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Butter (Recipe: green grapefruit curd)


Ten things I know about butter (you'll be glad to know them, too):


    1. 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.
    2. It takes approximately eleven quarts of milk to produce a pound of butter.
    3. 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.
    4. 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?
    5. The name butter probably comes from the Sanskrit word bhutari, which means "the enemy of evil spirits".
    6. In medieval times, butter often was adulterated with marigold extract to deepen the color.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. "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.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Lemon curd
Teeny tiny lime tarts

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Grapefruit curd?! Don't have a green one but I do have Texas Ruby Reds. I'm thinking I like this.

Our farmer's market has the sweetest grapefruit I've ever tasted (even better than Texas red) and it is yellow! So I will have to try this. I LOVE lemon curd.

I agree with your butter v. margarine comment. Even in my healthiest season (about 20 years), I never at margarine. A little less butter is a lot better than a whole lotta ????

When we were kids, we used to make our own butter by putting cream in a jar with a lid and shaking hard until it turned to butter. We were always thrilled with the results, and my mother was thrilled that it kept us occupied!

That is something you will always find in my fridge, Lydia. :D

Ah, Kate's Butter. As a Mainer, we are proud to have Kate's butter made right here in the pine tree state.

Interesting post. I know some people say butter does not have to be refrigerated, but that's a little scary to me.

I have more orange on my hands right now than I know what to do with (I was only able to get red navels by the 1/4 bushel...at the time, my want for red navels convinced me that surely I'd have no trouble polishing those off. lol!)--this curd sounds like a great idea! As for the butter factoids, I never knew it was used for shipping (bizarre!).

I did not know about the butter cow. And yes, I'd take Julia's advice over Fabio's anyday!

I distrust Wikipedia for important things, but I recommend the entry on butter sculpture. Among more examples than you could imagine, they acknowledge the Minnesota State Fair butter princesses.

I've never heard of green grapefruit juice! The things I learn from you Lydia! :) Thanks for all the facts about butter too.

I will eat butter anyday over margarine...I would trust a cow over a chemist anyday!

I want that box of buddah! It's so old-fashioned and sweet. Great post, Lydia.

I just made butter for the first time. I will make sure to do this again. The taste is so superior. Love Your blog!!! I want to jump in the picture and live there.

MyKitchen, a bit of pink curd would be lovely!

Page, that was Julia's thesis, too. Better to skip the real thing, or use it in moderation, than eat imitation butter.

TW, what a great idea. I never tried it when I was a kid, but I think my grandkids would love to see if that works. And it's great exercise, too.

Patricia, you are such a wonderful baker, it's no wonder you always have butter!

Ronnie, this has been my butter of choice since the first time I tasted it. Only one of the markets near me carries it, and they no longer bring in the unsalted version. But I use this butter to make my Drop In & Decorate cookies, and I can really taste the difference when I try to substitute a lesser quality butter.

Joan, my sister-in-law never refrigerates butter; she keeps it in a butter bell, and it's always fine. But I'm too programmed to keep mine in the fridge.

Mike, you might have to give up easy access to great citrus if you move, but you could just make lots of this delicious curd and bring it with you. Yes, the shipping thing was so weird that I felt I had to share it.

Veron, same here. But this old ad makes me laugh.

Mae, keep digging, and you'll also find a bust of Richard Nixon in butter. I think these sculptures are amazing.

Hillary, these little grapefruits are new to me, too. Hooray for Trader Joe's!

Noble Pig, I'd trust the cow, too!

Susan, this butter from Maine is so delicious, and I can find it in the local supermarket. We've come a long way....

Treehouse Chef, I've never made butter -- but I like TW's suggestion of putting cream in a jar and shaking, so that could be a winter activity at my house.

LOl - what fun facts! I'll go with Julia as well on this one. Give me some cream!

The idea of "green grapefruits" intrigued me. Are they sweeter than regular grapefruits? I hope to try them soon!

I wish I had known about butter absorbing odors from the fridge long before learning the hard way.

Once upon a time, I had a few oranges that went bad one (hidden inadvertently in the veggie drawer), which ended up reeking like nail polish remover. While I removed the shriveling fruit, I didn't even think about butter absorbing that smell until I used some when making a pie crust from scratch.

After I had the pie baked, sliced and served, I realized what had happened. While the innards tasted great, the crust tasted like rancid oranges. It was the worst pie I ever made, and I haven't made a crust from scratch since (all that hard work, down the trash bin). As they say, live and learn (or read a lot of food blogs and heed the sage advice).

Fabio who? ;-)

I've always been a butter devotee. And the title and picture of your grapefruit curd instantly reeled me in. Thanks for sharing.

My wife made butter by accident the other day, after walking away from the mixer whilst it was whipping cream. It was really delicious too, but not so good to go with raspberries!

Lydia, your knowledge of EVERYTHING continues to amaze me. Who else would recall that Fabio thing?

Kristen, you and me both!

Gretchen, the little green grapefruits were incredibly sweet, and of course adding the brown sugar to this curd just accentuated that sweetness. But any nice ripe grapefruit would work -- just be sure to add a bit of the zest, too.

Sandie, thanks for the cautionary tale -- I've thrown out my share of butter since my own episode (serving corn on the cob to 20 people -- all delicious, right from the farm -- but with rancid butter), but I've also learned to keep my butter in the freezer if I'm not planning to use it right away.

Marysol and Mimi: this pegs us as being of a certain age, but I remember laughing my head off at those commercials!

Neil, I believe this could be the first reported case of accidental butter production on this blog! I wonder -- how long did she whip the cream before it separated into butter?

Very informative! and grapefruit curd sounds delicious!

I have no idea,,,she walked clean away and only called me after the damage was done!

I love that butter is actually "the enemy of evil spirits"... it's like proof that butter is good for you...

Camila, thanks. The curd is really wonderful, as evidenced by how much of it we made, and how little is left.

Brilynn, you are so right!

Enemy of evil spirits? Agree whole heartedly. I also keep my butter dish on the counter except in the scorching days of summer. It keeps well probably because my kitchen is the coldest room in the house. I use nothing else when baking and I do a lot of baking at Christmas. When people ask if I use margerine or Splenda in my cookies my response is, "Never! Why go through all that work and use artificial ingredients."

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