[Sca-cooks] Butter

Stefan li Rous StefanliRous at austin.rr.com
Mon Jun 23 11:58:13 PDT 2008

Vitha asked about butter:

<<< So I am making butter and researching butter storage.  I've come  
across a
few "facts" that I'm not sure I believe.  Can anyone help?

*Salted butter* for storage was patted without rinsing, to remove all  
buttermilk, it was then heavily salted. This salt was washed out  
before it
was used for eating.

Intersting theory...but I though removing buttermilk was essential to  
storage - the milk remaining in the butter is part of the reason it goes
rancid. >>>

Butter was typically salted for storage, at least for a few months.  
Today most butter is made from fresh cream. Apparently before the  
early part of the 20th century the milk was allowed to sour overnight  
before being made into butter.

There are a number of comments and research bits about butter and  
butter storage, preparation and use in this Florilegium file in the  
FOOD section. If you haven't looked at it, it covers a number of the  
questions you are asking.

butter-msg       (164K)  1/10/08    Period butter. Making butter.  
Butter churns.

One of the interesting side notes in it, is that butter was sometimes  
stored for extensive times, even years, in Iceland without being  
salted because salt was so rare there.

  ... Heavily salted, butter could be kept for
 > decades; large stores were accumulated, like gold, by wealthy  

Heavily salted??? Oh no no. One of the strongest characteristics of  
century Icelandic cuisine is the almost complete lack of salt. Butter  
"soured" (I'm not sure what the proper English term is here and old  
say that butter treated in this way could easily keep unspoiled (and  
it WAS
considered unspoiled, although I doubt modern people would think so)  
for at
least 20 years, whereas salted butter was said to keep only two  
years. Most
Icelanders actually preferred this to salted butter, but others usually
found it quite disgusting.

 >  By the time of the Reformation, the bishopric in Holar possesed a
 > mountain of butter calculated to weigh twenty-five tons."

  Sounds about right. Keep in mind that this wasn't really a case of
landowners hoarding all the butter they could possibly get because it  
was so
sought after; rather that most farmers paid their rents and taxes in  
it being more or less the only thing they had to pay with, so the  
were stuck with the butter mountains, wether they really wanted them  
or not.
But after all, the butter was virtually non-perishable.


I think there is more information about this in the fd-Iceland-msg  
file, as well.

<<< *Butter for cooking* was first melted and strained before putting  
into pots
a process known as clarifying.

clarifing does remove all residual liquids, producing pure  
make sense... >>>

According to Adamantius, ghee is not exactly the same as clarified  
butter or at least the same as medieval drawn butter.

Butter is an emulsion, a perfect mixture of an oil and water, which
under normal circumstances don't want to mix. In this case, they do
anyway. When you melt butter, it becomes a relatively thin liquid, and
the emulsion "breaks" apart into its two parts again, which is why you
can skim the clear butterfat off the top, and leave the rest behind, and
it is this clarified butterfat that is what most modern people think of
as drawn butter (which, by the way, is NOT the same thing as the ghee
used in Indian and Midle Eastern cookery, but don't get me started).

In [late] period cookery parlance butter would have been "drawn" by
melting it VERY slowly and on a very gentle heat, like in a double
boiler or some such, with another liquid, beating it as it melts. So you
find sauces made from things like the vinegar that a fish was marinated
in, with butter melted into it and whipped to form a relatively thick,
creamy sauce, along the lines of modern beurre blanc or hollandaise.

THLord Stefan li Rous    Barony of Bryn Gwlad    Kingdom of Ansteorra
    Mark S. Harris           Austin, Texas           
StefanliRous at austin.rr.com
**** See Stefan's Florilegium files at:  http://www.florilegium.org ****

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