- Butter is made by beating cream -- the thickest, fattiest part of milk -- until the fats separate from the liquid. As the cream is beaten, the fat globules begin to stick together, forming a solid mass: butter. In the United States, by law products sold as "butter" must contain a minimum of 80% butterfat. European butters often contain up to 85% butterfat.
- It takes approximately eleven quarts of milk to produce a pound of butter.
- In the Middle Ages, fragile articles were packed for transport not with styrofoam peanuts or bubble pack, but with butter. The items were set into warm liquid butter which solidified as it cooled, cradling the fragile goods. At the destination, the butter was heated (to 90-95 degrees F, or 32-35 degrees C) and poured off. I hope it was recycled, and used for packing again.
- The Iowa State Fair's famous Butter Cow weighs approximately 600 pounds, enough butter to coat 19,200 slices of toast. Did the Erie County Fair's Obama-McCain sculpture weigh more? Did the Texas State Fair's Marilyn Monroe weigh less?
- The name butter probably comes from the Sanskrit word bhutari, which means "the enemy of evil spirits".
- In medieval times, butter often was adulterated with marigold extract to deepen the color.
- Butter will absorb odors from your refrigerator. Store it in the freezer, taking out only a stick or two at a time unless you're planning to use more right away. For baking cookies or other recipes that call for room temperature butter, remove what you need from the freezer the night before you plan to bake.
- Clarified butter is butter with almost all of its water and milk solids removed. To make clarified butter, heat butter to its melting point and then allow it to cool; after settling, the remaining components separate by density. At the top, whey proteins form a skin which is removed, leaving behind clear butterfat. Ghee, popular in Indian cooking, is clarified butter which is heated to higher temperatures (250F or 120C) after all of the water has cooked out, allowing the milk solids to brown. This process flavors the ghee, and also produces antioxidants which help protect it from rancidity. Ghee stored in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid can keep for six months at room temperature.
- Do you remember when Fabio, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, implied that choosing margarine over butter would make every woman's fantasies come true? Nightmares, more likely: some of those margarines were packed with hydrogenated oils and the worst kind of trans fats. These days, most soft tub margarines have been reformulated. If cholesterol is your main concern, the American Heart Association recommends the use of the more liquid margarines (i.e., sold in a tub) as a substitute for butter. But, when you want rich-tasting French butter cookies, curried carrot ginger soup, salted butter caramel ice cream, creamy butter crab, or maple butter tarts, always choose the real thing.
- "If you're afraid of butter, as many people are nowadays," Julia Child said in one of her television shows, "just put in cream!"
I'd take Julia's advice over Fabio's, any day.
Green grapefruit curd
If you can find little green-and-yellow grapefruits (we found the one in the top photo at Trader Joe's; it's a cross between a pomelo and a mandarin orange), you'll love the sweetness of the curd made with them. If not, any ripe grapefruit will work in this recipe. Makes 2 cups.
1/2 cup butter
1 cup granulated white sugar
1/4 cup demerara sugar
1/2 cup green grapefruit juice
Grated zest of 1 green grapefruit (or half a large yellow grapefruit)
6 eggs, beaten
Put all ingredients, except eggs, into double boiler over simmering water. When butter has melted and before mixture is too warm, gradually whisk in the beaten eggs. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened to consistency of instant pudding, about 15-20 minutes. (The curd will thicken as it cools, so it should look somewhat liquid at this stage.) Remove from heat and cool for a while. Then place in a container, cover, and store in the refrigerator.
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