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A short history of butter

Cold water is used to wash off the buttermilk, an important step because otherwise the butter turns rancid much more quickly. Salt may be added at this stage and the mix slowly rotated. The butter is kneaded to make it homogeneous and may then be shaped into 20g portions for particular restaurants by being pressed into specially made moulds that include the logo of the establishment. Alternatively, it may be wrapped up into 125g portions. The plant’s 1,000kg daily output of butter translates into an awful lot of these. Raw butter of the kind that Beillevaire produces has the richest taste of all butters and is good at improving the taste and softening the flavours of dishes. Although known for its wonderful flavour, raw butter has a shorter shelf life, lasting for about a month, while butter made from pasteurised milk will typically last many times as long. Another butter variant is spreadable butter, which combines the wonderful taste of butter with the convenience of margarine. Spreadable butter is produced by melting butter and allowing it to gradually cool. Some of the butter cools faster and becomes hard, but a portion remains soft and is separated

Butter production dates back at least 4,500 years, with the milking of cows and the churning of the milk recorded on a Sumerian tablet. The process of butter production has continued fundamentally unchanged since then. There are ancient records about using butter in religious ceremonies in Tibet and India, while a barrel of butter was included in graves in Scandinavia, Scotland and Ireland. Butter is featured in culinary literature from the Middle Ages, and it was in the 15th century that cooking with butter came in to its own, as it displaced olive oil and animal fats as the most important cooking oil in many communities. In some Christian countries its popularity was helped by religious prohibitions on using animal fat at certain times. Among the three main fats of French cuisine, namely oil, lard and butter, it was butter that became the most important in the 19th century. Over the millennia butter has also been used against wrinkles, to treat burns and as make up, to name but a few roles. In modern times health concerns over butter have lessened and it has become ever more in demand in the kitchen.

June 2018 BBC Good Food Middle East 67

Profile for BBC Good Food Middle East

BBC Good Food ME - 2018 June