[Sca-cooks] cow butter?

Robin Carroll-Mann rcarrollmann at gmail.com
Thu Jun 3 19:54:20 PDT 2010

On Thu, Jun 3, 2010 at 3:27 AM, Mark S. Harris
<MarkSHarris at austin.rr.com> wrote:

> Another thing in the recipe that has me wondering is the mention of "cow butter". Is there no general term for "butter" in Spanish? Or do recipes tend to call out specific types of butter?

Sorry for being late to the party.  It's been a busy couple of days.
I've consulted some Spanish language resources, specifically:

Tesoro de la lengua castellana o española by Sebastián de Covarrubias
Orozco, 1610
This is the oldest published glossary of the Spanish language.

The dictionaries of the Royal Academia Española (RAE)
The first edition was published between 1726 and 1739.  The link above
will let you search a word in any or all of the editions from 1726 to

Corpus del Español
This website allows you to quickly and easily search more than 100
million words in more than 20,000 Spanish texts from the 1200s to the

OK.  I'm not going to go into details about what I found where.
Here's my overview of the etymology of "manteca" and related words.

Manteca means animal fat.  The default is pig fat or lard, which is
sometimes written out in full as "manteca de cerdo".

A secondary usage is "manteca de ganado", which is the fat from milk
-- ie., butter.  "Ganado" translates as "cattle", and can mean any of
the herd animals such as cows, goats, sheep, and buffalo.  There are
citations in the Corpus del Español for all of the above kinds of
butter within our period, but cow butter is the most common.

"Mantequilla" is the modern Spanish word for butter.  The word
"mantequilla" first appears in the 16th century, but its primary
meaning was some kind of paste made with butter.  It doesn't seem to
have become *the* term for butter until sometime in the 20th century.

> Do we see "sheep" or "goat" butter called out in some medieval recipes?

The examples I saw in Corpus del Español were all from medical
sources.  Sheep butter used in a poultice, for instance.  I do not
remember seeing butter other than cow in any of the Spanish cooking
sources, but I won't swear that there are none.  I will state that if
there are any, they are rare.

Brighid ni Chiarain

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