 cups cold, heavy whipping cream in a bowl. Process for 2 minutes until the solids separate from the liquid. Pour off the liquid, cover, and stick in the fridge. Use within 3 days, but you can really impress when you say you’ve made your own homemade butter! (You might still want to squeeze a bit more of the liquid with a cheese cloth after a few days to get a bit more life of your hard earned specialty.)
  • And what is “compound butter?” Just a fancy name for mixin’ up regular ol’ butter with some extra ingredients to make it special. Serve with your meats or veggies, rice, pancakes, waffles, dinner rolls… to get oohs and ahhs from your company. You might want to get out your electric mixer and throw in honey, juice, fresh herbs, grated cheese, garlic, sesame seeds, cinnamon, mustard, chutney, ginger, jam, citrus zest… the possiblities are limitless.

Let us know what special treats you concoct with your beloved butter, and I’m going to spread the word out here in Cali-land. You’d think with all these cows around, right?

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2 responses

16 04 2010
Suwannee Refugee

I’ve always thought bacon is the ingredient that makes a dish better, but butter is a close second.

17 04 2010
Katie

What about carified butter? Ask Julie childs!

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