Are butter and margarine one and the same thing? How is butter made? How long does butter last? Stop for a few seconds to discover more about butter in this post!
A brief History
Butter is not only a popular food, it is also one of the oldest. It goes as far as when domestication of animals began.
Like cheese and yoghurt, butter is thought to have come about as a result of milk being stored in animal stomachs. The digestive juices present curdled the milk, resulting in churned milk products.
Consumption gradually became widespread, both for peasants and nobles.
Industrial churning came into effect in the late 19th century. A Swedish engineer is attributed to inventing the first cream separator in late 1870.
Butter was initially produced from sheep and goats. Nowadays, any type of milk or cream can be used.
Types of Butter and their Uses
This is butter in its purest state. Unsalted type is convenient in both cooking and baking. This is crucial in dishes which are supposed to bring out the taste of butter. Additionally, it adds its creaminess to dishes. Apart from that, it gives you the upper hand in salt addition.
As its name suggests, this has added salt. Concentration levels vary from brand to brand. This variety has a biting ting to it and pairs well with dishes in which flavors pop. It makes a wonderful spread and topping for garlic bread, pasta dishes, roast or grilled meat.
You know it as compound butter. This type of butter incorporates additional ingredients like herbs, spices, condiments as well as food color.
Besides being readily available in stores, you can easily customize it at home. Some varieties have single ingredients whereas others combine several. This type works well as a dip, on all meat dishes, soups, stir-fries as well as roast vegetables.
You are probably used to whipped cream. However, butter also exists in whipped form. Commercially, whipped butter has nitrogen gas added to it. This makes it lighter and fluffier due to aeration. Besides this, whipping also adds volume, hence lasts longer.
Homemade versions also exist. Some recipes call for the addition of milk, which dilutes it. Whipped variety is great for cooking and baking.
Well, aren’t all types of butter spreadable? You may muse! That is true. However, this type is purposely named thus for a specific reason – it has added vegetable oil.
Commercially, you will find spreadable type made with refined oils as well as virgin oils. Some are flavored with salt. You can easily concoct your own variation at home. The use of unrefined olive oil also works well.
Nonetheless, the oil should not overpower the buttery taste in anyway. Spreadable type retains its texture even after refrigeration, unlike regular butter which hardens when refrigerated.
Clarified butter is obtained by melting regular butter in order to separate butterfat from milk solids and water.
These milk solids are responsible for causing butter to burn in high heat. They also cause rancidity.
Therefore, their removal not only gives it a higher smoking point, it also prolongs the shelf life.
Clarified type is ideal for both high heat and long cooking methods like stewing, roasting, frying and grilling.
This is also clarified. However, ghee takes clarification to a higher level, whereby all the water is extracted. This results in a nutty, caramelized content.
Ghee is lauded in India, where it has been used for thousands of years, both in Ayurveda and cooking.
Its nutty flavor brings to life any dish it is used in – from baked products to stews to desserts.
If you thought that yoghurt is the only cultured dairy product, think again! Butter can also be cultured. This type of is made from fermented cream – cream with live cultures.
As you can guess, cultured type has a tangy flavor and works just as fine as regular butter.
You don’t have to go for the store-bought type, you can easily make some at home. Use cultured buttermilk and heavy cream.
For any health conscious purist, butter is more likely to be associated with clogged arteries, heart disease and high cholesterol.
However, it is worth noting that healthier varieties abound. A good example is the light butter.
This type contains half the fat and calories found in regular butter. Light variety contains more water and sometimes has fillers added to it. As such, it is ideal for weight watchers.
Nutritional Value of Butter
Just how healthy is butter? Is it even beneficial? The nutritional value of butter is a controversial topic.
Suffice to say, butter has saturated fats and is a high caloric food. Did you know that a single cup gives you up to 100 calories?
Nonetheless, this creamy food also has trace amounts of vitamins and minerals such as: vitamin A, E, K, B12 and calcium. Additionally, it contains linoleic acid, normally found in dairy products and meat. It is also a rich source of butyrate, which is beneficial for digestion.
All in all, moderation is key when it comes to consuming.
Shelf Life of Butter
Butter is a perishable item. Regular type turns rancid fairly quickly. This is due to the presence of water and milk solids.
In contrast, clarified one is shelf-stable as it lacks the two. All in all, the shelf life of any variety rests on how you store and handle it.
Butter is flexible in terms of storage – the pantry, refrigerator or freezer works fine. However, storing in the pantry or room temperature hastens spoilage. However, it is ideal if you use it frequently.
When storing, try as much as possible to retain its original package. On the other hand, if you have homemade one, use heavy-duty storage containers or bags. They are effective in preventing light, heat or moisture which cause spoilage.
Commercially packaged one has a sell by date. You can safely use beyond this date.
For instance, regular variety keeps well for up to 1 month in the refrigerator. Salted type can stretch up to 3 months.
For a longer shelf life, freeze under 0° temperature. Use heavy duty plastic wraps or aluminium foil. Salted type will keep longer – up to 1 year, whereas unsalted one freezes well for up to 9 months.
Ghee is also a keeper – up to 1 year. On the other hand, compound or flavored type has a short shelf life. If homemade, refrigerate and consume within 1 week. Alternatively, freeze for up to 3 months.
Besides turning rancid, how else can you identify spoilage? Here are three pointers:
- Mold growth
- Sour taste
If you are used to the regular type of butter, now you have options to choose from. You have also armed yourself with ample knowledge on “how long does butter last?”.