Butter is that golden yellow, melt in the mouth piece we spread on our bread, bake with our cookies and cake, and cook with our popcorn and other dishes. It’s a well-loved dairy product all over the globe – from the United States to India where it is made into clarified butter or ghee.
In the United States, butter is officially defined as “the food product usually known as butter, and which is made solely from milk or cream, or both, with or without common salt, and with or without additional coloring matter, and containing not less than 80 percent by weight of milkfat, all tolerance having been allowed for,” according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Congress of 1923 from which it was legislated.
To fix a pound of butter, about 10.5 to 11 quarts of milk is needed for its cream which is churned into butter. According to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, two types of butter are sold in the United States. One is the sweet cream butter (further sub-divided into salted, unsalted and whipped butter) while the other is cultured cream butter.
The sweet cream butter is the most popular type of butter for daily use. In particular, the lightly salted butter is the butter of choice for common cooking (such as stir frying, making butter garlic bread, etc.) while the unsalted butter is ideal in making cookies, cakes, pies and pastries.
The fundamental steps in preparing butter, according to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, include separation of the cream from the milk, legal pasteurization, aging (for proper churning and texture consistency), ripening, churning, draining of the buttermilk, washing, working and then packaging. Butter is ordinarily sold and used in the shape of solid blocks and sticks of various sizes as well as in individual portions (the ones we can acquire from the hotel breakfast buffets or airline meals with bread).
Butter has many applications. In choice cooking, it can be melted and used in stir frying or frying of chicken, fish, and vegetables. It can also be blended with herbs, frozen and then served up on top of steaks. Butter is also perfect in enhancing sauces, as spread, and as oil (like the clarified butter or ghee). In baking, it’s an ideal element in cookies, cakes, and pastries because of its milkfat content and flavor. It’s not just the color that’s gold, but it is in essence gold in the kitchen.